Chicken Marinade Recipe

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4

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This is my very best Chicken Marinade recipe! It’s sweet, tangy, and is the most foolproof way to ensure your chicken is tender and juicy. The best part is how the marinade thickens into the most mouthwatering sticky sauce! Instructions also included for pan frying and baking.

Enjoy more of my favorite marinade recipes like Greek Chicken Marinade, Pork Tenderloin Marinade and the tex-mex marinade on these Fajita Steak Kabobs.

chicken breasts on a white plate topped with chopped parsley.

I bet this sweet and tangy marinade will become your go-to recipe whenever your family is in the mood for grilled chicken.

Made from only a handful of ingredients, this recipe makes a marinade that will transform chicken breasts or thighs into something truly crave-worthy! Plus, it’s not spicy at all, so it’s great for the whole family.

With that being said, you can make it spicy if you’d like. It’s super versatile and the ingredients are easy to adjust to your liking.

Reader Rating

“We loved this. Next time, I will double the marinade to have more to reduce to the glaze. Just loved the glaze.” Judith

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Why we love this Chicken Marinade:

  • Tender: When you marinate chicken with something acidic like balsamic vinegar, it acts as a tenderizer!
  • Flavorful: Ketchup, honey, garlic and balsamic vinegar blend together to create the best mixture of flavors.
  • Saucy: This marinade doesn’t just go away after the meat’s done marinating. I like to heat it in a sauce pot to thicken it, then use it to glaze the chicken.

Chicken Marinade Ingredients Needed:

ingredients needed for grilled chicken marinade in bowls and plate.
  • Chicken – I love using boneless chicken breasts for this recipe, but you can really use any cut of chicken you like best or even pork tenderloin!
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Ketchup – Any brand will get the job done. The way it compliments both the sweet and tangy ingredients in the mix is amazing!
  • Honey – Honey adds just the right amount of sweetness. It also helps to create the best thick glaze-like consistency.
  • Oil – Use a neutral oil, like canola or vegetable.
  • Garlic – fresh is best!
  • Brown Sugar – If you’re in a pinch, just combine one cup of white granulated sugar with one tbsp of molasses.
  • Balsamic Vinegar – This adds flavor and helps to tenderize the chicken meat.

How to make Chicken Marinade

Here’s a quick look at how to make the best grilled chicken marinade! For more details about ingredients and instructions, scroll down to the recipe card.

  • Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl/measuring cup.
  • Place the chicken in a zip-top bag. Pour half of the marinade onto the chicken. Marinate for 30 minutes up to 4 hours.

Recipe Tip

For best results, I like to marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Although it’s technically considered food safe to marinate chicken for up to 24 hours, the acid in the marinade — in this case the balsamic vinegar and ketchup — will cause the texture of the chicken to deteriorate. In other words, your chicken will turn out stringy and tough (or even worse, mushy).  

  • Add the chicken to the hot grill. Cook for 5-7 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
four grilled chicken breasts in black pan.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Try an Asian-inspired version of this marinade by using hoisin sauce and a splash of soy sauce instead ketchup, rice vinegar, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Sprinkle the finished grilled chicken with sesame seeds before serving.  
  • Love Tex-Mex? Make your own south-of-the-border marinade by substituting ¼ cup of lime juice for the balsamic vinegar and bottled chili sauce for the ketchup. Add ½ teaspoon ground cumin and a pinch of dried chili flakes to the marinade if desired. 
  • If your family is a fan of spicy flavors you can add your favorite hot sauce to the marinade. Begin with a small amount, tasting as you go, until the marinade has just the right amount of kick to it. 

How to store Grilled Chicken

Once the chicken has been grilled, you can store it for about 3-4 days in the fridge! Reheat in the air fryer or oven for the best results, or slice it for wraps and salads.

Can I freeze Chicken Marinade?

Yes!

  1. Spoon half of the marinade into a resealable freezer bag — since half of the marinade in this recipe is reserved for the glaze, you can reserve the extra marinade in a separate container to make the glaze, or you can prep two servings of chicken for the freezer.
  2. Add the chicken to the bag.
  3. Rub the marinade into the chicken.
  4. Seal and freeze for up to 9 months.
  5. To thaw frozen marinated chicken: remove chicken from the freezer and let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using. 

What’s the best chicken to use in this recipe?

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts are my first choice when I make this recipe. I find that the marinade adds tons of tangy flavor while keeping the chicken moist and tender. I also like the fact that chicken breasts are a nutritious, lean source of protein that my whole family enjoys. 
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs will work well with this marinade and they’re also an economical alternative to chicken breasts. With a slightly higher fat content than chicken breasts, chicken thighs are extra-flavorful and juicy by nature.
  • Bone-in skinless chicken breasts are another delicious pairing for this marinade! To grill bone-in chicken breast, the total grilling time will need to be increased on either side (bone-in chicken doesn’t radiate heat as efficiently as boneless breasts) — please use a meat thermometer to ensure your chicken breasts are cooked through before consuming!
  • This marinade can also be used with chicken wings, drumsticks, and skin-on chicken breasts and thighs.
white plate with sliced chicken breast on.

Can I use this chicken marinade to bake or pan fry chicken?

Yes! And it’s so easy to do. Check it out:

How to bake chicken with marinade:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. Transfer chicken breasts to the prepared baking tray, discarding used marinade.
  3. Bake chicken breasts for 20 minutes (or until a meat thermometer registers 165°F at the thickest part of the breast — the cook time will depend greatly on the size of your chicken breasts!). 
  4. Thicken marinade according to recipe directions and serve with baked chicken breasts.

To pan fry chicken with marinade:

  1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Alternately, spray a regular skillet with non-stick spray to coat.
  2. Add chicken breasts to the hot skillet and pan fry, covered, for 5 minutes per side.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining marinade to the pan with the chicken breasts.
  4. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, coating the chicken with the marinade until it begins to thicken. Serve chicken with thickened sauce on the side.

Serving suggestions:

If you need something to serve grilled marinated chicken with, check out this Easy Potato Salad Recipe, Tortellini Pasta Salad, or Creamy Ranch Bowtie Pasta Salad!

We also love it with these Buttered Noodles or Vegetable Lo Mein.

More Chicken Breast Recipes You’ll Love!

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Grilled Chicken Marinade

4.80 from 5 votes
This is my very best Chicken Marinade recipe! It's sweet, tangy, and is the most foolproof way to ensure your chicken is tender and juicy. The best part is how the marinade thickens into the most mouthwatering sticky sauce.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Main Course
Servings 4
Calories 350cal

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup liquid honey
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1.5lbs)

Instructions

  • Combine all marinade ingredients (vinegar through pepper) in a large liquid measuring cup or bowl.
  • Place chicken breasts in a large ziploc freezer bag or medium container. Pour half of the marinade onto the chicken, seal and turn to coat. Reserve remaining marinade in the fridge, covered.
  • Marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours.
  • Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, about 400 degrees. Lightly grease the grill.
  • Meanwhile, add remaining marinade to a small pot and cook over medium heat on the stove top, until slightly thickened. (*This step is optional but a great accompaniment to the finished chicken)
  • When grill is hot, add chicken and cook for 5-7 minutes per side (you may want to lift or turn more than once to prevent sticking), until the breasts reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F in the thickest part.
  • Let chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Serve with thickened glaze if desired.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 350cal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 468mg | Potassium: 534mg | Sugar: 38g | Vitamin A: 137IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 1mg
Keywords chicken marinade, grilled chicken

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Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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Comments

  1. Judith Romaine says

    We loved this. Next time, I will double the marinade to have more to reduce to the glaze. Just loved the glaze.

  2. Jenn says

    This marinade is fantastic!! Love that it can easily be whipped up with what I already have on hand – which is a must for our busy schedules. Thanks!

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