Fast and family friendly, grilled chicken is one of the most anticipated foods of summer. Pump up your poultry game this season with these barbecue chicken marinades, which infuse your bird with flavour — from fiery gojuchang to all-Canadian maple.
From street food to your backyard come the aromas of Vietnamese lemongrass and sambal oelek, a chili sauce found in Indonesia, Malaysia and other areas of Asia. This simple marinade combines them with sweet brown sugar and earthy fish sauce to give you the perfect bite.
For those who want a bit more depth of flavour than the fiery brightness of sambal oelek, sweet and spicy gojuchang fits the bill. The chili paste has fermented soybean umami that pairs well with soy sauce, lots of garlic and sesame, as in this marinade for Korean Grilled Chicken.
The whopping four cups of fish sauce in this recipe may have your eyes watering, but, don’t worry, the pungency is tempered with coconut cream and palm sugar in this traditional recipe from northern Thailand. Upgrade your usual chicken legs by swapping them out for Cornish game hens, and serve it with a tamarind-scented dipping sauce called Nahm Kim Jaw (with more fish sauce, naturally.)
Over to the tandoor oven! Grilled tandoori-style chicken with cumin and coriander evokes Indian aromas. Marinating chicken in spiced yogurt tenderizes the meat and toasting the spices first in a dry pan ensures maximum flavour.
There’s been a flurry of Portuguese-style chicken places opening up across Canada in the last decade, and small wonder: piri piri sauce, redolent of garlic and vinegar, adds a tasty component to grilled chicken that you can easily try at home. Make extra marinade to use as a sauce on the side. (Never repurpose used chicken marinade without bringing it to a boil first, as it has come into contact with raw poultry.)
Chipotle may be a ubiquitous ingredient in everything from subs to pizza these days, but this simple version – paired with lemonade infused with honey and lavender and an assertive mint vinaigrette-dressed apple slaw – take the flavour in a whole different direction.
Red Chile Buttermilk
Similar to yogurt, buttermilk is a natural soak for chicken pieces – marinating and tenderizing them to toothsome lusciousness. Adding red chiles to the mix brings a hit of heat, as does a spicy mango honey glaze slathered onto the chicken when grilling (watch out for the added sugar when grilling to avoid burning your poultry).
We’d be remiss if we left out Canada’s most well-known flavour, maple, from our roundup. Those with a sweet tooth will appreciate the caramelized maple notes, but don’t worry — the chili sauce and white wine vinegar make sure the sweetness is kept in check.
Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine and red wine vinegar add a one-two punch of flavour to this marinade, along with a show-stopping display of scorched bundles of thyme and rosemary. The herbs lend a smoky touch to the chicken — just keep a close eye on the grill and watch for flare-ups.
A time-honoured ingredient in marinades, citrus adds varying levels of sweetness and acidity to chicken. This recipe uses two types — lime and orange — although lemon or even grapefruit juice can be a part of your marinating repertoire. The chicken is finished off with a vibrantly coloured raspberry barbecue sauce, upping the fruit ante.
Take your chicken wings to Margaritaville with this recipe that uses a full cup of tequila, as well as zested and juiced limes and oranges. If you can’t find pequin peppers (also sometimes labelled as bird’s eye chiles), you can substitute picante smoked paprika for some heat.
Leslie Wu is a Toronto-based food and travel writer, editor and explorer. Follow her on Twitter at @leslie_wu.