Marinating Times and Tips (and 5 Easy Marinade Recipes)

Ready to boost the flavor of your food? Get marinating times, tips, and five easy marinade recipes in the article and infographic below!

  • By Taylor Isaac
  • May 21, 2018

How long do you marinade chicken? What about shrimp? Understanding how to marinate and how long to do it can feel a bit tricky, especially if you want to avoid under soaking (not much flavor added) and over soaking (a mealy or mushy result).

That’s why we’ve put together this marinating guide to show you the main components of a marinade as well as tips for how to marinate chicken, pork, beef, fish, shrimp, tofu, and veggies, plus marinating times for each. At the end, we’re giving away five of our most versatile and easy marinade recipes. Yep, you’ll be marinating like a pro in no time!

How to Make a Marinade: Common Ingredients

So what makes a marinade, well, a marinade?

Typically, there are three components: an acid, an oil, and flavors. A sweetener is also often added to balance acidity.

You can think of the acid and oil as the liquid foundation that carries your flavorings. Want rich and decadent flavors? Add in some Worcestershire sauce or miso paste. Craving something fresh and herbaceous? Add in ingredients like thyme or rosemary.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common marinade ingredients in each category:

Acids for Marinades:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sherry
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk

Mild-flavored oils for Marinades:

  • Olive oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Avocado oil

Flavorings for Marinades:

  • Salt
  • Mustard
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso paste
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Ginger
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tamari
  • Aminos

More Smarts:

Learn how to use fresh herbs, spices, and aromatics to add more flavor to your food.

Sweeteners for Marinades:

  • Brown sugar
  • White sugar
  • Honey
  • Jam or preserves
  • Agave nectar
  • Ketchup
  • Stevia
  • Maple syrup
  • Cola
  • Ginger ale

Now that you know the components of a marinade and have a list of the most common ingredients, get creative with it! Mix and match ingredients to discover new flavor combinations.

More Smarts:

Learn how to combine and balance flavors in our Study of Flavor Profiles.

Marinating Times and Tips for Chicken, Pork, Beef, Fish, Shrimp, Tofu, and Vegetables

Marinades are commonly used to:

  • Flavor tough or inexpensive cuts of meat that require long simmering in liquid (like beef roast)
  • Impart flavor while preventing moisture loss during high heat cooking (like grilling)
  • To dress up foods like vegetables and tofu with particular flavors

Almost any protein, including plant-based proteins like tofu, and a variety of vegetables can be marinated to infuse flavor and help create delicious caramelization. Let’s take a look at how to marinade meat proteins, tofu, and vegetables.

Download this handy infographic or print it out to keep in your kitchen for easy reference:


Guide to Marinating Like a Pro

Add flavor to proteins and vegetables with our How to Marinate infographic, which includes tips, times, and 5 versatile marinade recipes.

Marinating Tips for Chicken

It doesn’t take long for delicious flavors to soak into the surface of chicken — just make sure you remove the skin first! A variety of marinades, from rich balsamic to creamy herb, work well with the naturally mild flavor of chicken.

How Long to Marinate Chicken

Marinate thin pieces of chicken from 20 minutes to 3 hours, and whole chickens for up to 24 hours.

More Smarts:

Learn how to get that delicious smoky, charred flavor in our Guide to Grilling Meat.

Marinating Tips for Pork

Using a marinade on leaner pork cuts like tenderloin can help prevent the meat from drying out when cooked over high heat. If using a heavily acidic marinade or small pieces of pork, stick to the shorter end of the soaking spectrum to avoid making the meat mealy or tough.

How Long to Marinate Pork

Marinate from 20 minutes up to 24 hours.

Marinating Tips for Beef

Using a marinade is an easy way to impart rich flavor into inexpensive or tougher cuts of beef like flank, shank, and brisket. Salty marinades that use ingredients like soy sauce and miso paste can help meat stay moist, while ingredients like oil and sugar can help form delicious caramel crusts.

How Long to Marinate Beef

Marinate from 30 minutes to 24 hours.

Marinating Tips for Fish

The shorter muscle fibers of fish make it more sensitive to the effects of acid. If placed in a highly acidic marinade made of citrus or vinegar, fish can quickly “cook” and become tough or mushy. When using an acidic marinade, soak fillets for about 20 minutes to avoid overly denaturing the proteins.

How Long to Marinate Fish

Marinate from 20 minutes (if very acidic) to 2 hours (if using a low acid marinade).

More Smarts:

Cook your meat to the perfect temperature every time with the help of our Meat Temperature Guide.

Marinating Tips for Shrimp

Using a marinade with oil helps keep shrimp from sticking to the pan or grill when cooking. Like other delicate proteins, shrimp can become mushy if soaked in an acidic solution for too long.

How Long to Marinate Shrimp

Marinate from 20 minutes (if very acidic) to 2 hours (if using a low acid marinade)

Marinating Tips for Tofu

Press liquid from tofu (or let it drain off for 15 minutes) before adding it to a marinade so it can better absorb flavor and form a crust while cooking. Use firm to extra firm tofu to avoid it crumbling and cut it into thin strips or small cubes to increase the surface area the marinade can flavor.

How Long to Marinate Tofu

Marinate from 30 minutes to 24 hours.

More Smarts:

New to tofu? Learn how to prep it in our Guide to Prepping Tofu.

Marinating Tips for Vegetables

Marinating vegetables like asparagus, portobellos, zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, and onions adds loads of flavor and can help create delicious caramelization when cooked over high heat.

How Long to Marinate Vegetables

Marinate for 30 minutes.

More Smarts:

Learn how to grill vegetables in our Guide to Grilling Vegetables.

5 Tips for Marinating Success

When you’re ready to start the marinating process, use the tips below to make it easy and efficient.

  1. Tenderize meat with a fork before marinating to increase the surface area on which the marinade can impart flavors.
  2. Place marinating meat in the refrigerator to keep it in the safe temperature zone.
  3. Marinate food in a Ziploc bag with air removed to help the marinade soak into the entire surface.
  4. Use a plastic bag for marinating to take up less space in your refrigerator and make cleaning simple.
  5. If using a dish to marinate, stick to shallow containers made of non-reactive materials like stainless steel, glass, or ceramic.

5 Versatile and Easy Marinade Recipes

The five versatile and easy marinades below add tons of flavor to a variety of proteins and vegetables, and easily double as vinaigrettes for salads. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of marinade per pound of protein or vegetable. Set any unused marinade (that hasn’t touched raw meat) aside or make extra to drizzle over your food once it’s cooked!

Vinegar-Based Marinade

Flavor profile: Tangy


  • 1 clove shallot, diced
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar (balsamic, sherry, red wine)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (or other sweetener)
  • 3 Tbsp mild-flavored oil

Use on: Chicken, pork, beef, fish, shrimp, tofu, and vegetables

Marinade Tips:

  • Add herbs for an extra layer of flavor.

Spicy and Smoky Yogurt-Based Marinade

Flavor profile: Spicy, Smoky


  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Use on: Chicken or pork

Marinade Tips:

  • To make this marinade Paleo, substitute the yogurt for a mild-flavored oil like grapeseed.
  • Explore different flavor profiles by changing up the spices.
  • Use as a dip for grilled vegetables.

Miso Soy Marinade

Flavor profile: Salty, Umami


  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp miso paste
  • 3 Tbsp rice or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar or honey
  • 4 Tbsp mild-flavored oil

Use on: Chicken, pork, beef, fish, shrimp, tofu, and vegetables

Marinade Tips:

  • The oil and miso paste in this marinade make it viscous enough to use as an excellent sauce for proteins, vegetables, and noodles.
  • Use as a vinaigrette for a delicious Asian-inspired green salad.

Barbecue Marinade

Flavor profile: Sweet, Spice


  • 1/4 cup apple cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Use on: Chicken, pork, beef, tofu, and vegetables

Marinade Tips:

  • Unused marinade doubles as barbecue sauce.
  • For a thicker sauce, simmer on the stove until you reach the desired consistency.

Cilantro Garlic Marinade

Flavor profile: Salty, Umami, Sour, Sweet


  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored oil
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Use on: Chicken, pork, beef, fish, shrimp, tofu, and vegetables

Marinade Tips:

  • Try different herbs for different flavors. Swap cilantro for parsley, oregano, or dill.

More Smarts:

Learn how to use aromatics, herbs, spices, and sauces to create incredibly flavorful food in our Maximizing Flavor Series.

Are you a fan of marinating? Any marinade recipes you want to share? Let us know in the comments!

For more cooking tips and resources, sign up for our newsletter below, and we’ll help you raise your kitchen IQ and cook with confidence by sending you our best articles and infographics.

Get our Meal Plans

The convenience of meal kits without the waste


Our Podcast: Strategies to become a smarter cook

Share the love!

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

How can we help you in the kitchen?

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sign up for the Cook Smarts Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Privacy Policy: We hate SPAM & promise to keep your email address safe.

Skip to content