This orange marinade for chicken mixes up in 3 minutes and gives your chicken a bright citrusy flavor. Sweet and tart orange makes a great base for a chicken marinade. Lime juice and some savory ingredients will make your taste buds sing! Make an easy orange glaze from the marinade too.
Be sure to check out my full collection of easy gluten-free sauces and marinades including my homemade raspberry balsamic glaze, 4 ingredient chicken marinade, lemon cumin chicken sauce and easy sesame teriyaki sauce.
How Long to Marinate Chicken
This is an important question. The 2 factors are, whether the chicken is skin on or skinless and if the marinade has an acid like citrus, vinegar or soy sauce. The acid in a marinade can make the chicken mushy if left too long. This will happen more quickly with skinless chicken. So here’s a general guide:
- If the marinade has an acid, marinate skinless chicken for 30 minutes-3 hours refrigerated and skin-on chicken for 5-6 hours.
- If the marinade does not have an acid, marinate 2 hours or as long as overnight.
How to Marinate Chicken
I normally don’t like to use single-use plastic items but I haven’t had great results with silicone bags. So for marinating, I make an exception. Zip tops do such a great job of keeping the marinade in close contact with the meat.
- Place the chicken and marinade in a zip top bag, press out all of the air and seal.
- Gently massage the bag to spread the marinade around and assure that all of the chicken gets coated.
- Place the bag in a bowl or on a plate and refrigerate.
- Marinate according to the times above.
- 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.
- Do not re-use the marinade that the raw chicken was in. If you want extra to brush on the chicken after cooking or for a dipping sauce, make extra. See below for a yummy orange glaze.
For those in a time crunch, prepared orange juice will make this recipe super quick. If you have an extra minute, I recommend using fresh squeezed. One medium sized navel orange will give about the right amount of juice.
Lime juice is always best when fresh squeezed. The bottled stuff just doesn’t taste the same. The lime juice adds a little more acidy pop to the orange.
Onion powder and garlic powder are quick ways to get onion and garlic flavor in a marinade. If you are motivated and prefer fresh, use one clove of minced garlic and one stalk chopped green onion.
Oil keeps the acid in the marinade from “cooking” the chicken (like the lime juice in ceviche). A neutral oil like avocado, sunflower, light olive oil or canola works best. Extra virgin olive oil will solidify when refrigerated so it is not a good option for a marinade.
You may have noticed there is no salt or salty ingredient in this recipe. I prefer to salt my proteins directly before cooking. Instructions are included in the recipe card below.
Orange Marinade with Herbs
This marinade mixes up in 5 minutes and will give any chicken a bright citrusy flavor. Your favorite fresh herb can be added to the recipe to add another level of flavor. Here are a few optional herb add-ins:
- My favorite herb-citrus pairing is orange with tarragon. I highly recommend giving it a try.
- Fresh mint will add a bright, slightly sweet flavor to this marinade.
- To take this recipe in the direction of an Italian dish, add fresh oregano or basil leaves.
- If you like rosemary, orange is a great pairing. Since rosemary is such a strong flavored herb, add just a 1/4 tsp of chopped fresh.
The chicken will get a nice orange flavor from the marinade. But if you would like a to top it with a yummy, glossy glaze during or after cooking, make double the recipe. Pour half of the marinade in with the raw chicken to marinate. Take the remaining half, add 1/4 c orange juice and 1 tsp sweetener (maple syrup or agave is my fav) and place in a small pot. Simmer the mixture over a medium flame for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until the liquid thickens and turns syrupy.
How to use this glaze:
- Add this glaze to a stir fry for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
- If grilling or cooking in a skillet, brush on the cooked side after flipping.
- If baking or roasting, brush on for the final 15 minutes of cooking.
- Drizzle on immediately after cooking with any method,
Easy 3-Minute Orange Marinade for Chicken
- ¼ c orange juice prepared or fresh squeezed (1 oranges)
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 Tbsp oil avocado, canola, light olive oil or sunflower is best*
- ⅛ tsp onion powder or 1 stalk green onion, chopped
- ⅛ tsp garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp chopped mint or cilantro optional or
- ¼ tsp chopped rosemary optional
Extra Ingredients for Optional Orange Glaze
- ¼ c orange juice
- 1 tsp agave, maple syrup or brown sugar
- NOTE: If you want to make an orange glaze, make double the recipe and set aside half. DO NOT REUSE MARINADE THAT SOAKED THE CHICKEN.
- Place all of the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly.
- Put the marinade and chicken into a zip top bag, press out the air and seal.
- Massage the bag gently to spread the marinade and assure that the chicken gets coated.
- Place the bag in a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 48 hours. Skin on chicken should marinate at least overnight.
- Remove the chicken from the bag and pat dry with a paper towel. Discard the bag and marinade. Sprinkle with a light coating of salt and cook as desired.
- Take the remaining half of the marinade and add 2 Tbsps orange juice and 1 tsp sweetener (I like agave or maple syrup).
- Simmer it over a medium flame for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes until thick and syrupy.