An easy marinade for chicken is a great way to make it infused with flavor, no matter how you cook it. Which is good, because so many of our weeknight repertoire recipes are for chicken. And as such, our relationship with chicken can get stale pretty quickly. Yet it’s one of the easiest, quickest, healthiest options on the block, so we inevitably return to it time and again.
The holy trinity of salt, pepper, and olive oil works wonders on meat and vegetables alike, but sometimes you gotta change it up.
In our efforts to keep our relationship with America’s most ubiquitous poultry exciting, we also don’t want to make things more complicated, so we bring you these simple marinades for chicken. Just put whole breasts, thighs, wings, and/or drumsticks in the marinade at night and let them swim in their Ziploc bag in your fridge like a fish you won at a carnival.
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Sure, you can simply use Italian dressing as a marinade, or a packet of ranch, or Frank’s Red Hot, or any number of store-bought sauces, but these easy marinades aren’t much more work, and they taste so amazing you’ll be happy to see chicken on the menu again…and again…and again.
Our Tandoori Style Marinade recipe relies on yogurt to do all the tenderizing work for you, so leaving it overnight makes it even better. Simply put all the ingredients (including ginger, garlic, onion, and lime juice) into a food processor and blend up for this one-step marinade that packs a fragrant punch. Serve the faux tandoori bird with roti, naan, or rice.
Rosemary and soy sauce are the key ingredients to round out the balsamic vinegar in this marinade. Tart and sweet, this is another easy food processor recipe with just a few ingredients to blitz together before the chicken hits the slow cooker, grill, or skillet. Get our Balsamic Marinated Chicken recipe.
Combining plenty of lemon juice with chili flakes creates a surprisingly complex flavor for chicken while maintaining a really bright profile (in part thanks to fresh herbs). Fresh squeezed juice is the real key to this one though, so be sure and use the marinade within a few hours of making it. Get our Lemon Marinade recipe.
Just another two main ingredient marinade to yield incredible results with this honey and mustard combination. It’s essentially an adultified version of your favorite chicken tenders from that bar in college. Hard to beat such classic flavors. Get our Honey Dijon Marinade recipe.
Jalapeño adds some heat to this zesty lime and cilantro marinade. This one isn’t meant to stay on all night; a maximum of four hours is recommended because of the high acid content, and if you’re pressed for time, a mere 30 minutes will do. Just enough time to preheat the grill! Get our Lime Cilantro Marinade recipe.
Wait until you have fresh oregano to make this marinade—1/4 cup of the tender leaves and stems go into the blender with fresh thyme, lemon juice, white wine, olive oil, and onion. It’s a vibrant and versatile Mediterranean marinade that also works as a Greek salad dressing. Get our Oregano Marinade recipe (and use it on this grilled chicken with charred lemons).
This takes a bit longer than most on this list, but only because it requires a little extra soaking time for the dried chiles before you throw them in a blender and give ’em a whirl with ginger and cumin. Slather this thick, spicy paste on chicken thighs and grill, then chop the meat for tacos or just serve the intact thighs with rice. Get our Adobo Marinade recipe.
This herby Argentinian sauce is primarily used as a dressing but also works as a marinade for grilled meats (we don’t recommend putting a whole batch of chimichurri in the oven or slow cooker as with some other marinades that become a cooked sauce, as it will dull the flavor)—and it’s just as good on steak as it is on chicken. It’s packed with parsley, garlic, and oregano, and tastes even better the day after it’s made. Since you’ll definitely want to use it as a finishing sauce too, be sure to make a bigger batch and separate some from the marinade portion (because raw chicken juice is not an ingredient you want to be drizzling on your finished dish). Get our Chimichurri recipe.
Yes, this marinade is vaguely named, but the simple combo of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and sesame oil is dynamite on chicken no matter what you call it. Because the marinade all gets cooked along with the chicken, it’s safe to use as a sauce over rice when it’s done. But if you’d rather grill your chicken, you can simply boil the leftover marinade in a saucepan on the stove while the meat cooks on the coals. Get our Asian Marinade recipe.
Header image by Chowhound.