This Asian Chicken Marinade recipe combines honey, garlic, sesame, and ginger into a combination marinade/sauce that will have your family licking their plates clean.
You have been wondering for years how Chinese restaurants make that perfect Honey Garlic Chicken sauce. If only you could replicate it at home…
Maybe you’ve been searching for that perfect recipe, but they all involve WAY too many steps, a special ingredient that you can’t find at your neighborhood grocery store, or produce quantities that would be silly for your small family…
Friends, your search is over.
The Sauce is Boss
This Asian Chicken Marinade recipe is a simple, do-it-all marinade and sauce that will give you a delicious chicken dinner with just the right balance of sticky sweetness, a hint of tangy vinegar, savory soy and garlic, a nip of ginger, and as much heat as you care to add (optional hot sauce).
An Asian Marinade AND a Sauce?
Yes you read that right. Here’s the deal:
If you only use this recipe as a marinade, you will get delicious juicy savory/sweet chicken that tastes about like grilled bourbon chicken.
But, if you save and cook down the marinade and reduce it to a thicker sauce, you can top that grilled chicken with an extra flavor blast of the sauce.
When done correctly, this Asian Chicken Marinade sauce is somewhere between a purely sweet honey chicken sauce, a spicy general Tso’s sauce, and a tangy savory bourbon chicken sauce, with a texture just a tad thinner than pure honey.
Soy, Honey, Ginger, Sesame, Vinegar, and Sriracha… All of those flavors come through, and it is beautiful.
What cut of chicken is best for marinating?
Boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts are the best chicken cuts for marinating (and eventually grilling). I detail why in my post about Spicy Chicken Marinade.
We tested this Asian Chicken Marinade recipe with skin on chicken thighs and it was… not great.
The thing about chicken skin is that it wants to be crispy, so when we soaked it in marinade, we either got soggy skin even though the meat was done (cue the sad trombone), or the flame-ups on the grill as the marinade dripped off absolutely charred that chicken skin to oblivion before the rest of the chicken was cooked through (cue demonic laughter).
With skin-on chicken, we just couldn’t get consistently good results, so our advice is to “skip the skin” for this recipe, and if you need to get your crispy chicken skin fix, try these Air Fryer Chicken Thighs!
Tip: If you’re using thick chicken breasts, place them between two sheets of parchment paper and use a heavy rolling pin to pound them to an even thickness. This results in much more even cooking!
How long do you marinate chicken?
Marinate your chicken for at least 2 hours (but ideally overnight).
For this Asian Chicken Marinade recipe, the longer you let the chicken marinate, the more your chicken will take on a dark brown color. Not to worry though! It’s just the strong character of the soy sauce coming through.
For reference, the chicken breasts in these pictures were marinated for 3.5 hours before they were grilled.
Can you freeze chicken marinade?
You CAN freeze marinade! If you are freezing chicken marinade, do so immediately after mixing the marinade and adding the chicken.
Place the bag on a flat tray to freeze. When it freezes flat it will store nicely and be easier to defrost. Thaw in the fridge overnight before using.
What You Need to Make Asian Chicken Marinade
- Soy sauce
- Rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- Brown sugar
- Sesame oil
Combine the ingredients in a 2 cup pyrex or mixing bowl and whisk together before pouring over the chicken in a resealable bag. (See the recipe card below for quantities)
How to Grill Asian Marinated Chicken
When you’re ready to grill your chicken, remove it from the bag (taking care to save and set aside the excess marinade) and place the chicken on a plate, salt it lightly, and let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
This “tempering” will help the chicken come up in temperature so that it cooks more evenly and retains more juices.
Now preheat the grill to high heat (or about 550 degrees F). Before placing the first piece of meat on the grill, make sure your grill grates are clean, and lightly brush some canola or olive oil on the grates with a bunched up paper towel.
This helps keep your meat from sticking when you turn it over (and preserves those beautiful grill marks).
Use tongs to place the meat on the grill and cook each side for about 5 minutes (5 minutes, flip, 5-6 minutes) until the internal temperature of the meat is 165 degrees.
Tent cooked chicken (only if skinless) with foil and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
For some more great grilling tips, also check out my Mexican Chicken Marinade post.
Meanwhile, make the Asian glaze:
The next part is optional, (but not really).
To transform the extra Asian chicken marinade into a delicious sauce, carefully pour it into a large, shallow NON-STICK pan. Bring everything to a boil, and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
Use a wooden spoon to keep things moving as it simmers until the sauce coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes).
Take care not to over cook this sauce! The larger the pan, the quicker the sauce will reduce. If the sugar in the honey (or brown sugar) burns, it will smell and taste awful! (ask me how I know…)
When the sauce is ready, drizzle (or brush) it onto the chicken and watch as it coats the grilled meat in a golden glaze.
For finishing touches, add chopped green onions, sesame seeds, and a few drips of Sriracha hot sauce to taste.
What to serve with Asian Chicken Marinade
And if you’re sticking with an Asian theme, why not some buffet-style Chinese Donuts for dessert? Enjoy!
- 1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
- ⅓ cup honey
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Sriracha hot sauce, optional
- Toasted sesame seeds, optional
- Chopped green onions
For the Marinade:
- Combine the soy sauce, honey, vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl and whisk together.
- Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag and pour marinade mixture over top. Carefully remove excess air, seal the bag, and lay flat.
- Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Place marinated chicken on a plate and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Leave at room temperature while the grill preheats. Set aside leftover marinade in the plastic bag–do not throw it away!
- Clean and oil the grill grates then preheat to high heat (about 500° F).
- Place chicken on the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes (or until meat thermometer reads an internal temp of 165° F.
- Remove chicken from the grill and tent with foil for 5-10 minutes before serving.
For the Sauce:
- Pour the marinade that remains in the plastic bag into a large shallow non-stick pan and bring to a full boil.
- Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until sauce has thickened and will coat the back of a spoon. It should be thinner than honey but not watery. Do not overheat as sugars will burn! Add drips of Sriracha hot sauce to taste.
- Drizzle (or brush) the finished sauce over the grilled chicken. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and/or chopped green onions and serve.
- If the sauce burns while reducing, discard and mix up a new sauce with half the soy sauce, vinegar, and oil as the original marinade (but the same quantity of honey). Rather than reduce this new sauce, just heat it up on the pan and serve.
- For a gluten free version, substitute tamari for the soy sauce.
- If you’re using very thick chicken breasts, place them between parchment paper and use a heavy rolling pin to pound them to an even thickness. This will help them cook more evenly and ensure the inside is cooked before the outside gets too browned.
- Chicken can be frozen in the marinade then thawed overnight when ready to cook.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 397Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 104mgSodium: 3074mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 2gSugar: 26gProtein: 42g
Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.