Marinades are a wonderful way to flavor meat. They can be simple or involved, depending on your desires, but they’re also a great way to use up ingredients. Have some leftover parsley? Make a marinade. Tomatoes? Make a marinade. An orange? You get the idea.
Generally, a marinade is composed of three parts: the oil, the acid, and the flavoring. The oil is simply the carrier. It can be a neutral oil like grape seed, an extra-virgin olive oil, or an infused oil.
The acidic option depends on what food you’re preparing. If I’m marinating beef for fajitas, I’d choose lime juice as my acid. If I’m marinating chicken for a stir fry, I’d choose sake or mirin. But there are other options as well. Orange juice? Pineapple juice? A ripe tomato? Sure! They all work.
The third part of creating a marinade is the most fun, because you can get really creative. Garlic is always important to me. There’s not one cuisine I can think of that doesn’t utilize this wonderfully pungent allium, be it Indian, Asian, Mexican, and so forth. Ginger is also perfect in Asian- and Indian -inspired marinades.
The next option for me would be fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, or parsley. They provide beautiful color and freshness to a marinade.
Chile peppers puréed in a marinade provide wonderful heat as well as flavor. Just remove the stem of fresh jalapeños, for example, and pop them into the blender with the other ingredients. Alternatively, use roasted peppers or chile pepper purée, of which there are many varieties.
Here are some spice options for marinades: Cumin, chili powder, smoky or sweet paprika, coriander, Chinese 5-spice powder, curry powder, cayenne, chipotle, ancho chile pepper.
Other ingredients to flavor marinades include pesto, miso, ketchup, soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, berbere, harissa, romesco, mustard, honey, maple syrup, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce… the list is literally endless.
The following marinade is basically a red wine-based vinaigrette, seasoned with garlic, dried herbs, and cayenne pepper flakes.
Here is a marinade made with olive oil, lime juice, garlic and parsley puréed together for chicken breasts. The combination makes a wonderful green marinade, which colors the chicken beautifully after grilling.
For a beef tri-tip, I created an Asian-inspired marinade. I used soy sauce, sake, sesame seed oil, chile paste (Sambal oelek), ginger and garlic. After 24 hours I seared the thin slices of beef in peanut oil for a quick dinner. It’s that simple.
Yogurt can also be used as the “carrier oil,” which you learn about quickly when you indulge yourself in Indian cuisines. So for my final example of a marinated meat, I’m using a mixture of yogurt and harissa.
For a more involved Indian-inspired marinade, I would include garlic, ginger, and curry powder, but I wanted to show how easy it is to create a flavorful and unique marinade. It took10 seconds to prepare and you don’t even need to use a blender.
I’m simply smothering a pork tenderloin with the marinade, waiting a few hours, and then roasting it in the oven.
Marinating requires very little work. It’s just about planning. Try different variations and see what magic you can come up with!
Loads of great flavors in your marinade ideas. Perfect for grilling weather.
Especially with all of the fresh herbs outside. And I do use tomatoes in marinades. I got the idea after I made one from a recipe that used ketchup, and it was wonderful.
Chef mimi, thank you so much for this informative article. Will definitely use your pointers for our Indian Paneer Tikka.
Thank you, but I’m sure you already know all about marinades!
I do, but all I know is hung curd with our Indian spices… you gave a lot variety.
Oh, well okay then!
Love marinades too and they definitely do add so much flavour! I particularly love using fresh herbs and it’s the perfect time of year to use ’em when the garden is overflowing with them!
I make so many green marinades! But they’re so fun and so good!
I need to do more marinades. BTW, love your tag line; I have said that sooo many times!
Cause it’s so true!!! but thank you!
I love a good marinade, Mimi! I love how you broke down the components and gave examples, it makes it so easy to make a marinade without a recipe!
I’m so against recipes! Well, I shouldn’t say that, because I’m inspired by new recipes of course. But they’re always hard for me to follow to a t. And rarely is a recipe really required. It’s what I used to teach in my cooking classes in yesteryears.
I totally agree! Except for baking, I usually don’t ever follow a recipe in detail!
Oh, baking is a totally different ballgame! That’s probably why I’m not fond of it! Except for yeasted breads…
So many options, Chef Mimi. Thank you. (Great pics and ideas, all!) My hubby raised an eyebrow at “Sambal oelek” when I first brought it home, but I’ve added it to many a dish with rave reviews (and without him knowing, LOL!) — marinating is a terrific way to add flavor without overwhelming “tender” tastebuds.
Oh, I love being sneaky! I did it for years with the kids! I don’t ever do anything terrible, like something that would cause an allergic reaction 😬, but sometimes my husband is just so sure about foods, and he’s so wrong. I guess I should be lucky that he eats what he eats!!!
i don’t ever make marinades! perhaps because we don’t eat steak etc. these all sound like good ideas though. cheers sherry
Well this was definitely not a post for vegetarians😀 but have you ever marinated raw vegetables? Fabulous!
What a great idea to make use of ingredients that need attention! I have been seeing a lot of yellow chillies recently :)
Perfect for a marinade!
These look fabulous Mimi! I agree, they don’t take too long at all do they! Cheers
I love small blenders for this reason. So so easy to whip up a marinade.
Marinades are amazing. From marinated tomatoes as a salad, to mushrooms, to fish, poultry, and meat! It’s all good!
Mimi – we have so many overlaps in our pantries!
That’s funny! And wonderful!
This is a terrific guide to marinades. I often feel a little stumped when it comes to marinating my meat!
It’s really fun. Of course, you don’t have to, but the flavors do get infused and makes meaty meals more tasty!
Fun — and informative! — post. Love marinades, particularly at this time of the year. I mainly use them for meats, but am getting into marinating veggies a bit more — nice flavor twist. Anyway, thanks for a great read.
Thank you. Meant more for novice cooks, but I appreciate your comments. I’ve always tried to get people to not only use recipes! And marinades and vinaigrettes are a perfect example of being creative with what you have and what you like.
Mimi, while I’ve made many marinades, I’ve never looked at my misc. leftovers of produce and things as a reason to make one — and it’s brilliant! That’s definitely going to be my new thing. Such a ton of great information here and I can’t wait to put it to use. :-) ~Valentina
Maybe it was because we went through lean times back when my kids were young. I had to be creative because I had to cook economically! But it’s also fun.
A fab post. Never thought to use charred peppers as part of a marinade. Love that idea.
Oh yeah! I mean, why not?! Roasted tomatoes as well.
Love a good marinade. That lime one with the chicken looks sublime (pun not intended).
Hahahahaha! I love green marinades that leave a green pastiness on meat. So much flavor!
I am so making that, soon!
Mimi, your marinades all look wonderful and are definitely making me hungry! I’ve got my eye on the Asian flavored one – so delicious!
Asian marinades are so fun because there’s so much to choose from!
The world of marinades is indeed vast. And they do work magic. I have one up my sleeve for this week’s post, by funny coincidence. Must be that time of year… !
It must be! Can’t wait.
So true! So many varieties! That green marinade is perfect for the chicken 😉😋
I love to grab herbs from the garden, especially parsley, and whizz them into marinades!
You know I had somewhat given up on marinades because sometimes they don’t deliver as much flavor as I expected. Any insights?
Add more punch to your marinades, and less liquid? When I put a whole handful of parsley in a blender with garlic and olive oil, there’s no lacking in flavor. If you’re not using fresh herbs, use lots of seasoning. Or use pre-made ingredients like harissa. That will deliver flavor!
What a great post, Mimi! Marinades are so fun because you can change the flavor profile quite easily. In fact, we used to put marinades in bags with chicken breasts and then freeze the whole thing. The chicken marinates as it thaws, so it makes for an easy weeknight hack.
I’ve never actually done that on purpose. I’ve done it when I made too much, which seems to happen a lot lately. Great idea!