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11 Easy Marinades to Make Cheap Meat Tender and Delicious

Marinades

One of our favorite things to cook on the grill in the summertime is marinated flank steak. It’s quick and easy, and great for just the family or for entertaining a crowd. But as I was making it this past weekend, I began to think about maybe mixing it up with a different marinade. My go-to marinade is Mr. Yoshida’s Marinade and Cooking Sauce, and while it is completely DELICIOUS, I thought it would be fun to try something new!

I started looking around online and found several delicious marinade recipes that I wanted to try out. I figured I would just go ahead and make a blog post out of it, so that I could share those recipes with you, too! But rather than just sharing the recipes, I thought I’d put together a little primer on marinades to go along with it. So we’ll go over why marinades are useful, what goes into them, how to use them, and then I’ll share all of those tasty recipes with you.

Related: The One Chef’s Secret You Need To Know If You Love Steak

Marinades

Why Use A Marinade?

But first, let’s talk a little bit about marinades in general, and why you’d want to use one. The most obvious reason you would want to marinade a piece of meat is to add flavor!
There are probably thousands of different marinade recipes out there on the web, so it’s pretty easy to find ones that feature your favorite flavors. (If you don’t know where to start, try typing in a few of your favorite flavors or ingredients into Google along with the word “marinade.”)

Another reason you may want to use a marinade is to make your meat more tender and juicy. This can actually save you money on your grocery bill! You can buy a cheaper cut of meat, marinate it, and still have it turn out tender and delicious. The key is the acid content of the marinade, which helps to break down the tough tissues in the meat before it’s cooked.

Related: How To Make Tender, Juicy Steak With One Secret Ingredient

Which leads us to our next topic – what makes a marinade?

Marinades

What Goes Into A Marinade?

A marinade is a combination of three basic components:

  • Acid – Acids you may find in marinades include lemon or lime juice, vinegar, wine, and more. The acid helps tenderize the meat and lends a bright, tangy flavor.
  • Oil – Oil penetrates into the meat and brings the other flavors in the marinade along with it.
  • Herbs & Spices – These are what gives the marinade a unique and delicious flavor!

By keeping these 3 components in mind, you can start experimenting and discover some really unique and flavorful combinations! Next, I want to share a few important tips for using marinades correctly, because you want to be extra careful wherever raw meat is concerned.

Marinades

Guidelines For Marinating

Here are some general guidelines for using marinades safely and effectively:

  • Meat and poultry are generally marinated for 2 hours up to 2 days.
  • Seafood and fish should be marinated for no longer than one hour.
  • Use a non-reactive container such as plastic or glass. Stay away from aluminum, copper, or cast iron.
  • If a marinade requires cooking, wait for it to cool down completely before pouring it over the meat.
  • Always refrigerate your meat while it’s marinating.
  • Never reuse marinades! You can save any unused marinade in a jar for later use, but once it’s been in contact with raw meat, it can’t be reused.

Now that we all know a bit more about marinades, let’s get to the good stuff – the recipes! Here are 11 of my very favorite marinade recipes, starting with one that was shared with me by a reader several years ago. The reader was Amy B. from California, so around our house we call this one “Amy B.’s California Marinade!” (This recipe makes quite a bit of marinade, so feel free to cut this recipe in half or just freeze what you don’t use.)

11 Delicious Marinade Recipes

I haven’t included any directions for these recipes, because most marinades just need to be whisked together. Or you can whip them up quickly in your blender or food processor! Special instructions are noted where applicable. 

Marinades

1. Amy B.’s California Marinade

Ingredients:

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup mustard
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp pepper
2 cups olive oil

Marinades

2. Coffee Marinade

Ingredients:

1 cup strongly brewed coffee
1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

Marinades

3. Teriyaki Marinade

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
5 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Special Directions:

Combine everything except the cornstarch and cold water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Mix the cornstarch and cold water separately, and add the slurry to your marinade in small amounts until it reaches your desired consistency. Remove from heat and let cool.

Marinades

4. Greek Marinade

Ingredients:

1 tsp lemon peel, finely shredded
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp pepper

Marinades

5. Lemon Rosemary Marinade

Ingredients:

Juice from 3 lemons
1/4 cup fresh rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt

Marinades

6. Korean BBQ Marinade

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Marinades

7. Seafood Marinade

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice

Marinades

8. Balsamic Marinade

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp thyme

Marinades

9. Sweet and Sour Marinade

Ingredients:

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp soy sauce
2 scallions, sliced
Pepper, to taste

Marinades

10. Smoky BBQ Marinade

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp seasoning salt
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 1/2 Tbsp onion powder

Marinades

11. Lime and Cilantro Marinade

Ingredients:

2 cups lime juice
4 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno, minced
3 scallions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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Food & Recipes

  • When I was a kid (and part of my adult life) my Mom would always use McCormick’s Meat Marinade. Sadly, they stopped making it back in 2018. All of the above sound delicious and I can’t wait to try them. Thank you for posing Jillee!

    • Yes! There’s a green print button at the bottom of every post. :-) It will bring up a preview where you can choose to remove photos and any text you don’t need.

  • Thank you for this post. We’ve been doing a LOT of grilling around here lately. I love that it doesn’t heat up the house and makes for fewer dirty dishes! What kind of mustard do you use in the Amy B.’s marinade? It looks delicious!

  • Thanks for this. Question: are these marinades all for chicken? (Except the one for fish). Or can they be used for beef, also?

    I read your blog daily, and find your tips very interesting and useful. Thank you!

  • These are so super. Thanks for gathering them together in one place! I use several already but am super excited to try the line/cilantro marinade on chicken thighs on the BBQ.

    I also have your cleaning tips and especially your homemade fizzies, etc. I make them and give them as gifts. Thanks so much for your contributions to our household!

  • each and every one of these marinades sound SO GOOD. Which one to try first. Thank you for all your time and effort to bring all of us these wonderful recipes, tips, tricks and ideas. Without you, I would be less effective in my life and those around me………..THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH………………………….

  • Can’t wait to try these! For those like me who can’t use regular soy sauce, wheat free tamari makes a great replacement. In place of brown sugar I use coconut sugar or honey or maple syrup.

  • My family’s go-to marinade is Steak Shoyu, and it is so easy to make. Whisk together 1/2 cup soy sauce, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 tablespoons Italian salad dressing. It can be used for steak, chicken, or any kind of shish kebab. It may be refrigerated for several weeks

  • Just moved into a new home with SIX fans! Just the thought of cleaning them on top of regular cleaning of a place that was empty a while left me cold!! The pillow case tip was WONDERFUL! So was the ammonia idea for stove burner pans!!:).

  • These marinades look great and so easy to put together with ingredients I already have in my pantry. Can you or your readers suggest good but inexpensive cuts of meat? I can’t just go by price, I’ve made that mistake (or mis-steak!) before.

  • I love your newsletter with multiple quick effective ideas. Also I like the easy print function, the ability to delete pictures before printing, and the email application so I can forward it to my daughters.

    • Nice that SOME still have the print option. However, MY computer does NOT have it anymore. I have looked and looked in the location that Jillee says it is, but on my computer, it has totally disappeared. Maybe it is a Firefox issue?
      Love the recipes, Thank you !

  • I use various salad desssings to marinate.
    I live alone but a very active life so quick and easy is my style!!

    Enjoy your everyday tips!

    Barbara
    Frederick, MD

  • GOOD MORNING ~ I HAVE CREATED A SPECIAL FOLDER JUST FOR ALL THE WONDERFUL TIPS AND IDEAS! I LOOK SO FORWARD TO OPENING MY MAIL EVERY MORNING JUST SO THAT I CAN SEE WHAT GREAT THINGS YOU HAVE FOR US TO IMPROVE OUR CREATIVITY.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH.

    KIND REGARDS ~ RIKKI FROM CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA

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