15 Healthy Chicken Marinade Recipes

Chicken for dinner—again? Beat the poultry blues with these healthy, yummy chicken marinade recipes.

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If you’re anything like me, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are probably one of your main food groups. I love that they’re easy, endlessly versatile and, of course, super healthy. But the thing about chicken—and having it day in, day out—is that it can get old. Fast. Having a cooking arsenal primed with a few easy ways to mix it up is key.

Consider this post your cooking arsenal.




The sneaky thing about marinades is that while they seem harmless—how many calories could a thin liquid really add to my meal?—they can actually be laden with lots of bad stuff, often in the form of oil and sugar. The recipes below keep good health at the heart, which means you can totally have your marinated chicken and eat it, too.

A few cooking tips to get you going: Christina Dimacali, personal chef, cooking guru and owner of the NoLibs-based cooking school Clean Your Plate, says you shouldn't marinate chicken for more than 24 hours, especially if your marinade contains an acid (lemon or lime juice, or vinegar). "Just like with seafood, the acid can actually cook the chicken, so you have to be careful about that," she says.

She adds that the biggest mistake she sees is people taking their marinated chicken straight from the fridge and plopping it on the grill or skillet. The problem is that the chicken is going from cold to hot in seconds flat, and the excess moisture that you would normally lose in the defrosting process is going to escape as steam, causing the chicken to cook in the steam. "You won't get that sear or color you're looking for," she says, adding that some of the flavor will diminish, too. Your best bet is taking the chicken out of the fridge and letting it come to room temperature for 15 minutes or so before putting it on your cooking surface. And you want to remove the excess marinade, too: "If you truly marinated it, the flavor has infused already. Having extra on the outside isn't going to make it better."

Ready to hit the kitchen? Here are 15 chicken marinade recipes that'll take the boring out of your dinner—guaranteed.

If You're Short on Time: One-Hour-or-Less Marinades

Chicken Gyros
via A Bitchin' Kitchen

You're certainly welcome to make this entire recipe (the same friend who recommended those amazing 160-calorie apple-cinnamon muffins swears by this recipe), but I'm looking just at the chicken portion. I ran the numbers for the marinade with four chicken breasts, and you're looking at just 215 calories per breast—which is awesome. I'm told that marinating chicken in yogurt ensures utmost juiciness.

Lime Fajitas
via Discovery Fit & Health

If your kitchen's anything like mine, you probably have all of the ingredients (there are only three!) on hand at any given time. Which means this is the perfect marinade for nights when you're like, Oh crap, I have nothing planned for dinner. Done and done.

Zesty Chipotle Chicken
via Sarah's Test Kitchen

Note: You can use this one for beef, too. I'd sub olive or canola oil for the vegetable oil.

Buffalo Chicken
via Cooking Light

All the taste of the bar food you love for a fraction of the calories and fat. Plus, it's homemade, so that means you control the portions and ingredients.

Rosemary, Garlic and Ginger Chicken Breasts
via Food.com

This one's got heat and zing—which means it's positively perfect to me.

Cilantro Thai Grilled Chicken
via Artsy Foodie

You can use either fish sauce or soy sauce for this Thai-inspired marinade. Fifteen minutes is all you need to let the flavors sink in.

If You Have a Few Hours: Two-to-Four-Hour Marinades

Hawaiian Chicken
via Cooking Light

The taste of the islands, served up in a Ziploc bag.

Five-Spice Marinade
via Eating Well

The five spices in question are, well, in five-spice powder.

Herbed Chicken
via Cooking Light

The fresh ingredients in this one—shallots, thyme, rosemary—will really set the flavors soaring.

Korean-Style Marinated Grilled Chicken
via Pretty Tasty Things

I might try Splenda instead of sugar in this one. And if you don't want to brave an outdoor grill in cooler weather, you could bake it or use a grill pan inside.

If You Really Plan Ahead: Overnight Marinades

Pirate Marinade
via Eating Well
I mean, how could I not include something called pirate marinade? This one includes citrus, vinegar, brown sugar and other goodies.

Mustard Marinade
via Oprah.com

Oprah Winfrey's camp is digging this easy marinade, which has grainy mustard at its center.

Yogurt-Honey Chicken Breasts
via Doctoroz.com

More yogurt! This one comes courtesy of Dr. Oz. I'd also like to try the companion recipe for quinoa tabouli.

Pollo Asado
via Food.com

No more takeout Mexican. Get all the flavors you crave with this recipe at home.

Kelly's Overnight Chicken Recipe
via Baked Bree

This blogger used orange-blossom honey for her recipe. Trying it!

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