What To Marinate Chicken With – Here It Is

Everyone loves a good flavored bite of chicken. In the year 2019, it was estimated by the USDA that each American consumed 96.5lbs of chicken. Sometimes it seems like all of our good ideas have been used over and over again and leaves you with the question of what to marinate chicken with this time? Possibly you are new to cooking and marinating chicken and maybe you have been doing it for years and have run out of ideas. I am here to help you save dinner tonight.

What Does Marinate Mean?

When you marinate the meat you can use either wet ingredients or dry. Even a combination of these is mostly used in my experience. The acid and enzymes in the marinade help break down the meat’s tissue and allow more moisture to be absorbed. Marinating chicken will do this. I find marinating is essential for cooking chicken at my house. Sometimes my mom will ask me why I marinate everything, and well flavor is the answer. Wouldn’t you like to serve chicken and no one wants any ketchup or sauce with it? That is one of the best compliments a chef or home cook can get, in my opinion, the consumer not needing a sauce to flavor the food. To me, this means the chicken is flavored very well already.

Cut Of Chicken

Depending on the cut of chicken you purchase you will need to marinate differently or maybe even the same just longer in some cases. If your cut of chicken is skinless it will marinate quicker. If you leave the skin on, you will need to add time to marinate. Either way is fine, you will just need to plan accordingly.

  1. Chicken Breast – I highly suggest pounding your chicken breast out thinner whether the skin is on or not. Most chicken breast I have seen lately are thick and will take up to 8 hours for a marinade to do the job correctly.
  2. Chicken Wing – I usually marinate chicken wings for 4-6 hours. I like to make sure they have good flavor and with the skinchicken wing on, this to me is an adequate time to do so.
  3. Chicken Thigh – This one you can go skin on or skin off as well like the breast. One thing the thigh has going for it, is it is generally a more juicy piece of chicken. You can marinate the thigh for as long as you want or no less than 4 hours in my opinion. You can cook the thigh longer without drying it out as much as the white meat like the breast.
  4. Chicken Leg – This is another dark meat like the thigh, but you can dry the chicken leg out pretty quickly if you do not marinate them long enough, or if you just let them cook too long. I would marinate these for 4 hours as well. Of course, you can always marinate longer but this is what I would do personally.
  5. Whole Chicken – I love a whole chicken. It is so versatile to change up just by a marinade and you can purchase these cheap usually. A whole bird will need to be left to marinate for at least 8 hours to overnight. I would go for the overnight method. I think this will yield the best results for all the pieces of meat you will eat off of the bird.

Keep in mind if your chicken is fresh, you can really marinate it as long as your wish up to two days. If you have thawed frozen chicken out I would not let it marinate more than 24 hours. You want to make sure you do not let your chicken spoil while trying to add flavor to it.

Tips For Marinating

If you are new marinating then you might find these tips helpful. Some of these I have figure out over the years with trial and error, and not everyone has to learn that way.

  1. Ziploc Bags – Spend the extra couple of dollars and get some Ziploc freezer bags for marinating. You can use a bowl that you have with a great lid that fits already in your cabinet. Here’s the thing though, the marinade will only be able to do the job you expect it to by covering the most surface area of the chicken. *As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
  2. Lay Flat – Place your marinade in the zip lock bag and add your chicken. Make sure to lay it flat in a pan or a dish that can catch a spill, just in case. Squish as much air out as you can without letting the marinade come out the top. Flip it over every so often during the process.
  3. Reserve Some – Save some marinade to the side before you add your raw chicken. You will use this to brush your chicken or pour over a few minutes before finishing the cooking process. This will help give it that last little boost to the flavor you are wanting to achieve, and if you are grilling, it may finish the browning of the chicken on the grill.

Always discard your marinade bag as soon as you get the raw chicken out of it. Left out or spilled can cause cross-contamination this can cause bacteria to grow that will make you seriously sick. We do not have time for that, so just toss it as soon as you pull the chicken out of it to cook.

Marinate With What?

Alright, folks, this is where I get serious. I love flavor and I want the most of it in my chicken as I can get. Nothing is worse than chicken that looks perfectly looked and is absolutely flavorless. These are my top 3 go-to marinades for chicken. All for the equivalent of 1 pound of chicken.

Lemon Pepper

  • 3 Fresh Lemons juiced
  • 1 Tablespoon of pepper
  • 1 Clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt

Mix the juice, pepper, garlic, and salt together. After washing and patting dry your chicken place in your bag and pour-over. Remove as much air as you can and let marinate for the cut of chicken you have.


Teriyaki Chicken

  • 1 Clove of garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger grated
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of water

Mix all ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved and pour over your chicken in your bag. Remove the most air you can and let marinate.

Cheyenne’s Marinade

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of Weber kick’n chicken seasoning
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 half of a lime juiced

Simple but I really like this marinade. I like to serve this with a hot sauce, and a bbq sauce. So we have some for adults and for children. *As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Pesto Chicken

  • Alright don’t get mad at me for this one, keep it in mind the next time you run into the grocery for something quick and grab a jar of pesto on the pasta sauce aisle. Keep in your cabinet and pull it out when you are fresh out of ideas on how to marinate your chicken and guess what? You have a marinade in a jar.

I am all about simple and this one can not be any more simple than this.

Always remember you can add to or take away anything that you may like for more or less. This is your chicken to marinate and you want it to taste the best for you.

Get Marinating

When you think about what to marinate chicken with today or tomorrow, don’t think it always has to be some special recipe you follow. You can’t really go wrong with any cut of chicken that you choose or how you choose to marinate it. You can try to follow everything perfectly and still not be 100% satisfied with the results. Sometimes when you mix things around yourself and step out of your comfort zone you will find what makes you the happiest, and discover your new favorite. Also, don’t be afraid to admit that all the “fancy” stuff doesn’t taste great sometimes, or that is just too much work. I like the flavor but I like to be quick as well with chicken. Go ahead and start adding some flavor to your chicken.

I hope you find the tips and marinades helpful. Please let me know what your favorite way to marinate chicken is.

Eat Well

Here are some simple salad recipes that will all go great with chicken.


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16 thoughts on “What To Marinate Chicken With – Here It Is”

  1. Hello there, thank you for your post and tips! I always have matters that how to marinate chicken. To think of what to marinate it’s such headache. I love cooking too, and I always do the cooking at home. But after reading your tips above, I will definitely give it a try for the Cheyenne’s Marinade! Oh and the tips how to cut off a chicken too, it’s very useful and my ideas just popped up. Because I always have to fight with it before marinate and cooking. I hope you can continue and write us more about such quality contents in future!

    • Thank you for your nice comments. I hope you do give it a try and let me know how you like it. I especially like the Cheyenne marinade on wings. With not much surface area it gives the wings a nice spice.

  2. Hey,

    I’m so pleased that I came across this article as I am a huge lover of chicken and it being marinated. The thing is I don’t know how to marinate it myself until now. Your tips will be a big help for me, and I am going to impress my girlfriend at the weekend when she is back and I cook for her 🙂

    I will let you know how I get on with the marinated chicken and I will also let you know what my girlfriend thinks of my efforts.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,


    • Wow, Tom, it will be awesome of you to try something new for your girlfriend. I am sure she will be impressed with your effort and flavor. I would go with the lemon pepper for the first time. It is so flavorful, you really can’t go wrong. I hope it all goes well, let me know.

  3. I am getting hungry, reading your post 😀
    To be honest, I never cook. I have a cook, a.k.a. my husband LOL, and I am fortunate enough he often marinates the organic chicken. A couple of your marinades are his favorites as well, like the one with lemon juice and garlic. No pepper and salt though, he thinks that especially salt ruins the taste, and for aging people like us it’s better to skip the salt. He just adds even more garlic. 🙂
    Thanks for the other recipes. They come in welcome!

    • Hannie, I would have to disagree about the salt ruining the flavor, but I can understand wanting to skip it altogether. The thing with salt is, you want to do just enough, but not too much. It will enhance the flavor without being overpowering. Maybe try a pinch of sea salt next time. I hope you enjoy them all and come back for more recipes later.

  4. Some really great ideas heres, I have never marinated chicken before but I’ve bought them already done.
    I think I’m going to try all your suggestions as they all sound so good and easy.
    Thank you for sharing these.

    • You are very welcome. First off I do have to say you will save money if you buy chicken plain and marinate them yourself. The grocery up charges just about the same cost as what you could create the marinade for, if not more. Most marinades can be made with items you already have in your kitchen as well. The best part about making a marinade yourself is that you can be as creative as you want and experiment with different flavors. I hope you try it and find something you really love.

    • I hope you do get a chance to try some out. Please let me know how you like the flavors here, and if you add anything different to make it your own. Don’t be afraid to add other flavors if they sound good together.

  5. I love marinated foods! Marinades add so much incredible flavor, so when I am cooking, I also like to marinade. I love teriyaki, and I would also like to try out Cheyenne’s marinade 🙂 Ingredients are few, but sometimes the simplest things can turn out so delicious. That’s what I love about cooking!
    I hate it when I cook and people grab the ketchup bottle right away without first tasting the food. Things like ketchup spoil the flavor that you prepared, and I do not see the point of spending all that time in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal when friends or family are going to smother it in ketchup …

    • I tend to keep things pretty simple in the kitchen and I love the kick’n chicken seasoning and covering it in hot sauce. When I feel like I am out of ideas, this is my go-to. I do dislike it when people go right to the ketchup or bbq sauce bottle without trying the flavor first, I constantly tell my children to try it first before getting a sauce.

  6. Thakns a lot for sharing these tips. I’m going to try the “Cheyenne’s Marinade” the next time I’m going to make chicken for dinner or something! These are all actually great ways to marinade the chicken. I will bookmark your site for the future reference. Thanks again for sharing!


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