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DIY Guide to Making Your Own Marinade Recipes

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Marinades are a great way to infuse food with flavor, improve its texture, and get a jump-start on dinner prep. Read on to learn how to make your own marinade without a recipe!

An infographic walking your through how to create your own marinade recipes using basic ingredients.

How to make your own custom marinade recipe

Marinade recipes typically consist of oil, acid (like lemon juice or vinegar), salt, and flavorings like garlic cloves or fresh herbs.

Recipes for marinades have been around since before refrigerators were invented. The oil in the mixture prevented oxygen from coming into contact with food, while acids helped slow bacterial growth. Flavor-building ingredients added complexity that would otherwise be missing.

These days, people use marinades to tenderize tough meats and add flavor to proteins and vegetables. You can marinate anything from chicken to salmon to broccoli to tofu!

DIY marinade recipes are a great way to get a jump start on meal prep! I’m personally a huge fan of “Marinade Monday” where I mix up a tasty marinade on Sunday night. That way I have something effortless to throw on the grill or into my air fryer when I get home Monday night!

The difference between marinades and vinaigrettes

Vinaigrettes and marinades are very similar, and you can often use them interchangeably — I love using my favorite Caesar vinaigrette as a marinade! But they each have their own unique qualities which can make them better for certain dishes.

Since they’re usually meant to be cooked, marinades tend to have a bolder flavor profile with more salt and acidity than vinaigrettes. This is just a guideline though, so feel free to adjust them to your personal taste. I personally like very acidic vinaigrettes!

Types of marinades

Marinades can vary greatly according to the ingredients you are marinating and what flavor profile you’re going after. Their flavor tends to be balanced, with sweet, salty, and acidic notes, but you can definitely make a sweeter marinade or a more acidic one, depending on what you’re using it for and what you like.

Pro Tips for using marinades

  • Delicate vegetables can discolor or break down after prolonged contact with acids. For this reason, vegetables don’t typically make good candidates for long marinading times. dd the marindade just before cooking for the best recults!
  • Starchy vegetables, like winter squash or potatoes, meats, and plant-based proteins like tofu and beans can marinate for longer periods of time. This is great for meal prep because you can start your dinner in the morning before you start your day, or even get a jump start on it the night before.
  • Always use a nonreactive container, like glass or plastic, for mixing and storing your marinades. Acids react with materials like cast iron and copper and can change the color and flavor of your food.
  • Cover your food while it soaks and be sure to pop it into the fridge if you plan to marinade your item for over an hour. Make sure the food is completely submerged by the marinade.
  • Adding too much liquid to a hot pan can make your food steam instead of saute, so it’s a good idea to get rid of any excess marinade before cooking your food. You don’t need to go crazy about removing it (and definitely don’t rinse it off!) but just give it a quick wipe or shake to make sure it isn’t sopping wet.

Building your own marinade recipe

To build a marinade recipe of your very own, choose one ingredient from each of the following categories:

  • Fats: oil, avocado, nut butter, silken tofu, olives
  • Acids: vinegar, citrus juice, wine, tomato, mustard
  • Salt: salt, soy sauce, miso, pickles, tamari, feta brine
  • Sugar: sugar, honey, fruit juice or puree, maple syrup
  • Spices: garlic, ginger, shallot, fresh or dried herbs, citrus zest

For enough marinade to use with 1 pound of meat, start with 1/2 cup fat, 2-3 Tablespoons acid, and a dash or two each of salt, sugar, and spice.

Adjust to taste (before letting it touch raw meat or seafood, of course!)

Was this guide to marinade recipes helpful? You’ll also love my guide on how to build your own DIY grain bowls or DIY guide to creating an awesome salad.

By on October 5th, 2021

Hi, I'm Lauren!

I love to cook -- but even more importantly, I really like to eat! I have a demanding day job that keeps me busy, so time is precious. I'm a culinary school graduate and five-time cookbook author who's all about finding ways to make delicious, restaurant-quality meals at home on a tight schedule. Read more...

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