Grilling is practically synonymous with summer. When the weather is nice and the days are long, it’s a shame to spend your time cooking in the kitchen when you could be doing it outside. Grilling is also a pretty easy skill to get the hang of. It doesn’t have to be complicated as long as you have the literal (and figurative) secret sauce: a really great marinade. Whether you’re a meat eater or a vegetarian, marinades are a must for grilling season. And once you know a few basic rules, you can come up with your own marinade recipes too.
So today I wanted to share the formula for coming up with your own marinade, along with the recipes for three delicious marinades we whipped up. Check them all out below…
1 part acid + 3 parts fat or oil + season to taste
Acids include citrus juices, vinegars, and wine. For your oil base, try extra virgin olive oil, truffle oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, hot chili oil, or one of these other healthy cooking oils. And then the seasonings are where you can really get creative, adding any type of herbs and spices you like.
How Long to Marinate:
- Shellfish & Seafood – 15-30 minutes
- Veggies – 30 minutes – 1 hour
- Chicken & Pork – 3-12 hours
- Red Meat – 3-24 hours
The reason that marinade times differ so greatly for different foods is that the acids work quickly to inject seafood and veggies with flavor, but will cause them to dry out if they are left marinating for too long. Heartier meats can marinate for longer times to soak up the flavor of the marinade.
And now, for the recipes…
Cilantro Lime Chili Marinade
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ½ tsp chili powder
We chose to use this marinade to make grilled chicken breasts, and topped them with more fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro.
Sesame Citrus Maple Marinade
- ¼ cup kumquat juice*
- ¾ cup sesame oil
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
*We used fresh squeezed kumquat juice from Lauren’s tree, but you can sub in orange juice if you don’t have kumquats on hand.
This marinade pairs especially well with shellfish like the grilled shrimp we made with it.
Truffle Garlic Balsamic Marinade
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon truffle salt
- ½ tsp minced fresh garlic
For my fellow vegetarians out there or anyone looking for a flavorful veggie side, this marinade goes great on grilled eggplant and mushrooms.
A big thank you to our grill master for the day—Lauren’s husband, William—for firing up the barbecue for this meal!
How delicious do those look?
Let me know in the comments if you’re going to give them a try this holiday weekend.