The 7 Best Chicken Marinades For Juicy Chicken

Tired of boring, bland, chewy chicken?  Adding a simple marinade to your chicken will easily enhance the flavor, juiciness, and tenderness of your chicken.  In this post, get my tips for how to marinate chicken plus grab my 7 favorite chicken marinade recipes.

7 Best Chicken Marinades | With these 7 best chicken marinades, you’ll have all sorts of flavor and variety to spice up that boring chicken dinner! | A Sweet Pea Chef

Do you avoid chicken because it’s so boring, chewy, and bland?  If so, I have really good news for you.  The fix for this is to marinate your chicken.  Marinating chicken makes SUCH a difference for your tastebuds and for the texture and juiciness of the meat.  This means you won’t get tired of eating bland, boring ol’ chicken anymore, which will make it THAT much easier to stay on track with your healthy meal planning.  Woot!

While you could go and buy a pre-made marinade at the store, I highly recommend making your own homemade marinade using simple ingredients.  Sadly, many store-bought marinades are full of processed ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors.  BUT if you make your own marinade, you don’t have to worry about that.  You also can save a lot of money by making your own marinades.

In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know (and didn’t even know you needed to know!) about how to marinate chicken plus you can grab my 7 favorite chicken marinade recipes to add to your recipe box.

Ingredients separated for lemon pepper chicken marinade, including lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, crushed black peppercorns, sea salt, and olive oil.

Tips For How To Marinate Chicken

While making a successful marinade is a fairly simple process, here are some helpful tips on how to marinate chicken to have the best results.

  • Use a sealable plastic bag or large bowl with plastic wrap.  You want to seal in the juices and flavors as much as possible. As a general rule, I use a 1 quart sized bag when I’m marinating less than a pound of chicken, and it’s perfect.
  • Marinate your food in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.  This will help keep your food safe from food-borne illnesses.
  • Keep marinating meat away from other foods in your fridge to avoid unsafe contamination of the raw meat.
  • Use a combination of an acid, oil, and spices in your marinade.
  • Make sure to discard the unused marinade once it’s time to cook the meat and don’t use it as a sauce unless you cook it first because it will contain raw chicken juices.
  • For the best results, try to marinate the chicken the night before you cook it for the maximum flavor.
  • If you can’t get to cooking your marinated chicken within two days, you can also freeze the meat in the marinade to be used later.  That’s a benefit of using the freezer ziplock bags – you can just toss them right into the freezer for later.  Then, when it’s time to cook, thaw the meat and cook.

Okay, so now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s get to the chicken marinade recipes!

Ingredients separated for jerk chicken marinade, including thyme, allspice, coconut sugar, sea salt, pepper, cinnamon, cayenne, limes, and olive oil.

How Long To Marinate Chicken

The ideal amount of time to marinate chicken is approximately 4-6 hours, though it can vary depending on the size and cut of your chicken.  Since chicken is naturally a relatively tender protein, it’s not necessary to marinate long periods of time to break down tough muscle fibers, which would be the case for tougher meats, like beef.  That being said, marinating the chicken even a minimum of 30 minutes will allow for a lot of added flavor to the meat and will easily penetrate into the protein for enhanced juiciness.

Oftentimes, I marinate chicken the night before I plan to cook it, which works really well to grab and use the next day, rather than to wait an additional 30-60 minutes while preparing your meal.

Like I mentioned in the tips above, if you can’t get to cooking your marinated chicken within two days, however, you can also freeze the chicken in the marinade to be used later.  That’s a benefit of using the freezer safe bags to marinate because you can just toss them right into the freezer for later.  Then, when it’s time to cook, thaw the meat and cook.

Ingredients separated for cilantro lime chicken marinade, including cilantro, lime, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

How Long To Cook Chicken Breast

A serving size of chicken is 3 ounces which is roughly the same size as the palm of your hand or a deck of playing cards.  Generally speaking, one chicken breast yields about two servings, but the size of chicken breasts can vary.  For the recipes in this post, I only have one chicken breast pictured, but the marinade is good for two chicken breasts (which is roughly equal to a half of a pound). For families looking to marinate chicken breasts (1 pound), you can easily double the recipes provided.

The cook time will vary slightly with the size of the chicken breast, but there are some basic guidelines you can follow.  The major point when cooking chicken is that it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit so that it is safe to eat.  We want it at 165 — no lower (eww) and, preferably, no higher so that it’s not dry and chewy. You’ll want to cook the chicken until the juices are clear when you cut into the thickest part of the breast.

  • On the Stovetop (Pan-Fried): Approximately 4-6 minutes per side when sautéing at medium-high.
  • In the Oven (Baked): Approximately 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 18-20 at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • On the Grill: Approximately 4-6 minutes per side over direct heat, 10 to 12 minutes per side over indirect heat.

If you don’t have a digital thermometer (LOVE), here are some tips for how to know when chicken is cooked.

Ingredients separated for chipotle chicken marinade, including adobo sauce, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper, lime juice, and olive oil.

Can You Marinate Chicken Too Long?

Yes, it is possible to marinate chicken for too long, especially if your marinade contains an acidic ingredient, like lemon juice or vinegar.  When chicken is marinated too long, it can actually become tougher, which isn’t ideal.  Typically, you’ll want to keep your chicken marinating for no more than 2 days in the refrigerator to avoid marinating your chicken for too long.

If you can’t get to cooking your marinated chicken within those 2 days, you can freeze your chicken, in the marinade, and then thaw when you’re able to cook it right away.

Ingredients separated for honey garlic chicken marinade, including garlic, raw honey, low sodium soy sauce, and olive oil.

How To Freeze Marinated Chicken

Typically speaking, you’re going to want to cook your chicken within 2 days of marinating, preferably within 24 hours.  But, if you aren’t able to cook it within that timeframe, you can freeze your marinated chicken.  The easiest way to freeze the marinated chicken is to already have it marinating in a freezer-safe sealable bag or container.  For less than one pound of chicken, I use these quart size Ziploc bags and for anything larger, I use these gallon size Ziploc bags.  That way, I can just toss it in the freezer if I don’t get around to cooking it.

In fact, you can even freeze marinated chicken immediately upon making the marinade.  Then, allow it to thaw in the fridge for a day and it will marinate as it thaws.  Each of the recipes in this post work perfectly for freezing ahead of time.  These marinades will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.

If your chicken is already frozen and you plan to keep it frozen, don’t thaw it.  Instead, add the marinade to the frozen chicken and it will marinate as it thaws at a later date.

7 sealable freezer bags filled with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and marinating in different chicken marinades, including honey mustard, cilantro lime, lemon pepper, chipotle, honey garlic, jerk, and fajita.

7 Easy Chicken Marinade Recipes

Okay, now I hope to have you excited to marinate you chicken to have moist, flavorful, and super tender chicken!  To get you started, I’ve got 7 great chicken marinade recipes that i use all the time and absolutely love.  Below, you’ll find:

  1. Jerk Chicken Marinade
  2. Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade
  3. Lemon Pepper Chicken Marinade
  4. Chipotle Chicken Marinade
  5. Honey Mustard Chicken Marinade
  6. Fajita Chicken Marinade
  7. Honey Garlic Chicken Marinade

You can either click on the recipe that sounds best to jump right to it or scroll through to get an idea of all the recipes.  Happy marinating!!

7 Best Chicken Marinades

1. Jerk Chicken Marinade

Sealable freezer bag with chicken breast and jerk chicken marinade, marinating and ready to cook.

This easy Jerk Chicken Marinade is Caribbean-inspired and full of spice and flavor.  A great side for this chicken would be these Baked Zucchini Fries.

4.88 from 8 votes
Jerk Chicken Marinade - Square Recipe Preview Image
Jerk Chicken Marinade
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This easy jerk chicken marinade is Caribbean-inspired and full of spice and flavor.

Categories: Sauce
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: 2 chicken breasts
Calories: 85 kcal
Author: Lacey Baier
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
Instructions
  1. Add the thyme, allspice, coconut sugar, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, cayenne, olive oil, and freshly squeezed lime juice in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

  2. Add the chicken to a 1 quart freezer-safe sealable bag, followed by the jerk spice marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly, making sure to press the marinade around the chicken to coat.

  3. Place in the fridge to marinate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
Recipe Notes

Recipe makes enough marinade for 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1/2 pound).  For 1 pound (approx. 4 breasts), you can double the recipe).

 

Nutrition facts are for marinade only and do not include chicken breast.

Nutrition Facts
Jerk Chicken Marinade
Amount Per Serving (2 tbsp)
Calories 85 Calories from Fat 61
% Daily Value*
Fat 6.8g10%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 39mg2%
Carbohydrates 6.8g2%
Fiber 0.5g2%
Sugar 4.7g5%
Protein 0.3g1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

2. Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade

Bag with chicken breast and cilantro lime chicken marinade, marinating and ready to cook.

Make this Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade for an easy and flavorful marinade  Click here for the recipe.  This recipe would pair well with these Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

3. Lemon Pepper Chicken Marinade

Sealable freezer bag with chicken breast and lemon pepper chicken marinade, marinating and ready to cook.

This easy Lemon Pepper Chicken Marinade is made healthier without breading or butter, and has lemon zest for a delicious lemon flavor.  Pair this marinated chicken with this Lemon Snap Peas recipe for a light and refreshing dinner.

4.88 from 8 votes
Ingredients separated for lemon pepper chicken marinade, including lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, crushed black peppercorns, sea salt, and olive oil.
Lemon Pepper Chicken Marinade
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This easy Lemon Pepper Chicken Marinade is made healthier without breading or butter, and has lemon zest for a delicious lemon flavor.

Categories: Sauce
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: 2 chicken breasts
Calories: 69 kcal
Author: Lacey Baier
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Add the lemon zest, freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic, crushed black peppercorns, sea salt, and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Add the chicken to a freezer-safe ziplock bag, followed by the lemon pepper marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly, making sure to press the marinade around the chicken to coat.
  3. Place in the fridge to marinate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
Recipe Notes

Recipe makes enough marinade for 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1/2 pound).  For 1 pound (approx. 4 breasts), you can double the recipe).

 

Nutrition facts are for marinade only and do not include chicken breast.

Nutrition Facts
Lemon Pepper Chicken Marinade
Amount Per Serving (2 tbsp.)
Calories 69 Calories from Fat 61
% Daily Value*
Fat 6.8g10%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 51.1mg2%
Carbohydrates 2.6g1%
Fiber 0.7g3%
Sugar 0.4g0%
Protein 0.3g1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

4. Chipotle Chicken Marinade

Sealable freezer bag with chicken breast and chipotle chicken marinade, marinating and ready to cook.

This Chipotle Chicken Marinade is perfectly spicy with lots of flavor.  Serve this recipe with these Sweet Potato Fries.

4.88 from 8 votes
Ingredients separated for chipotle chicken marinade, including adobo sauce, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper, lime juice, and olive oil.
Chipotle Chicken Marinade
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This Chipotle Chicken Marinade is perfectly spicy with lots of flavor.

Categories: Sauce
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: 2 chicken breasts
Calories: 65 kcal
Author: Lacey Baier
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp. adobo sauce (from canned chipotle peppers)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Add the adobo sauce, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, freshly squeezed lime juice, and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Add the chicken to a freezer-safe ziplock bag, followed by the chipotle marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly, making sure to press the marinade around the chicken to coat.
  3. Place in the fridge to marinate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
Recipe Notes

Recipe makes enough marinade for 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1/2 pound). For 1 pound (approx. 4 breasts), you can double the recipe). Nutrition facts are for marinade only and do not include chicken breast.

Nutrition Facts
Chipotle Chicken Marinade
Amount Per Serving (2 tbsp.)
Calories 65 Calories from Fat 61
% Daily Value*
Fat 6.8g10%
Saturated Fat 0.9g5%
Sodium 32.9mg1%
Carbohydrates 1.2g0%
Fiber 0.2g1%
Sugar 0.2g0%
Protein 0.2g0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

5. Honey Mustard Chicken Marinade

Sealable freezer bag with chicken breast and honey mustard chicken marinade, marinating and ready to cook.

Make this Honey Mustard Chicken Marinade for an easy and flavorful marinade  Click here for the recipe.  This marinated chicken goes great with these Parmesan Roasted Green Beans.

6. Fajita Chicken Marinade

Sealable freezer bag with chicken breast and fajita chicken marinade, marinating and ready to cook.

This easy Fajita Chicken Marinade has tons of flavor and is perfect to make homemade fajita chicken.  This marinated chicken goes great with this Cilantro Lime Rice recipe.

4.88 from 8 votes
Ingredients separated for fajita chicken marinade, including limes, pineapple juice, low sodium soy sauce, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, sea salt, black pepper, garlic, cilantro, and olive oil.
Fajita Chicken Marinade
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This easy Fajita Chicken Marinade has tons of flavor and is perfect to make homemade fajita chicken.

Categories: Sauce
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: 2 chicken breasts
Calories: 84 kcal
Author: Lacey Baier
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (approx. 2-3 limes)
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice (no sugar added)
  • 2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Add the freshly squeezed lime juice, pineapple juice, low sodium soy sauce, minced garlic, cumin, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, sea salt, black pepper, chopped cilantro, and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

  2. Add the chicken to a freezer-safe ziplock bag, followed by the fajita spice marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly, making sure to press the marinade around the chicken to coat.
  3. Place in the fridge to marinate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
Recipe Notes

Recipe makes enough marinade for 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1/2 pound).  For 1 pound (approx. 4 breasts), you can double the recipe).

 

Nutrition facts are for marinade only and do not include chicken breast.

Nutrition Facts
Fajita Chicken Marinade
Amount Per Serving (2 tbsp.)
Calories 84 Calories from Fat 64
% Daily Value*
Fat 7.1g11%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 258.9mg11%
Carbohydrates 5.3g2%
Fiber 0.6g2%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 1.1g2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

7. Honey Garlic Chicken Marinade

Sealable freezer bag with chicken breast and honey garlic chicken marinade, marinating and ready to cook.

This super easy Honey Garlic Chicken Marinade requires only 4 ingredients for amazing honey garlic flavored chicken.  Make this chicken recipe with this Roasted Broccoli recipe for an easy, healthy, and delicious meal.

4.88 from 8 votes
Ingredients separated for honey garlic chicken marinade, including garlic, raw honey, low sodium soy sauce, and olive oil.
Honey Garlic Chicken Marinade
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This super easy Honey Garlic Chicken Marinade requires only 4 ingredients for amazing honey garlic flavored chicken.

Categories: Sauce
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: 2 chicken breasts
Calories: 98 kcal
Author: Lacey Baier
Ingredients
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Add the minced garlic, raw honey, low sodium soy sauce, and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Add the chicken to a freezer-safe ziplock bag, followed by the honey garlic marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly, making sure to press the marinade around the chicken to coat.
  3. Place in the fridge to marinate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
Recipe Notes

Recipe makes enough marinade for 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1/2 pound). For 1 pound (approx. 4 breasts), you can double the recipe).

Nutrition facts are for marinade only and do not include chicken breast.

Nutrition Facts
Honey Garlic Chicken Marinade
Amount Per Serving (2 tbsp.)
Calories 98 Calories from Fat 49
% Daily Value*
Fat 5.4g8%
Saturated Fat 0.7g4%
Sodium 201mg8%
Carbohydrates 13.2g4%
Fiber 0.1g0%
Sugar 11g12%
Protein 0.6g1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This post contains affiliate links for products I use regularly and highly recommend.

Lacey Baier

Hey y’all, I’m Lacey Baier and I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a healthy lifestyle influencer and the creator of this clean-eating blog and YouTube channel, A Sweet Pea Chef. My recipes have been published on Food Network, Good Morning America, FoxNews, Tastemade, Fitness Magazine, and much more. I live in Dallas, Texas with my husband and four kiddos. Let’s get started!

35 thoughts on “The 7 Best Chicken Marinades For Juicy Chicken

  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely loving these marinades, thank you so much for sharing them! Can you let me know how you arrive at the nutrition facts for them? I’ve always wondered how to calculate the calorie intake of a marinade since much of it doesn’t actually get eaten. Also, I see that most recipes have nutrition info for the marinade only and not the chicken, but do the Honey Mustard and Cilantro Lime include the chicken? Thanks for your help!

  2. 5 stars
    I just bought 30 lbs of grass fed no anitabotic boneless chicken breast for 99¢ a pound. Perfect savings and addition to add to my deep freezer. I didn’t just want to seal and freeze all of them plain. I wanted to make 2/3 of them preseasoned so they will save time and be full of flavor when it was time to cook them. I used every single recipe in air tight freezer bags. It was very easy to do. I even made extra mini Mason jars of it and canned it for later use.

  3. You really make it appear really easy with your presentation but I to find this matter to
    be actually one thing which I think I would never understand.
    It sort of feels too complicated and extremely vast for
    me. I am looking forward to your next submit, I’ll attempt to get the cling
    of it!

    1. Carol, unfortunately, I’m not very familiar with the sous vide method – but my understanding it just reduces the amount of time for the marinade to work. If that’s the case, it would be the same recipe, just less long to marinate.

  4. Is there a “shopping list” so I can get all the ingredients ready for all 7 marinades? Instead of scrolling through each recipe when some have similar ingredients?

  5. 5 stars
    LOVE the Best 7 Marinades!! I’ve shared the link to many friends. We had the honey garlic last night. Delicious!!

    1. Unfortunately, not easily. If you’re subscribed to the newsletter, you would get notified of new recipes when they come out and then you could click on the email to get these recipes.

  6. Yo, if you’re gonna title an article “7 recipes” then put 7 recipes on the page and don’t make your readers click all over your blog. It’s super annoying to have to find the link to click to find the recipes.

    1. Every one of her recipe pages has a “Jump to Recipe” link right at the top of the page. I’ve never had trouble finding it. 🙂

  7. Hello!

    I have question regarding cooking on grill. You say “On the Grill: Approximately 4-6 minutes per side over direct heat, 10 to 12 minutes per side over indirect heat.” What do you mean by direct heat? Is that flame?

    I want to cook the chicken on my George Foreman grill. Is that direct heat or indirect heat?

    Thank you.

    1. The Foreman grill does not require that instruction. It will be similar to cooking on a stove top.

      Indirect and Direct heat refer to Outdoor grills with open flame. Direct heat meaning right over the burner or flame for gas grills. Indirect means the cool side or lower temperature side of the grill.

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