Spicy and sweet with an adaptable amount of heat, this Spicy Honey Chicken Marinade makes tender and flavorful chicken every time!
This recipe was originally published June 24, 2020. The blog post was updated with new photos, additional recipe information, and recipe refinements on April 27, 2022.
Grilled chicken doesn't need to be boring! Today I introduce to you my new favorite chicken that's juicy, zingy, and 100% full of flavor: spicy honey chicken marinade!
Enjoy your chicken full of heat or just with a little kick; I give you super easy tips to adapt this recipe to your liking. Either way, you'll have a perfect recipe to enjoy this summer and throughout the rest of the year.
Table of contents
- Why this spicy honey chicken recipe works:
- How do marinades work?
- Marinade ingredients:
- Recipe substitutions:
Why this spicy honey chicken recipe works:
- Versatile - if you are looking for a go-to chicken marinade that pairs well with almost any side, this chicken is for you! This sweet and spicy grilled chicken goes well with everything from steamed broccoli and rice to pasta salad and corn on the cob.
- Flavorful - infuse your protein with flavor without a lot of fuss with this recipe. This spicy grilled chicken recipe is well rounded-- with notes of sweetness, acid, fat, and spice -- making it satisfy all your taste buds.
- Variable - adjust the heat to fit the preferences of you or your dining guests. See my notes below on the complete (and easy!) steps.
- Great for all seasons - you will love this recipe because you can make it any time of year. Seriously. Throw it on the grill for a barbecue in the summer or grill it up on a stovetop grill pan (directions also below) for the cold winter months. It's always a hit!
- Made with common pantry staples - this spicy chicken marinade recipe is made entirely of common pantry staples, meaning it's a great one to whip up when you're running low on dinner ideas.
- Great for busy weeknights - if you have 10 minutes to marinate the chicken the night before or in the morning before you head off to work, dinner time is a breeze! Just preheat the grill, pop the chicken on, and in 20 minutes, dinner will be served.
How do marinades work?
Marinades work on a few different levels:
- The acid in the marinade tenderizes the meat.
- The salt in the marinade works almost as a brine for the meat, making it nice and juicy.
- The fat in the marinade keeps the meat moist, imparts savoriness, and helps keep the chicken from sticking to the grill.
- The seasonings give the meat the flavors we keep coming back for. 😊
- Olive oil
- Minced garlic
- Red or cayenne pepper
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Chicken - boneless & skinless chicken breasts or thighs and chicken tenders are easiest for this recipe, but I also include notes on how to make this recipe with bone-in chicken
- Oil -- avocado can substitute for olive oil
- Honey -- the same amount of maple syrup or agave will work in this recipe, but I do recommend honey if you have it!
- Vinegar -- distilled white vinegar also works in a pinch
How to make spicy grilled chicken marinade:
- Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Add the chicken to the marinade and turn it in the marinade to coat.
- Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 24 hours
- Preheat the grill. Add the chicken to the grill until cooked through, reserving the chicken marinade. (see below and the recipe notes for how to cook this chicken on the stovetop).
- Remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Add the reserved chicken marinade to a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan. Heat in the microwave or bring to a simmer on the stovetop for 2-3 minutes, or until boiling.
- Whisk together cold water and cornstarch until combined. Whisk into the hot marinade and boil for 1 minute, or until thickened.
- Serve the chicken hot with cilantro, lime slices, and reduced marinade sauce.
Adjusting the spice levels:
It's super easy to modify the spiciness of this recipe to fit your preferences. Just use as much or as little of the recommended amount of cayenne pepper and sriracha as you desire.
The lower end of the recommended spice measurements offer a moderate kick that most adults and older kids can handle; the larger end of the measurement recommendations give the chicken more of a kick that more spicy palates would likely prefer.
How long do you marinate the chicken?
The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will be. I recommend as close to 12 hours as possible, though 6-8 will definitely suffice.
If you are truly short on time, use chicken tenders or cut the chicken breasts into chunks before marinating. The increased surface area of the smaller cuts of chicken will help them marinate faster.
Chicken grilling tips:
- Preheat the grill before adding the chicken - just like the oven, you want to start cooking when the grill is fired up and hot! This will help keep cooking temperatures as even as possible.
- Scrape the grill before adding the meat - scrape the grate once the grill comes to full heat, right before you add the chicken. This help prevents the chicken from sticking to the grill.
- Keep an eye on the grill - to keep an eye quickly your meat is cooking and to know when you need to slip it, adjust the heat, or cook with the lid open.
- Note any grill variabilities or hot spots - the temperature of the grill can change a bit and some grills have hot spots. If the chicken isn't cooking evenly, move the chicken around so all of the pieces get even heat.
- Note the temperature guidelines of your recipe - pay attention to the recommended grill temperature (375-400 degrees Fahrenheit) so you don't burn the chicken. If the grill gets too hot, turn down the heat and/or open the grill until it returns to the recommended temperature.
Using other cuts of chicken:
This spicy chicken marinade recipe can also be used on boneless skinless chicken thighs, bone-in chicken thighs, breasts, or drum sticks, or chicken tenders.
When grilling bone-in chicken, add extra grilling time to accommodate for the thicker cut of meat.
Making this spicy grilled chicken on the stovetop:
To make this chicken on the stovetop, just follow all the directions as listed, cooking the chicken on a non-stick pan preheated to medium heat instead of the grill.
Turn the chicken every 2-3 minutes, or until cooked through, or about 8-10 minutes. While the chicken rests off of the heat, simmer the reserved marinade until reduced.
Serve this spicy grilled chicken recipe wherever you would serve grilled chicken: at barbecues, for weeknight dinners, Memorial Day, Father's Day, etc.
This chicken is great served with (but not limited to) air fryer green beans, baked potatoes, roasted broccoli, steamed rice, Mexican lager beer, and more!
This recipe also makes great meal prep chicken. Serve it out the week over salads or quinoa bowls, in quesadillas or burritos, and more!
- Refrigeration: leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
- Reheating: for best results, reheat the chicken over low heat in a microwave in 30-45 second intervals, or until heated through. Keep from reheating the chicken too rapidly, as it can make the chicken chewy. You can also reheat the chicken covered in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 7-10 minutes, or until heated through.
- Freezing: these grilled chicken leftovers do not freeze well, unfortunately. You can freeze the chicken in the marinade in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months, however. Defrost the chicken in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours before grilling.
Other marinade uses:
You can also use this marinade on other types of meat. It is delicious on pork chops, pork loin, and turkey breast or thighs. Just marinate and cook as directed, add extra cooking time if the meat pieces are larger than chicken pieces.
You can also use this marinade on salmon. If doing so, however, only marinate up to a few hours as the acid in the marinade will break down the fish if left too long in it.
Tools needed for this recipe:
- Medium-sized mixing bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Ziploc bags (optional)
- Outdoor grill
- .... Or stovetop grill pan
- Meat thermometer
- Grill tongs or heatproof stovetop turner or spatula
Other delicious grilling recipes:
- Mexican Chicken Marinade
- Flat Iron Steak Marinade
- The Best Grilled Chicken Thighs
- Curried Yogurt Marinated Chicken
- Tri-Tip Steak Marinade
- Asian Chicken Thigh Marinade
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- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 ½ tablespoons honey
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ - 1 ½ teaspoons ground red or cayenne pepper, or according to your taste preferences
- 1 ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 - 3 ½ tablespoons sriracha, or according to your taste preferences
- 2 - 2 ¼ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders*
- ½ tablespoon corn starch
- 1 ½ tablespoon cold water
- Diced cilantro and lime slices, to garnish (optional)
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, garlic, red pepper, salt, vinegar, and sriracha until combined.
- Add the chicken to the marinade and turn it in it until covered with the marinade or add the chicken to a resealable bag and pour the marinade over to cover. Marinate the chicken 30 minutes - 12 hours.
- Preheat the grill to 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the chicken to the grill, reserving the marinade.
- Cook the chicken for 7-10 minutes (on the shorter side for tenders and thighs and on the longer side for breasts) turning the chicken every 3-3.5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the chicken from the grill, cover with foil or a clean plate, and rest for 5 minutes.
- Add the reserved chicken marinade to a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan. Heat in the microwave or bring to a simmer on the stovetop for 2-3 minutes, or until the marinade boils for 1.5 minutes.
- Whisk the cornstarch and cold water together until combined. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the hot marinade. Return the marinade back to the microwave or stovetop and cook, bringing the marinade to a boil, for 1 more minute or until the sauce has thickened. Serve the chicken with the marinade sauce and diced cilantro and sliced limes to garnish, if desired. Enjoy!
* This chicken marinade can also be used for bone-in chicken. Cook over medium heat for 18-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit through the thickest part of the meat.
1. Chicken leftovers last in the fridge for 4-5 days in an airtight container.
2. You can freeze the uncooked chicken in the marinade in a freezer-safe bag for up to 2 months.
3. You can also cook the chicken on a stovetop grilling pan. Preheat the pan to medium or medium-high heat, spray the pan with non-stick spray, and then cook the chicken for 8-11 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
4. This marinade is also delicious on pork chops, shrimp, and salmon.
5. Adjust the heat in this recipe to your liking: the lower level of spice is for a moderate kick that most adults and older kids can handle; the larger measurements of spice give it more of a kick that more spicy palates would likely prefer.
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Serving Size⅛ of marinade, without chicken
Amount Per Serving Calories 112Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 0mgSodium 617mgCarbohydrates 13gFiber 0gSugar 11gProtein 1g
This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae's Menu are not nutritionists or dieticians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.