This is my very best chicken marinade of all time! You have to make it! This recipe, Island Chicken Marinade, is one I have made so many times over the years I could do it in my sleep. And many readers and friends have told me how much they love it.

best chicken marinade

Why This Is the Best Chicken Marinade Ever

I launched a year ago this week. To celebrate, I want to share one of my most prized recipes. It is not mine really. I got it from a restaurant where I worked called Isabel’s on the Waterfront. Luckily, I wrote it down, because the restaurant closed down years ago. When I worked there, I made this marinade recipe so many times, I had it memorized. I think I could have made it blindfolded. It is called Island Chicken Marinade, or more fondly by the crew at Isabel’s, Buccaneer’s Marinade.

Even though Isabel’s is gone, the recipe lives on. Not only do I make it several times a year, but I pass it on A LOT! As soon as someone tries a bite of chicken marinated in this recipe they ask for the recipe. I serve it for parties of 100, or for dinner on a Tuesday night. I never get sick of it. Of course it is a great chicken breast marinade but it is also good with pork loin or tenderloin, flank steak, chicken thighs, scallops and even shrimp.

So here is my happy birthday present to you so you can have it and pass it on too!

best chicken marinade

How to Make This Easy Chicken Marinade

This chicken marinade recipe takes no time at all to whip up. The basic steps for making this marinade are as follows: 

Cook the onion and garlic — Before mixing together all the marinade ingredients, you first need to cook down the garlic and onion. You’ll want to cook the veggies in a pan with the lid on for 5 minutes or so. You’re looking for the garlic and onion to soften, but not brown. (Stir frequently to prevent the onions from sticking to the pan and browning). 

Stir in the spices — Add the spices to the hot pan to wake them up, so to speak. As soon as the spices hit the hot onions and garlic, they should kick off a strong scent and make your kitchen smell fantastic. 

Add the vinegar and soy sauce — Take the pan off the heat and stir in the soy sauce (or tamari) and red wine vinegar. 

Marinate the meat — Let the marinade cool completely before marinading your meat or tofu. Letting the marinade cool is essential, as you don’t want to accidentally cook the outside of the meat in the hot marinade! 

chicken marinade ingredients

How to Use This Chicken Marinade

It’s super easy to make a big batch of this island chicken marinade, aka the best chicken marinade EVER (bold claim, I know). Whenever I make this healthy chicken marinade, I make a big batch of it and freeze it in ¾ cup portions (you can freeze this marinade in freezer baggies or small containers). That is enough for about two pounds of meat. 

To use this easy chicken marinade with seafood or tofu, you’ll want to combine everything in a baggie and let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge. For chicken and pork, leave it to marinate for 2 to 24 hours. And for steak, let it marinate for 4 to 24 hours.

With the exception of tofu and fish, I recommend letting the marinade work its magic for as long as possible. The marinade will tenderize the meat, and the flavor will better infuse into it the longer you let it marinate. Because this marinade takes just 15 minutes to whip up, you can easily make it before you go to bed and let the meat sit in your fridge all night and during the workday. Then, you can grill the meat as you normally would come dinnertime! 

Best Chicken Marinade in a jar

More Healthy Chicken Recipes: 

Chicken and Brussels Sprouts Sheet Pan Dinner

Healthy Waldorf Chicken Salad

Grilled Za’atar Chicken Burgers with Cucumber Mint Tzatziki 

One Pot Chicken and Rice with Spring Veggies

Healthy Chicken a la King


isabel’s island chicken marinade (the best chicken marinade!)

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 3/4 cups, enough for about 7 pounds of meat 1x
  • Category: Dressings
  • Method: Mixed
  • Cuisine: American


Healthy Isabel’s island chicken marinade recipe with allspice, cloves and onion. Easily the best chicken marinade EVER that I make over and over!



  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¾ teaspoon dry thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch cayenne
  • ½ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • ½ cup red-wine vinegar


  1. Heat olive and canola oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cover and cook, removing lid to stir often, until the onions are softened but not browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Stir in brown sugar, allspice, thyme, pepper, cloves, cinnamon and cayenne and remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in soy sauce or tamari and red wine vinegar. Cool completely before marinating meat.


Marinating Times: 15 to 30 minutes for seafood or tofu. 2 to 24 hours for chicken or pork. 4 to 24 hours for steak. Discard used marinade and do not re-use.


  • Calories: 31
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Sodium: 13 mg
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 3 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g

Keywords: best chicken marinade, easy chicken marinade


get my FREE ebook, The Best Weeknight dinners!

it includes 15 of my family's favorites -- recipes and meals we go back to over and over again -- including simple to follow instructions and easy to find ingredients.

You have Successfully Subscribed!