Creating a delicious marinade is just as easy as creating a unique vinaigrette. The only difference is that you’re putting it on meat instead of a salad. Plus, marinades can be made based on what you like and have on hand, so you can get very creative with them.

I have lots of herbs and chile peppers available to me right now, so I’m going to create an herby spicy marinade for turkey cutlets. No recipe required.

By the way, I don’t know if turkey cutlets are available everywhere, but if you see them, I highly recommend that you buy them. First of all, the cutlets are uniformly approximately 1/2″ thick, so they’re much easier to cook than, say, chicken breasts. They’re also quite inexpensive.

I always start with oil when I make a marinade – specifically olive oil – but you don’t have to limit yourself to olive oil, as any oil will work.

An acid is typically added next because it supposedly tenderizes meat. I think Cook’s Illustrated proved a long time ago that this is hogwash, after experimenting with a variety of meats and acidic marinades in their test kitchen. True or not, I don’t know. But the acid adds flavor, because you can choose any vinegar, or even citrus juices. So you can use an acid for a flavor addition, if nothing else. I’ve always found that lime juice lends itself to Mexican and Southwestern cuisines, and lemon juice lends itself to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. But there are no rules here.

I personally marinate meats up to 3 days in the refrigerator. The only exception to this is pork. If you are going to marinate pork, only do so for 2-3 hours if there’s an acid involved. If I want 3 day-marinated pork, I just omit the acid, and keep the marinade oil-based.

Garlic is a good option for a marinade, especially when blended in smoothly. Onion, on the other hand, doesn’t work as well because it makes the marinade watery. So save the onion for grilling or some other purpose.

Spices are a wonderful and easy addition to marinades, from chili powder, to curry powder, or just lots of black pepper. And there’s always a chipotle pepper, or roasted red bell peppers, or even a tomato. It all works!

And herbs? All of them work beautifully, both dried and fresh.

Today for this marinade, I’m using a combination of garlic, parsley, chile peppers, and cumin.

Herby Spicy Marinade

Olive oil
Lime juice
Fresh parsley
Chile peppers, I used Nardella
Ground cumin

Pour some olive oil into a blender jar. Add about half of that volume of lime juice, or less. This depends how much liminess you want in the resulting flavor.

I added ground cumin and salt. Then add the parsley and chile peppers. They can be de-seeded if you wish, but I just de-stemmed mine, gave them a rough chop, and threw them in to the blender.

Then add however many garlic cloves you want, and blend until smooth.

Finish off with a little more salt if you’re marinating beef.

Pour a little marinade on the bottom of a baking dish, and add a few turkey cutlets, in a single layer. Flip them upside down to make sure that the marinade is on both sides, then repeat with the remaining cutlets and marinade. Alternatively, use a sealable bag to hold everything. This will save room in the refrigerator.

Marinate for 1 to 3 days.

Remove the dish or bag from the refrigerator, and let the meat come to just room temperature while the indoor or outdoor grill is prepared.

Cook or grill the meat properly. I believe that turkey and chicken should be cooked until the internal temperature is 155 degrees. But that is a personal preference. These particular cutlets are so thin, I mostly just browned them on both sides in a hot skillet.

Let the meat rest for just a few minutes, then serve.

On this particular day, I served the marinated turkey cutlets with corn on the cob topped with an ancho chile butter, continuing the Southwestern theme. It was a wonderful combination!


If you follow this marinade recipe, you’ll really appreciate the garlic and cumin flavors, the freshness from the parsley, and the zing from the chile peppers!!!

note: The black specks are Hawaiian black salt, not black sesame seeds, or bugs!

25 thoughts on “Marinating

  1. I’m a tad off the subject, Mimi, but I wanted to say that I love what you did with the photos and the way you brought us in closer and closer. That was very striking and effective! As for marinades, love your combination!


  2. Nice intro to marinades, Mimi. I wonder about the acid, as it has such a striking effect on fish (i.e. ceviche). I’ve also been wondering about the combination of marinating and sous-vide, whether it makes a difference to marinate first and then cook, or marinate and cook at the same time. Some experiments are in order!
    The good thing about your marinade for the turkey is that if you keep some apart (so it is not contaminated by the meat), you can also serve it as a sauce.


  3. Ok you inspired me. Usually I’m terribly impatient and can’t plan or wait overnight to indulge, but its 8:55 am in Holland and I just marinated some pork chops.

    So, good morning, and thanks :)


  4. Mimi, in my wine studies I’ve learned that salt and acidity lessen the impact of umami, a somewhat bitter element of meat. So, while a marinade may not soften the meat, it does soften the flavor of the meat. Your marinade looks delicious, as does the corn!


    • Well that certainly makes sense. I used to read Cooks Illustrated and now I don’t. I need to again. I really loved when they’d perform recipe experiments, like the one they did with acid marinades. I still use acid, but for flavor, as I mentioned. Thanks for the info!!!


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