Best Homemade Marinades for Meat
Whether it’s chicken, beef, pork or lamb, many of us enjoy a tender cut of meat as a key part of so many meals.
If you’re looking for ways to transform a classic meat dish, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite homemade meat marinades.
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What is a marinade?
Marinades are cooking liquids that are used to soak meat before cooking to tenderise the meat, as well as adding extra flavour.
It usually consists of a spice mix, such as fresh and dried herbs, and an acidic component like yoghurt or lemon juice.
Marinating is always done before cooking, and you should never keep the marinade to use after cooking or to serve with, as it will have been in contact with raw meat and could be a source of bacteria.
How long should meat be marinated for?
It depends on the specific recipe, but as a rough guide you should never marinate for longer than 24 hours as the meat can turn mushy and break down.
Beef can usually withstand longer marinating times than chicken, especially if it’s been chopped into smaller pieces first.
Often just 1-3 hours is plenty of time for the flavours to develop.
One thing to remember is to always leave your meat to marinate in the fridge: never leave meat at room temperature to marinate as this can increase the risk of harmful bacteria growing and could make you sick.
What equipment do I need to start marinating meat?
As a minimum, we always suggest seasoning your meat with plenty of salt and pepper prior to cooking, to suit your individual taste.
You don’t need any fancy equipment to get started, as most of our recipes use dried or fresh herbs that you can find at most larger supermarkets: dried garlic, dried onion, paprika, chilli flakes and cumin are all easy options to have on hand to begin with and start experimenting with.
Always use a plastic or glass bowlto marinate in, like this one from Amazon, as metal can often react with acids and impair the flavour.
We’ve also described some of our favourite Cheap & Easy Spice Blends here, if you’re looking for extra inspiration!
Once you’ve mixed up the dry ingredients for your marinade you can usually keep them stored in a cool dry place for a couple of weeks, but be sure to check the individual recipe for guidance as some mixes need to be kept refrigerated.
We’d also suggest never skipping the marinating time if the recipe calls for it, as it allows time for the flavours to infuse and develop – we promise it’s worth the extra time.
Although the recipes in this article are for specific meats, they tend to work well interchangeably, so feel free to try different combinations to find your favourite!
Chicken is the base to some of our most popular recipes, and for good reason! It’s succulent, mild, and can take on so many different flavours.
Did someone say summer BBQ? We’ve included spiced, marinated chicken 3 ways in our BBQ Chicken Steaks recipe.
With a fresh garlic and herb mix, a spiced Cajun mix and a fragrant tikka mix to pick from, there’s a homemade marinade for every flavour and occasion.
You can use the tikka mix to make tasty Chicken Tikka Kebabs too; they’re ideal served with fresh salad or a side of savoury rice!
If you’re catering for people who prefer a milder dish, you can adjust the amount of chilli powder in these so that they are marinaded to suit.
For a sticky Chinese chicken dish, our Chicken Teriyaki Kebabs combine the distinctive Asian flavours of soy sauce, garlic and ginger with dried chilli flakes for a sweet and salty sauce that works perfectly with poultry.
Although this recipe is for a Mexican Pork Fillet, the marinade works equally well with chicken for a simple weeknight dinner.
Some marinades, like this one, contain granulated sweetener which may seem a little strange at first. The hint of sweetness offsets any bitterness and sharpness from other ingredients, so don’t skip it!
Many Asian dishes rely on leaving the meat to marinate, like our Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi).
This recipe calls for a minimum of half an hour, but if you allow a longer marinating time for beef you’ll find the flavour can infuse and tenderise the meat better.
This one is ideal for preparing before a busy day and leaving in the fridge, ready to cook whenever suits you!
Our Caribbean Jerk Stew uses diced beef chunks cooked low ‘n’ slow marinated in Caribbean spices overnight.
By adding the spices to the beef before slow cooking, it means that you get an extra depth of flavour in every bite, especially if it’s going to be shredded before eating!
We’ve seen the combination of lamb and mint many times from burgers to lamb shanks, but there’s so much more to this tender meat!
Garam masala is a versatile Indian spice, and a base to many Indian dishes from curry to kebabs.
Our Keema Naan uses spiced lamb mince but the spice mix can also be used as a marinade for lamb chops before roasting.
To marinate 8 lamb chops, you’d need to add 100g of natural yoghurt to the spice mix and marinate for at least an hour.
Sumac is a spice that is often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking, but often overlooked.
In reality, it’s a really versatile seasoning that’s fantastic for any meat, but in particular lamb.
Our Sumac Lamb Chops and Rainbow Couscous recipe showcases sumac at its absolute best, and we’re sure this will become one of your favourite marinades in no time!
Pork tends to be a cheaper cut of meat, and we love finding ways of making this budget friendly meat taste great when you’re following a slimming plan.
Our Balsamic Glazed Pork recipe only needs 30 minutes of marinating time, and the rest of the liquid is used up during cooking to produce a mellow, smoky flavour that works brilliantly with pork.
What’s your favourite marinade for meat? We’d love to know, so head over to our Facebook Group and tell us!
If you’re planning on making spice mixes and marinades in advance then our food planner is a great tool to have on hand. There’s loads of space to plan out your meals for the week ahead and jot down marinades that work for you, and dishes that you’d like to try.