Spicy and sweet with an adaptable amount of heat, this Spicy Honey Chicken Marinade makes tender and flavorful chicken every time!
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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. 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!
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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.
This Honey Spicy Chicken Marinade is...
- Just the right amount of salty
- Adaptable to your spice preferences
- Ready in under 10 minutes
- Perfect for tender, juicy chicken
- Delicious on any cut of poultry
- Versatile for other types of meat
- Made with common pantry staples
- Meal prep friendly
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!
It's a well-balanced marinade full of depth, tang, and natural sweetness. With it you can't lose!
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This marinade is made primarily with pantry staples, making it a great recipe to make year-round:
- Olive oil
- Minced garlic
- Red or cayenne pepper
- Apple Cider Vinegar
That's it! Super simple, but amazing flavor. I love it when life works out that way. 🙂
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Oil -- if you don't have olive oil, you can substitute avocado oil or melted coconut oil.
Honey -- maple syrup will work in this recipe, as will agave syrup, but I do love the flavor of honey the best!
Vinegar -- distilled white vinegar also works in a pinch!
What cut of chicken is best for this marinade?
This marinade works on any cut of chicken, but I like boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs, and tenders the best. They marinate relatively quickly (especially the tenders!) and cook pretty quickly since they don't have bones.
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. 😊
Can you adjust the spice levels in this recipe?
Yes, you most definitely can adjust the spice factor in this recipe!
On the recipe card I give a range of measurements for the cayenne pepper and sriracha, so use as much or as little as you desire.
The lower level of spice is for a moderate kick that most adults can handle; the the larger measurements of spice give it more of a kick that more spicy palates would likely prefer.
How do you make this marinade?
You can make this marinade in a few simple steps:
- 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. Or, add the chicken to a large Ziploc bag and then pour the marinade over. Seal the bag and then squish the bag together to evenly coat the chicken with the marinade.
- Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 24 hours (the longer the better, but you can still get great flavor from 8 hours of marinating!).
- Preheat your grill to 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the chicken to the grill and cook for 7-11 minutes, turning every 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes (cover it with another plate or aluminum foil if you're worried about it getting cold).
- Sprinkle the chicken with cilantro and lime slices (if using) and serve hot!
How long do you need to marinade the chicken?
You will need to marinate the chicken for 30 minutes to 24 hours. The more time you have to marinate, the better you'll be because the the flavors will have more time to penetrate the meat.
If you're short on time, you can still get good flavor by cutting the chicken into smaller pieces before marinating. Cut the large chicken breasts into halves or thirds and chicken thighs in half, for example, or just use chicken tenders.
The extra surface area of the mean will mean that you can infuse more flavor in less time.
What tools do you need for this recipe?
All you need to make this marinated chicken is...
- Medium-sized mixing bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Ziploc bags (optional)
- Outdoor grill
- .... Or stovetop grill pan
- Grill tongs or heatproof stovetop turner or spatula
Can you use this chicken for meal prep?
Yes, this chicken is perfect for meal prep! Just grill up a large batch at the beginning of the week (or whenever you like to meal prep!) and add it to the following dishes throughout the week:
- Rice or quinoa bowls
- Grilled veggie toss
It will be delicious almost any where you want to add some protein and spice to your meal! Have fun experimenting with ways to enjoy and let me know in the comments below if you have any favorite ways of enjoying it. 🙂
Can you freeze this chicken marinade?
You most definitely can freeze this chicken marinade.
In fact, doing so make the perfect freezer chicken meal! Just add the chicken and marinade to a freezer-safe Ziploc bag, squish the bag to coat the chicken in the marinade, and freeze the chicken for up to 2 months.
Defrost the chicken in the refrigerator 24-36 hours before grilling. You can also pop the chicken in the pressure cooker on high for 18-20 minutes with a natural 10 minute release for some delicious shredded spicy chicken!
Is this marinade gluten-free?
Yes, this marinade has no ingredients with gluten in them, making it 100% gluten-free!
Tips to grill perfect chicken every time:
Don't let grilling intimidate you, please!
It's just the same idea as cooking on the stove, you just need to keep an eye on the heat as some grills can vary a bit. Here are my tips to grill the perfect chicken every time:
- Preheat the grill fully 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 chicken -- starting with a clean grate makes everything easier and keeps the chicken from sticking and getting weird burnt bits on it. So, scrape the grate once the grill comes to full heat, right before you add the chicken.
- Keep an eye on the grill -- this is a hard one for me, since I like to multitask so much (oops! ;). This way, you can keep an eye on how quickly your meat is cooking and flip more quickly, 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. So, if it seems to be cooking quickly, turn the chicken more frequently. If the chicken isn't cooking evenly, move the chicken around so pieces get even heat.
- Note the temperature guidelines of your recipe -- most recipes will give you temperature guidelines for the recipe. Pay attention to these and heat your grill up to the recommended heat.
Can you grill this chicken on the stovetop?
Yes, you can grill this chicken on the stovetop. Just 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.
Why should I use a chicken marinade?
Because they're delicious!
Seriously, chicken marinades are great to use when you want tender and juicy chicken that's infused with a flavor.
Spice rubs and glazes add flavor the exterior of meat whereas a marinade penetrates the meat with flavor and adds to the moisture content of the meat.
How do you get flavorful chicken when marinating for a shorter time?
Here's one of my favorite pro-tips: cut the chicken (or any meat you're marinating!) into smaller pieces to infuse more marinade flavor into the meat in a shorter period of time.
By cutting the meat into smaller pieces you are increasing the surface area of the meat, allowing for the flavor to absorb faster.
Can I use this marinade on other types of meat?
Yes, you can use this marinade on other types of meat. It would be delicious on pork chops, pork loin, and turkey breast or thighs -- just marinate for 30 minutes to 24 hours -- and I would also add some great flavor to salmon.
If using salmon, only marinate up to a few hours as the acid in the marinade will break down the tender salmon meat if left too long on the fish.
What to serve with honey spicy chicken:
This chicken is actually quite versatile, so you can serve it with a variety of sides. Here are some of my faves:
- Steamed brown rice and roasted broccoli with lemon
- Grilled Corn & Chickpea Salad
- Pinto beans
- Fried rice
- Chips & salsa
- A large green salad
- A Mexican lager beer -- like Pacifico, Corona, or Dos Equis
- Kombucha whiskey sours
- Pomegranate Sea Breeze Cocktails
Other delicious chicken and summer recipes you might like:
- Mexican Chicken Marinade
- Tri-Tip Steak Marinade
- 5 Bean Salad
- Greek Quinoa Salad
- Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Pasta
- Blueberry & Avocado Spinach Salad
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- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 - 1 1/2 teaspoons ground red or cayenne pepper, or according to your taste preferences
- 1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 - 3 1/2 tablespoons sriracha, or according to your taste preferences
- 2 - 2 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders
- 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. Seal the bag or cover the bowl and let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes - 24 hours.
- 10 minutes before grilling, preheat the grill to 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the chicken to the grill, reserving the marinade. and 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.
- While the chicken finishes up grilling, pour the remaining marinade in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 2.5-3.5 minutes, stirring every minute or so, or until the marinade is boiling for about a minute and has thickened up a bit.
- Serve the chicken with the marinade sauce and diced cilantro to garnish, if desired. Enjoy!
1. Chicken leftovers last in the fridge for 4-5 days in an airtight container.
2. You can freeze the chicken in the marinade in a freezer-safe bag for up to 2 months.
3. You can also grill your 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.
Serving Size1/8 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.