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How long can you marinate chicken?

Marinating chicken is a great way to get all kinds of different flavored chicken. You can be really creative with your ingredients or buy a bottle of premade marinade.

How long can your marinate chicken is the question a lot of people ask. The easy answer is you can marinate chicken anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours.

It varies by what kind of marinade you are using and the cut of meat. Let’s break it down by which meat, what kinds of the marinade, and how long you should marinate for.

marinated chicken in a bowl

How long can you marinate chicken? I recommended in most recipes that you marinate chicken anywhere from 2-24 hours. After 24 hours the fibers in the chicken will start to break down and get mushy or really tough.

How long can you marinate 5 Types Of chicken

Every cut is going to be different when it comes to how long you can marinate them. I am going to go over each kind of chicken and just how long you should allow for them to marinate to get that mouth-watering flavor.

There is no exact answer for this question as it varies greatly depending on the cut of chicken you are marinating, size, and what kind of marinade you are using.

You can marinate just about any chicken for two hours and get some great flavors absorbed into the meat.

The longer you allow it to soak the more flavor your chicken will have but bear in mind you can over marinate.

Be mindful of the ingredients that you are using to marinate your chicken with as they will affect the amount of time that you will want to marinate. It is very common to marinate chicken overnight.

For example, an acidic marinade will soak into the chicken much faster than a fatty marinade. Before you marinate learn to tell when the chicken has gone bad.

Marinating Chicken Time Chart

ChickenAcidic marinade time
(vinegar, wine, lemon juice)
Fat marinade time
(buttermilk, yogurt, oil)
Breast2-12 hoursup to 24 hours
Thigh15 min – 2 hoursup to 12 hours
Tenderloin30 min – 2 hoursup to 12 hours
Drumstick30 min – 2 hoursup to 12 hours
Wings30 min – 2 hoursup to 12 hours

How long can you marinate chicken breast?

Chicken breast is one of the more common parts of a chicken that gets marinated. I recommend that you allow for a minimum of 2 hours for your chicken breast to marinate.

You are not dealing with bones in your chicken breast so it is not as tender as some of the parts. Know that you CAN over-marinate chicken breast. If you leave it too long you will either get mushy chicken or it may become very tough.

If you are using an acidic marinade like lemon juice, vinegar, or Italian dressing you only want to marinate for 2-12 hours. The longer you marinade the more tender your chicken will get.

Using a buttermilk or yogurt marinade can take a little longer for the chicken breast to soak up the flavors so you can marinate overnight or up to 24 hours.

How long can you marinate chicken thighs?

Chicken thighs are usually a fairly small piece of chicken which means that you do not need to marinate them for too long. I recommend anywhere from 15 minutes if you are in a hurry to two hours.

You can marinate chicken thighs overnight but whereas they are small you don’t need that long. If you go too long, especially with an acidic marinade, you will end up with mushy meat that won’t be appetizing.

How long can you marinate chicken tenderloins?

Chicken tenderloins are small and thin. Although they are much like chicken breast, you do not want to marinate them for long.

When it comes to marinating chicken tenders I tend to treat them more like a wing or a drum. Only marinate them for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours. Do not exceed 12 hours because they will be mushy.

Ideally, 2 hours is perfect to get those mouth-watering flavors into the chicken tenderloins and keep them nice and tender.

How long can I marinate chicken drums?

Chicken drums are more commonly breaded and fried, or seasoned and grilled than they are marinated but you can absolutely marinate them and get great flavor!

The dark meat on chicken drums is sensitive to flavors so they do not need very long to marinate. Two hours is plenty of time to get enough of the marinade soaked in.

Exceeding 12 hours will only make the chicken drum fall apart and the meat deteriorates. When it comes to marinating drumsticks less is more.

How long can I marinate chicken wings?

Marinating chicken wings is one of my favorites! Most of the chicken wing marinade recipes are acidic. It is recommended to marinate chicken wings for 30 minutes to two hours.

Much like drumsticks, you do not want to over-marinate chicken because they will fall apart and potentially ruin what could be delicious chicken wings. Less is more when it comes to marinated chicken wings.


In conclusion to marinating chicken, it is very important to consider what kind of chicken you are using and what kind of marinade you will use.

The smaller the chicken the less meat which means you need less time to marinate. Chicken on the bone tends to have less meat which also means less marinating time.

Also, remember to keep in mind that acidic marinade takes less time than using a fat or sauce marinade.

How long can you marinate chicken in the fridge?

I would go no longer than 24 hours. In many cases, the minimum time required to marinate chicken is an hour. The best option would be 6-8 hours because this allows for a long enough period that flavors are infused into the meat but not too much that they break down the chicken too much.

How long can you marinate chicken in lemon juice?

The effect of marinating chicken in lemon and lime juice is a bold, robust flavor. The recommended time for this marinade recipe is no longer than 2 hours to avoid breaking down the chicken to far.

What happens when you marinate chicken to long

When meat marinates too long, the natural enzymes in the chicken are destroyed. This can lead to bacteria growth and spoilage of your food.

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