10 Grilled Chicken Marinades To Make Your Dishes Come Alive

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Have you ever wondered why marinated grilled chicken is so much better than grilled chicken that’s been seasoned with just salt and pepper?

Aside from the obvious reason that marinades add flavor to the chicken, they also help tenderize the meat by breaking down the proteins. 

So, it’s no wonder that marinated chicken is often juicer than their non-marinated counterparts. 

And while the most common marinade is made of BBQ sauce, there are so many more recipes you can try to really make your grilled chicken come alive!

1. Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken Marinade

We’re starting the list easy with this honey mustard marinade. 

Although honey mustard started out as a popular dip for chicken nuggets and other fast-food items, there have been numerous spin-offs over the years. 

Now, you can find honey mustard salad dressings, glazes, potato chips, and so much more. And while I do love anything flavored with honey mustard, nothing beats this honey mustard grilled chicken marinade. 

And, it honestly couldn’t be simpler to make. So, to get started get a third cup of Dijon mustard, a quarter cup of honey, two tablespoons of mayo, and a teaspoon of steak sauce.

Mix these ingredients together, and you’ve got yourself a honey mustard marinade. Now, you can marinate your raw chicken in this sauce and grill it for 18 to 20 minutes. 

The result? A simple, tangy, and sweet dish that you won’t be able to resist. 

2. Teriyaki Grilled Chicken Marinade

A little fun fact about teriyaki: the concept is a combination of two Japanese words, mainly “teri,” which means shine, and “yaki,” meaning grilled. 

When you put two and two together, you end up with grilled meat with a shiny glaze made of soy sauce, sake (or mirin), and sugar. Isn’t that fascinating?

And while teriyaki sauce is traditionally used to glaze fish in Japan, in the US, it’s more commonly used to flavor chicken, which leads us to our next grilled chicken marinade recipe. 

To make this, get a cup of water, a quarter cup of soy sauce, five teaspoons of brown sugar, a tablespoon of honey, half a teaspoon of ground ginger, and a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder.

Besides these, you’ll also need two tablespoons of cornstarch as a thickening agent and a quarter cup of cold water to thin out the mixture to the perfect consistency.

Once you have everything you need, combine your water, soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, ginger, and garlic powder in a saucepan, then cook for about one minute. 

After you achieve a smooth mixture, combine your cornstarch and cold water in a separate bowl. Make sure the starch is completely dissolved before adding this to your teriyaki sauce.

Now, just heat everything together for five to seven minutes until you have a thick sauce you can use to marinate your grilled chicken.  

3. Spicy Chipotle Grilled Chicken Marinade

Let’s move away from the sweet sauces a bit and talk about something spicier — or more specifically, this spicy chipotle marinade. 

I know that spicy food isn’t to everyone’s taste. And I think one reason behind this is that they still haven’t found a grilled dish that perfectly blends the heat with the flavor. 

So, if anyone’s still trying to find a spicy marinade they can totally get behind, perhaps it’s a good idea to start with this recipe. 

To begin, you’ll need a quarter cup of olive oil, three cloves of minced garlic, 7 oz. of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and some salt and cayenne pepper.

Mix all the ingredients in the food processor (or blender) and pulse until it turns into a liquid. Then, you can pour this marinade over a resealable bag with your boneless chicken thighs. 

Grill the marinated chicken after two to 24 hours in the fridge, and I swear, you won’t be disappointed. 

Note: Since I understand everyone has a different spice tolerance, here’s a simple guide you can follow to customize this dish to your taste: 

  • For mild, just add three peppers and two tablespoons of adobo sauce.
  • For moderate, use six peppers and three tablespoons of the sauce.
  • For extremely hot, just dump all the contents of the 7 oz. can of chipotle peppers in adobo.

4. Pineapple Ginger Grilled Chicken Marinade

If the kind of spicy you’re looking for is not really hot, but just something with a kick, this pineapple ginger marinade recipe might do the trick.

It blends the bright citrus flavor from the pineapple with the spice-infused ginger in quite an interesting way. 

So, to get started, you’ll need to get a bowl and combine one bunch of chopped green onions, one and a half cups of pineapple juice, and three tablespoons of grated fresh ginger.

In the same bowl, add two tablespoons of sesame oil and soy sauce, three cloves of chopped garlic, a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and if necessary — a pinch of salt. 

Whisk all these ingredients together until you have a smooth and even consistency. Then, transfer the marinade to a resealable bag along with your skinless chicken breasts.

Leave the chicken to marinade for a maximum of two hours before grilling per usual. 

Note: While you can leave your chicken for longer in some marinades, I don’t recommend it for this recipe because the acid from the pineapple can break down your chicken meat and turn it mushy.

5. Balsamic Grilled Chicken Marinade

We’re still sticking to the tangy spectrum here because this next recipe is all about making the best balsamic marinade for your grilled chicken!

And here’s what you need to do: Grab a mixing bowl and combine your ingredients. 

These include a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, three tablespoons of balsamic glaze (store-bought works just fine), a tablespoon of tomato paste, and a teaspoon of honey.

For that extra zing, you’ll also want to add the juice of one lemon, four to five minced garlic cloves, a tablespoon of thyme, a teaspoon of dried oregano, and half a teaspoon of sweet paprika. 

Now, mix, mix, mix, and toss your chicken thighs inside to coat before grilling them until the meat is tender. 

Note: To really amp up the flavor, I suggest leaving your chicken marinating in the fridge for two to four hours before grilling. This will really make a lot of difference in terms of taste and texture.

6. Curry Yogurt Grilled Chicken Marinade

I love this next recipe because it’s not only flavorful but creamy too! It has a lot of Indian influences, so you can expect a lot of spices. 

For the main ingredients, you’ll need one cup of plain Greek yogurt, three cloves of minced garlic, two teaspoons of honey, two tablespoons of lime juice, and one tablespoon of olive oil.

For the spices, you’ll need a tablespoon of curry powder and chili powder, half a tablespoon of cumin, a teaspoon of onion powder, and a dash of salt. 

By now, you know what to do, so blend all your ingredients together before putting your chicken thighs in to soak all these glorious flavors. 

If you prefer, you can leave it marinating overnight before grilling. Then, after cooking, you can savor the tender meat with a side of flatbreads, samosas, or grilled potatoes. 

7. Cajun Grilled Chicken Marinade

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “Cajun,” I instantly think of spicy and bold flavors, creamy textures, versatility, and colorful cuisine. 

It brings me back to the vibrant city of New Orleans, where the flavors of their food are just as bright and exciting as their culture. 

And since I can’t just drop everything and book a side trip to Louisiana, I’m sticking to the next best thing: making grilled chicken with Cajun marinade.

You’ll need a quarter cup of olive oil, two pressed garlic cloves, half a tablespoon of smoked paprika, half a teaspoon of dried oregano and onion powder, and finally, a pinch of salt and pepper for good measure. 

Whisk it all together and let your chicken breast marinate for an hour before grilling. 

Now, you have recreated a Southern grilled chicken recipe you can go back to every time you crave its flavors.

8. Brown Sugar Bourbon Grilled Chicken Marinade

If you’re a fan of drinking whiskey, you’ll love this recipe. 

The flavor of bourbon is offset by the rich, tangy balsamic vinegar and the sweet, caramel brown sugar, making it a great pairing for any grilled chicken dish.

So, get a one-third cup of brown sugar, half a cup of bourbon (you don’t need top-shelf whiskey to make this marinade taste great), and a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar. 

To this, add two tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard (or whole grain mustard if you have any), three finely chopped garlic cloves, a teaspoon of dried rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste.

As with the other recipes, just mix all these ingredients, marinate your chicken, and grill per usual. 

If you’re planning on meal prepping for the week, you can make this marinade ahead of time and skip the marinating process until you’re ready to grill. 

You can leave your marinade in the fridge for up to five days — which I highly recommend you do. As your marinade sits longer, the flavors come together more strongly, giving you more potent flavoring.

9. Smoky Paprika and Rosemary Grilled Chicken Marinade

While I love recipes that engage my five basic tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory or umami) simultaneously, I can still appreciate a simple and underrated recipe.

For example, this smoky paprika and rosemary marinade.

After all, we can’t always have dishes that are bold, complex, and layered. We also need subtle and discrete dishes to balance everything out, and this is where this recipe comes into play.

To start, you’ll need two tablespoons of smoked Spanish paprika and a tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary (if you can’t get your hands on fresh herbs, dried herbs will work fine).

Then, you’ll also need half an onion (finely chopped), half a cup of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some ground pepper. 

Blend them together before leaving your chicken to marinate for a few hours. Drain the excess liquid before grilling your meat to a juicy, tender finish.

I know that this marinade may not be as explosive as the other recipes on this list, but it’s still pretty tasty.

10. Miso Ginger Grilled Chicken Marinade

For this final recipe, I want to end with a bang, or at least, something that will trigger your umami taste buds. 

That’s why we’re closing with this miso ginger marinade because it combines two flavor powerhouses: miso and ginger. So, let’s get on with it!

To begin, get two peeled garlic cloves, one teaspoon of ginger paste (or an inch of fresh ginger), two tablespoons of white miso paste and olive oil, and a tablespoon of rice vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.

Next, mix everything together until you end up with a cohesive sauce, then marinate and grill your chicken as you normally would. 

Note: If you’re using garlic cloves, it’s best to use a garlic press of a grater to chop them into tiny pieces. Doing this will help preserve most of their flavor and add more umami to your sauce.

Marinate Your Way to Grilled Chicken Perfection

Making the marinade is the easy part. The marinating process is a whole other ball game. It requires a lot of patience and consistency. 

On the one hand, if you under-marinate, the flavors may not be as strong after grilling. On the other hand, if you over-marinate, you can alter the consistency of your chicken.

As such, practice makes perfect. Luckily, you have 10 recipes to choose from to make your way to grilled chicken perfection.

So, good luck!

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