10 Cheap and Delicious Marinades

Photo: swanksalot

You don’t need a degree in culinary education to cook a decent meal.

Sure, you should know a few basics, but the rest you can learn through trial and error and the Internet.

Like, for instance, how to give meat more flavor or how to tenderize an otherwise tough, cheap cut of meat. The answer lies in a marinade — a seasoned, often acidic liquid flavored with citrus, oils, herbs, vinegars, and more.

There are million ways you can make a marinade, but I’ve narrowed my selection down to 10 choices that pack a big punch on the plate with little impact on your wallet. (See also: Grocery Saving Tips for Carnivores)

1. Mojito Marinade

Spring is right around the corner, so I’m diving right into the good stuff with this mojito marinade from Eating Well. The quintessential Cuban cocktail is made with rum, lime juice, fresh mint, and sugar, but this recipe replaces the sugar with honey and adds shallots and kosher salt to make it more savory. If you don’t have rum on hand, one comment suggests replacing the liquor with an equal amount of plain yogurt, which incidentally turns the marinade into a salad dressing as well — as long as you keep it separate from the raw meat, of course.

2. Walt’s Teriyaki Marinade

You can buy a premade teriyaki marinade at the store, but it’s loaded with sugar. This teriyaki marinade recipe from Food.com replaces the sugar with honey for a more pleasant sweetness and adds other ingredients like ground ginger, soy sauce, garlic, grated onion, and water. It’s suited for any type of meat (I think I’d try it on pork), and it can also be used as a dipping sauce.

3. Zesty Dijon

Just reading the ingredients for this zesty Dijon marinade from MyRecipes makes my taste buds tingle — and chances are you have all the ingredients on hand right now. The recipe calls for balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed garlic, and it yields about one-and-a-half cups of liquid. Sounds perfect for a skirt steak.

4. Beer and Brown Sugar Steak Marinade

The name alone is enough to whet your appetite, right? Start with two 16 oz. sirloin steaks (which can serve four when cut in half), and marinate them in a mixture of beer, teriyaki sauce, and brown sugar for five minutes. Then sprinkle with half the seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic powder that the recipe calls for and set aside for 10 minutes. Turn the steaks over, repeat the sprinkling process, and wait another 10 minutes. After boiling the leftover marinade, use it to baste the steaks while they’re on the grill. Superb!

5. Ginger and Soy Marinade

If you want to give your dish an Asian kick, this ginger-soy marinade from Allrecipes is an excellent choice. Ideal for steaks and stir-frys, this recipe marries the bold flavors of soy sauce and ginger with sesame oil, maple syrup, and hot pepper sauce. There’s a special ingredient, too — a half-cup of beer. Can’t go wrong with that.

6. Indian Marinade

When you have a craving for Indian food, there’s no need to go out. You can bring the flavors of South Asia to the table on your own with this Indian marinade recipe from Martha Stewart Everyday Food (at the bottom of the linked page) that includes whole-milk yogurt, canola oil, cumin, turmeric, and ground coriander. For deeper flavor, you can add chopped cilantro and ginger to the mix before adding chicken.

7. Jim’s Honey-Orange Marinade and Dry Rub

Before I researched these wallet-friendly, flavor-adding marinades, I asked my Facebook friends if they had any original recipes that they’d like to share. One of my buddies, Jim, told me about a marinade that he makes for pork chops. His original recipe was very much his own — “a couple tablespoons of, I guess, Worcestershire sauce,” he said, to which I replied, “That’s not a recipe.” But he finally came through and totaled the ingredients for me — he mixes four tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, one cup of orange juice, and a quarter cup on honey (or to taste) for the marinade. Before he bastes the chops on the grill, however, he dry rubs them with Italian seasoning, comprised of a half teaspoon each of dried rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, oregano, salt, and pepper. About a minute before the chops are ready, he separates the marinade in half and uses one half for basting while reserving the other half for dipping. Thanks, Jim!

8. Lamp Chops Marinade

Looking for that perfect marinade for delicious, tender lamb chops? The Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, well known for her healthy take on cooking, has it. This marinade for lamb chops makes enough to feed four and includes olive oil, lemon zest and juice, oregano (fresh or dry), garlic, salt, and pepper. Easy as that. Perhaps this is just what you needed to round out Easter dinner.

9. Red Wine Marinade

Wine lovers, rejoice — this marinade’s for you! As one of the comments said, this is a great marinade recipe to use up leftover red wine. Other ingredients include diced onion, orange zest, fresh rosemary, red currant jelly, salt, and pepper. The marinade is suggested for use on tofu, salmon, chicken, duck, pork, flank steak, and more.

10. Marinated Melon

I try not to forget my vegetarian and vegan friends when I deliver recipes ideas — and this is no exception. To add a pop of fresh, tangy flavor to honeydew melon, drizzle with a marinade of lime juice, gin, lemon zest, and chopped mint. Let the ingredients marry for one to two hours before pouring over melon slices. This would be a divine addition to the adult brunch table, too.

Have even more cheap, delicious marinade ideas to share? Let me know your favorites in the comments below.

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Meg Favreau's picture

A lot of these sound like they'd work really well on tofu and tempeh, too! I look forward to trying to salad-dressing version of the first recipe -- that sounds really interesting and so unlike the dressings I usually make.

American Debt Project's picture

Lately I have been loving lime juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper for salads! It's so simple and tangy.

Guest's picture

I really liked the ingredient lists on some of your marinades, they were intriguing enough for me to read on. However, I'm one of those cooks that does little experimenting (due to my very limited budget), but prefers an actual foolproof (that's me in the kitchen!) recipe. If you would please, please email me the full recipes (IE- with measurements) I'd be very grateful. I love to grill out and summer's coming, so they'll go to good use. They sound very easy to make, and use ingredients that won't be a one use purchase for me. Thanks for the great and timely article!! Brava!!

Mikey Rox's picture

Hi, Burma! Thanks for the nice comment.

All of the links to recipes are embedded within this post. Just click on the blue text to get the recipes with ingredients and measurements. Happy cooking!