the best 4 ingredient chicken marinade

Just 4 ingredients is all you need for the best chicken marinade!

Over the weekend we fired up the grill. My husband makes the best grilled chicken. He has it down to a science.

Our friends shared this quick marinade with us last Summer, and I have to say…we love it! It is now my go to marinade when it comes to chicken.

It’s the perfect solution for when your brown sugar gets too hard for baking. It dissolves right into the liquid of the marinade. Technically speaking…I did not measure the brown sugar exact here, but that’s the beauty of cooking vs. baking, right?!

Let it marinade for at least 4 hours or best over night. Give it some time to marinate.

4 Ingredient Chicken Marinade:

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar

Here’s Kyle’s best grilling How-To when it comes to chicken:

Fire up the grill and preheat to medium high. Place the chicken breasts on the grill and do not touch them for 6 minutes. Right at 6 minutes, you flip them over and then don’t touch them for another 4 to 5 minutes. Then you put it on a plate, let it rest a bit (not long) and then serve.

It’s the best grilled chicken! You’ve gotta try it!

Happy Grilling!

4 ingredient chicken marinade

the best 4 ingredient chicken marinade |

Looking for more great chicken recipes? Here’s some of our favorites:

Chicken Brocoli Casserole
chicken broccoli casserole recipe -

Asian Chicken Pasta Salad
Asian Chicken Pasta Salad - so good! find the recipe on

*Originally published: February 2013 – sharing again in May 2015 for new readers

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  1. Tracey says

    What kind of vinegar do you use? Apple cider? White? Rice? – Does it even matter?
    This looks really good (and easy) and I’d love to try it! Thank you!!

  2. Debbie says

    Hi Kami,
    Just a tip : If your brown sugar gets hard, put it in a container with a tight fitting lid and add a slice of bread.
    in 24 hours you will have soft brown sugar.

  3. Carolyn Timmerman says

    More snow this weekend! Looking forward to trying this. BTW, did you know a slice of white bread in your brown sugar will keep your sugar soft. Good for chocolate chip cookies, snicker doodles, & when the bread gets hard, & it will, I break it up for my birds!

  4. Shelley says

    This looks super yummy but one question, does it taste vinegary at all? We don’t use vinegar hardly ever due to the smell. Just wondering if you can taste it! Thanks!

  5. mama23girls says

    What kind of vinegar did you use? They all have a noticeable difference in flavor and I dont want to us the wrong one and hve it taste bad!

  6. laeken says

    I don’t have a grill. Will it be good to cook on stove top or bake it? I would love to try it, I really havent been cooking long so i’m just starting to try new recipes.

    • says

      Sure! It would work! For the stovetop, I would pound the chicken flat before you marinade for faster cooking. For the oven, I would make a tinfoil tent so it won’t dry out.

  7. Donna says

    I made the marinade last night but I used grape-seed oil and I thought I was supposed to use 1 cup of vinegar so I used 1/2 cup rice vinegar and 1/2 cup white wine vinegar. Chicken marinated over night and all day. This evening, I cooked as directed and I have to say the chicken came out fabulous! Thanks for the great quick and easy marinade…I’ll definitely be using it again.

    • says

      I would say no on the worcestershire sauce. The soy sauce is the perfect saltiness to go with the sweetness of the brown sugar.

      I wouldn’t mess with the it. But that’s just me…

  8. sarah yeager says

    at what temp would you put this on if I was to use the George Forman grill? I would leave it on there for 12 mins total and not flip it because it grills on both sides..thanks

    • says

      Hi Sarah! sorry, I couldn’t tell you the answer to this. Hopefully you can try it out and figure it out as you go. Good Luck!

    • Cassandra says

      Wondering if Sarah figured this out? I have mine marinating right now and am planning on doing them on my George Foreman since I live in an apartment building and don’t have a regular bbq.

      • sarah says

        i did mine on the GF and mine dried out. im never good at getting the chicken moist enough. i think i ended up putting it on the lowest temp and for about 5 mins since i had the chicken that was already pre cooked.

        • Cassandra says

          I used thawed boneless skinless breasts… baked them just until done then put them on the GF for a few minutes on medium heat to give them a little bit of a sear. They were delicious! Definitely will make again, next time will plan ahead and marinade them overnight.

  9. Ana says

    Might sound a little ridiculous, but can this be baked or fried on the stove instead of being grilled? I find myself a little intimidated to use the grill without my boyfriend around, I want to surprise him with a new dinner!

  10. Jane says

    This chicken is amazing!! Made it with boneless chicken thighs and it was a hi with my husband and company. They could not stop eating.

  11. Lynn says

    Made this for 4th of July dinner and cooked it over a campfire and it was wonderful. I will make this again.

  12. Beth says

    I ended up baking the chicken instead of grilling them. I put them in a pan, pour some of the marinade on it (just a little) and then covered the pan in foil and baked for about 45 minutes @350. I also put aside some of the marinade before I added the chicken, so I could use it as a sauce to pour over the chicken before serving. Came out amazing and was such a hit. Thank you for sharing!!

    • BBO says

      because the raw chicken has soaked in the marinade I don’t believe it is safe to pour it over the cooked chicken just before serving

      • JMC says

        BBO she said she put some marinade aside BEFORE she added the chicken. So what she poured on to serve wasn’t touched by raw chicken.

    • says

      Hi Bianca!

      You could serve it with steamed veggies or roasted veggies along with a baked potato or wild rice. Depending on the time of year…

  13. Leann says

    I’ve made this 3 times in past month and it’s amazing and really makes the chicken tender. I only made one addition, added a T. of Montreal Steak Seasoning. It’s a huge hit and I served it aside a lemon asparagus risotto. Delish

    • says

      It totally depends on how many chicken breasts you marinate. You could do chicken tenders and feed more or chicken breasts. Sorry not of much help on that one.

  14. Deb Boden says

    I would sub olive oil, and tamari for the soy sauce. Also, apple cider vinegar t make it completely gluten free! Sounds delicious!

  15. says

    Mmm I followed this general recipe but I didn’t have everything at hand so.. I improvised!
    Also… my name is Cami with a C! :)

    I also have a cooking blog :)

    Take care!

  16. Tiffany says

    This recipe was super delish and super easy! I used the crock pot and cooked it in the marinade at the end I added some broccoli. I will definitely be making this again. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  17. chris nash says

    This is called TERIYAKI Brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and oil. It has been a famous taste from Japan all over the world for years.

  18. Jessica Desarro says

    Tried this last night. Wasn’t very impressed. I had high hopes for it but I ended up having to use BBQ sauce because of the taste (I don’t know if it just wasn’t strong enough of it I didn’t like it all together). Very oily

  19. Debbie says

    What an easy marinade. I will definitely try this tomorrow. I am mixing it up now so the chicken can soak overnight. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Crystal says

    This is such an easy marinade to do! I have been looking for a marinade that makes chicken juicy and flavorful and this one is it!!! I will be using this recipe from now on!!!

  21. Sarah says

    I have chicken tenders marinating now. Going to do them on the grill with bacon on skewers. Can’t wait to try them!

  22. Johnna says

    I really wasn’t impressed with this marinade. I think it had too much brown sugar for my taste. Sorry I will have to find a different recipe to try.

  23. Cecily says

    I’ve made this twice within 10 days. I use the chicken for burrito bowls. The first time it marinated for 1 day. Second time, 2 days; better than ever! I let it marinate so long because I’m meal prepping throughout the week instead of doing it all on one day. I prep a new meal every 2-3 days. So far so good. Thank you sooo much for sharing this!

  24. judith says

    I’ve been doing similar ingredients for several years now. I use 1 cup brown sugar (have even used agave only 3/4 cup) 1 cup low sodium soy sauce, 1 tbsp. garlic (any way minced, pressed, chopped) and a good squeeze of lemon and lime) marinade for about 2 hrs. So yum. You can also broil when weather isn’t good ,for grilling and it’s cooks up so fast and very tender.
    Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

  25. Ana says

    marinated 4 large chicken breast overnight. I followed the recipe and added 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic. Grilled tonight & my picky husband says it was the best marinade ever! Thx for sharing!

  26. Kristin says

    Do you have to use Vegetable oil? How about olive or even coconut oi? I really try to avoid vegetable oil.

    Thanks and it looks delicious.

  27. Debbie says

    Do you think i could throw the chicken and marinade together in a freezer bag and freeze for a future easy meal i just take out to thaw , premarinated??

  28. Latisha says

    I don’t know if anyone has tried this. It does take a bit of time. When my brown sugar gets rock hard, I use my kitchen grater.

  29. cristy leitenberger says

    Is 4 hours long enough to marinade the chicken and if so what do I cover it with in the fridge until it’s ready to grill?

  30. T.K. says

    Hopefully this will help someone out. I just did this recipe with 4 lbs. of chicken legs and the ratio is just right. I would recommend cutting this recipe down if you have less meat respectively.

    I will also note that this marinade is amazing. I have done it once before and I was admittedly skeptical at first. I am not a fan of soy sauce, vinegar, or the idea of sweet tasting chicken. The Mrs. is though and so I thought I’d try it out. Something happens in the bag when all those ingredients are becoming friends and morph into this glorious tasty combination. The chicken was phenomenal and I’m looking forward to smoking this next batch.

    *In case someone is doing a page search for the amount of chicken to marinade* – lbs., meat, pounds

  31. Steven says

    What type of vinegar was used in the original recipe (as shown in the images)? I don’t use vinegar really at all in my cooking — is just plain cheap white vinegar good enough? Or is apple cider or some sort of red vinegar preferred?

  32. Cristi says

    Dumb question. Do I coat the chicken with the brown sugar before placing in the liquid ingredients? That’s the way it looks in the photos but no one else had mentioned it so I wasn’t sure.
    Also, how long is “too long” to marinate this? One time I marinated chicken breast with a soy sauce mixture and did it too long and the chicken was not even edible!!

    • says

      Hi Cristi! – No you do not coat the chicken before. Just mix the mixture together then marinade. You can marinade for 30 minutes to 2 hours to overnight. I think a few hours is best. You can over marinate chicken, so don’t go for too long.

  33. says

    Instead of soy sauce I took a chance and used worcestershire sauce and it was absolutely delicious. Marinated over night and grilled the next evening for a big gathering. It was a huge hit. Everyone came back for seconds. No leftovers.

  34. Randee says

    I’d love to like this tomorrow and have it marinate while I’m at work. Only problem is I work 10 hour days. Just wondering what the max marinate time would be?

  35. Jessica says

    I have made something similar many times in the past! Instead of the vinegar and oil, though, I just use italian dressing! It is SOOOOOO good!!!


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