This 4 ingredient chicken marinade has an amazing sweet, tangy, spicy kick with so little effort but big flavor. With Asian inspired flavors, this no-soy sauce recipe mixes up in less than five minutes, but tastes like you spent hours! Grill, stir-fry, sauté or bake your chicken – this marinade works with any cooking method.
To make a delicious chicken marinade, a combination of sweet, tangy, spicy and a hint of bitter is the key. I almost always add salt to anything I cook, but I prefer to salt marinated meats right before cooking. So this marinade does not contain any salt or salty ingredients. You’ll sprinkle a light coating of salt on both sides of the chicken before grilling, baking or stir-frying.
The spicy ingredient is sesame chili oil which has an intoxicating aroma. The little bit of spice it adds, brings the marinade flavor to another level. Sesame chili oil can be found in the Asian foods section of most grocery stores. There is a pretty good spicy kick in this oil. I consider it to be medium spicy, so if you don’t want any heat in your marinade, replace it with plain, toasted sesame oil.
Rice vinegar is the vinegar of choice in most Asian cooking and adds the tangy element to the marinade. If you don’t have rice vinegar, white balsamic or apple cider vinegar will be good substitutes,
The sweet in this marinade is coconut palm sugar – my favorite sweetener. It has a caramel-like flavor and is less processed than most sweeteners. Coconut sugar is not made from actual coconuts – it comes from the nectar of the flower on coconut trees. I highly recommend trying it. Use brown sugar, maple syrup or agave instead if you prefer.
Finally, a slightly bitter ingredient will round out the flavor profile. Onion powder is the perfect fast, easy way to get onion flavor into a sauce or marinade.
How to Marinate Chicken
Here is the best way to marinate chicken:
- Place the ingredients in a zip top bag, seal and shake.
- Add the chicken, press the air out of the bag and seal. The airtight bag assures that the chicken will be submerged in the marinade.
- Massage the bag to be sure that the chicken is completely coated with the marinade.
- Place the bag in a bowl and refrigerate at least two hours or as long as 48 hours. If using skin-on chicken, marinate at least overnight.
- When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the bag, discard the remaining marinade and pat the chicken dry.
- Sprinkle a coating of salt on both sides of the chicken and cook using your favorite method.
4 Ingredient Chicken Marinade
- 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sesame chili oil or plain, toasted sesame oil for no spicy heat
- 2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar agave or brown sugar can be used too
- ½ tsp onion powder
- Notes: This is enough marinade for 1/2-1 pound of chicken.This marinade does not contain salt or a salty ingredient, I prefer to salt my chicken directly before before cooking.Optional – Make double the recipe and set aside half to brush on the chicken immediately after cooking or to use as a dipping sauce. DO NOT re-use the marinade that the raw chicken was in,
- Place all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
- The best way to marinate chicken is to place it in a zip top bag with the marinade. Press all the air out of the bag and spread the liquid around so that all of the chicken is coated.
- Refrigerate on a plate or in a bowl for 30 minutes or as long as overnight,
- To prepare the chicken for cooking:Remove the chicken from the bag and place on a plate or tray. Pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with a light coating of salt and let sit 5 minutes. Grill, bake, stir-fry or cook any way you please.