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 March 15, 2021.
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.
What do you think of when I say "spicy food"? Are you a "yum!" or are you a "done"?
If you're a "yum!" you'll be in luck. If you're a "done," please stay with me because this chicken marinade I have for you is anything but a typical scald your mouth off chicken seasonings!
With more than just spice and adjustable heat levels that mean you can go anywhere from moderate all the way up to work-up-a-sweat-while-you-eat with a dish, this grilled chicken marinade provides for everyone along the spicy food spectrum. Really!
Plus, with vinegar, honey, and garlic -- this marinade has layers of flavor that linger even after the heat wears off.
In fact, I like to think of this marinade as a "gateway" spicy dish. You can make this marinade spicy enough that you get a taste of that kick, but not so much that all you taste is heat.
And of course, for all you folks that love the heat, feel free to crank it up a few notches! I give you a range of cayenne pepper and sriracha measurements to use, meaning you can 100% customize this recipe to your taste preferences.
But of course, don't take it just from me-- give it a run yourself! Kick up your cooking a bit this weekend and discover a dish to add some punch to your regular menu or to impress your barbecue guests with some chicken that has both heat and flavor.
Table of contents
- This Honey Spicy Chicken Marinade is...
- How do marinades work?
- Marinade ingredients:
- Recipe substitutions:
This Honey Spicy Chicken Marinade is...
If you're looking for a versatile and year-round chicken marinade that you can adjust the heat levels to your liking, this spicy chicken marinade is for you!
This grilled chicken marinade is ready in under 10 minutes and makes for chicken that's just as good for meal prep as it is for your next barbecue!
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
*Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper and sriracha to your preferences.
- 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 do you make this 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.
- 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.
Yes, you certainly can also make this spicy chicken recipe 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 the heat simmer the reserved marinade until reduced.
You need to marinate this chicken for anywhere from 30 minutes up to 24 hours. The longer you marinate the chicken the more flavorful it will be. To marinate the chicken thoroughly but quickly use chicken tenders or cut boneless skinless chicken into small pieces before marinating.
Yes, you most definitely can. Just use as much or as little of the recommended amount of cayenne pepper and sriracha as you desire.
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.
Yes! This recipe has no gluten ingredients so it is naturally gluten-free.
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 up to 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: chicken leftovers do not freeze well, unfortunately. You canfreeze the chicken in the marinade in a freezer-safe container for u p 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.
What 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 chicken and summer recipes to check out:
- Mexican Chicken Marinade
- The Best Grilled Chicken Thighs
- Curried Yogurt Marinated Chicken
- Tri-Tip Steak Marinade
- 5 Bean Salad
- Greek Quinoa Salad
- Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Pasta
- Blueberry & Avocado Spinach Salad
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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 - 24 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.