5 Chicken Marinades (Freezer-Friendly)

Never be bored with chicken again! We’re sharing 5 super simple chicken marinades that turn plain chicken breasts into something magical! They’re freezer-friendly and perfect for making ahead of time. They are all gluten-free, with some Paleo and Whole30 options as well.

5 easy chicken marinade recipes in bags with a text overlay of the names.5 Freezer-Friendly Chicken Marinades

A simple marinade is the easiest way to transform chicken. It turns a boring old chicken breast into something truly extraordinary with minimal effort. Marinating chicken not only infuses it with flavor, but it also keeps it moist and tender. If you aren’t a fan of chicken breasts, try using these marinades and they might change your mind!

The flavors on these marinades are wide-ranging, which means that you can make one each night of the week and still feel like you’ve eaten something different. These recipes are perfect to keep on hand for meal prep, or for a weeknight dinner when you don’t know what to cook. We’re sharing not only these delicious marinade recipes but also all you need to know about marinating chicken!

Chicken Marinades in containers.Chicken Marinades 101

If you are looking to transform your chicken, a marinade is a good place to start. If you are new to marinating meats, start here to learn a little basic information about what it means, and some tips and tricks for the process.

What makes a marinade?

At its core, a marinade is meant to impart flavor and tenderize meat. Most marinades contain acid, fat, seasoning, salt and sometimes sugar. Each part plays a role:

  • Acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar): Tenderizes the chicken
  • Fat (such as olive oil or avocado oil): Help keeps it moist, and add flavor. Remember, fat equals flavor, so don’t be scared off by it.
  • Salt: Gives it flavor and helps keep it moist. The salt (combined with liquid) acts as a brine.
  • Seasoning (such as spices): Flavor, baby!
  • Sweetener (such as honey or brown sugar): This also keeps it moist, tenderizes it and adds flavor. Though, if you don’t want any added sweetener, it’s fine to skip this.

What type of chicken can you marinate?

These recipes are meant to be used for any type of chicken, but they are great for adding quick flavor to lean chicken breasts. Chicken, especially chicken breasts, are pretty lean (as opposed to a fibrous cut of meat like a chuck roast), so it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) need to be marinated for that long. It can be transformational in as little as 30 minutes. Acid transforms the structure of the chicken, so you want to keep it in the marinade for less than 2 days. We have found that 24 hours is the ideal time.

Safety Tips

Marinating meat isn’t a complicated process, but be sure to follow along with a few safety tips to ensure no cross-contamination from the raw meat.

  1. Meat should be refrigerated during the marinating process. It’s always best to store raw meat in the lowest shelf or part of your refrigerator that way if there are any accidental drips, it doesn’t contaminate any food below it.
  2. Don’t use the leftover marinade (unless you are cooking the chicken with it). It contains raw chicken and therefore is not safe to use. We don’t recommend you heat it up separately either as the chicken liquid within the marinade when cooked can get a little weird.
  3. Cook the marinated chicken within 2 days. Because the marinade contains acidic ingredients, as it sits it will continue to break down the chicken. If it sits for too long, it actually can become tougher.

Containers

Depending on whether you plan to freeze the marinated meat, or use it fresh, will dictate what type of container you use. If you are planning to quickly marinate it, feel free to use any bowl or glass container you have.

If you plan to freeze it, it’s best to store the chicken in a freezer-safe plastic bag or reusable silicone bag, such as Stasher Bags. Just make sure to push as much air as possible out of the bags before storing flat in the freezer.

Freezer Instructions

Marinating chicken ahead of time and placing it in the freezer is a great idea for meal prep. You can buy a bulk package of chicken breast when they go on sale and take 20 or so minutes to put together a couple of batches of marinades for the chicken.

Place the chicken and marinade in a freezer-safe plastic bag or reusable silicone bag, such as Stasher Bags, and push out all the air before sealing tightly. Freeze initially on a flat surface, such as a sheet tray, and then once the chicken is frozen you can move it to a long term storage spot standing them up horizontally if desired.

Defrost the chicken overnight if possible, the day before you plan to use. And then cook with desired method (see below for more information).

Cooking Frozen Marinated Chicken (in the Instant Pot)

Yes, it’s possible to freeze marinated chicken, and then to cook it from frozen in the Instant Pot!

A few tips for success:

  1. We recommend before you freeze that marinade that you make note of what size the chicken breast is, and put that information on the freezer-friendly bag, that way you know how to long to cook it for!
  2. Let the chicken marinate for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator before you place the marinated chicken in the freezer. This is only necessary if you plan to cook the chicken from frozen.
  3. When you are ready to cook, you can place the freezer bag in a bowl of lukewarm water just until the chicken easily will come out of the bag, and then place the chicken and all the marinade contents inside of the Instant Pot. Add in 1/4 cup of water as well, to make sure there is enough liquid for the chicken to cook and to prevent a burn notification.
  4. Frozen chicken in the IP is cooked differently than fresh chicken. Check out this post for all the details about the exact cooking times based on how big the chicken breasts are!

Freezer Chicken Marinades in a container.Let’s Talk Flavor

We’ve laid our 5 of our favorite marinade flavors!

Greek: Mediterranean inspired with lemon and oregano

Sweet Chipotle: Hot and sweet thanks to the canned adobo sauce and honey

Honey Mustard: A classic combo that never gets old

Cilantro Lime: A southwest style flavor with lime juice, cumin, and fresh cilantro

Pollo Asado: A fantastic citrus and spice combo that is truly magical

How to Cook Marinated Chicken

The best part about cooking chicken breasts is that there are so many ways to do it! Choose which method works for you, based on what else you plan to serve with the meal or what you feel like! Depending on your cooking method, you’ll either cook the chicken directly with the marinade, or you’ll remove the chicken from the marinade and cook it solo. Keep in mind that chicken breasts can vary in size, anywhere from 9 ounces to 14 ounces, so we recommend you use an instant-read thermometer to ensure that your chicken is properly cooked, and reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF. Here are the basic rules about cooking chicken breasts. Please note cooking frozen marinated chicken from frozen is a bit different than cooking it from the refrigerator. See the above note about cooking “Frozen Marinated Chicken in the Instant Pot” and see our post about cooking Frozen Chicken in the Instant Pot for more details on that cooking method.

Pan-Sear:

  1. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (such as cast iron) with a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and gently dry it off with a paper towel. Place the chicken breasts on the pan and cook, undisturbed for 5-7 minutes, or until the chicken breast can easily be picked up from the pan without it sticking. Flip the chicken and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  3. Remove the chicken and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing into.

Grill:

  1. Pre-heat the grill.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and gently dry it off with a paper towel. Place the chicken breasts on the hot side (or direct heat) of the grill for the first 5 minutes, and then flip and move a less direct heat and continue to cook another 5-8 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  3. Remove the chicken and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing into.

Bake:

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Place chicken inside a baking dish with the marinade and cook until the chicken is nearly finished cooking through, to 160ºF, about 30-35 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the oven and loosely cover the chicken with aluminum foil to let it rest for 5-10 minutes while it finishes cooking, checking the temperature to make sure it rises to a minimum of 165ºF.

Instant Pot:

  1. Place the chicken inside the Instant Pot with the marinade. Close the lid and set the valve to sealing.
  2. Cook on manual high pressure for 8 minutes, with a 5-minute natural pressure release. After releasing any additional steam, check the temperature to make sure the chicken rises to a minimum of 165ºF.

Slow Cooker:

  1. Place the chicken inside the slow cooker with the marinade.
  2. Cook on low for 3-4 hours, or until the chicken rises to a minimum of 165ºF.

Grilled marinated chicken.

What to Serve with Marinated Chicken

The bonus about cooking chicken is that it pairs SO well with many different side dishes. We’re sharing some of our favorites here that might work well with the chicken!

If you like this chicken breast recipe, check out these others:

5.0 rating
6 reviews

Easy Chicken Marinade Recipes

Never be bored with chicken again! We're sharing 5 super simple chicken marinades that turn plain chicken breasts into something magical! They're freezer-friendly and perfect for making ahead of time. They are all gluten-free, with some Paleo and Whole30 options as well.


Yield 4
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Recipe Type: Sauce
Cuisine Gluten-free
Difficulty: Easy
Author: Lexi's Clean Kitchen

Ingredients

Greek

Cilantro Lime

Pollo Asado

  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Honey Mustard

Sweet Chipotle

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons canned adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced chipotled peppers (optional, this is hot)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. For your chosen marinade, whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. 
  2. Place 2-3 chicken breasts either inside of a freezer-safe bag, or storage bowl / container. Pour marinade over the chicken, and move the chicken around to ensure it coats it evenly.
  3. Transfer chicken to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Or place in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  4. Cook as desired (see section labeled "How to Cook Marianted  Chicken" for more tips on this).

Recipe Notes

  1. Each marinade recipe makes enough for 2-3 chicken breasts (about 2 pounds of chicken) or similar sized chicken pieces.
  2. Meat should be refrigerated during the marinating process. It's always best to store raw meat in the lowest shelf or part of your refrigerator that way if there are any accidental drips, it doesn't contaminate any food below it.
  3. Don't use the leftover marinade (unless you are cooking the chicken with it). It contains raw chicken and therefore is not safe to use. We don't recommend you heat it up separately either as the chicken liquid within the marinade when cooked up makes the sauce a little funky.
  4. Cook the marinated chicken within 2 days. Because the marinade contains acidic ingredients, as it sits it will continue to break down the chicken. If it sits for too long, it actually can become more tough.

Nutrition

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Easy chicken marinades in 5 different bowls.

12 comments
June 22, 2020

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12 Responses

    1. Hi Melissa! You can! We are publishing a whole guide on Wednesday on how to cook frozen chicken in the Instant Pot, as there is some explanation behind it. So I’ll update this post once that launches!

  1. Made these last week! Took me about an hour to do all 5 marinades. I used about 10 lb. chicken breasts total. I filleted them each in half so the marinade would coat more of the chicken. I let them marinade overnight in the fridge and then popped them all in the freezer the next morning. We had pollo asada last night and it was delish! Seared it in the cast iron and then baked in the oven until done. Thanks for the recipes!!

    5.0 rating

  2. I’ve done this a couple times now; for some reason, I prefer 10 min + 5 natural release in the instant pot (vs 8 min stated). It may be because my chicken was thicker, or my preference in texture

    5.0 rating

  3. I made the cilantro lime marinade and it was amazing! Incredibly easy and so flavorful. I cannot wait to try all of the other marinades.

    5.0 rating

  4. Tried the Sweet Chipotle marinade for grilled chicken this week and it was amazing! I can’t wait to try the others.

    5.0 rating

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Author: Lexi

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