I actively try to use up spices while they’re still the most fragrant—up to six months, more or less, from purchase date—since I hate nothing more than having to toss them once they’ve gone stale. My favorite way to work through a jar of spice? Combine just about any spice blend with plain yogurt for the most foolproof chicken marinade around.
The Marinating Power of Yogurt
Yogurt contains lactic acid, which tenderizes meat. It also contains fat, which lends flavor and moisture. Lactic acid is different from other acidic ingredients like vinegar and citrus juice because it’s milder, therefore it tenderizes meat at a slower pace. This means you can leave chicken marinating in yogurt for up to a full 24 hours without it becoming tough or mushy. Though if all you have is just 30 minutes, you’ll taste the benefits, too.
How To Make My 2-Ingredient Chicken Marinade
I’m counting salt as a freebie ingredient. You’ll need:
- 1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt, regular or Greek
- 2 tablespoons dried spices or herbs
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. If using very thick Greek yogurt, add a splash of water to thin it out. Stir in the dried spices or herbs and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt if your spice contains salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt if it doesn’t.
Coat the chicken in the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for as little as 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, let any excess yogurt drip off the chicken and grill over direct medium-high heat on well-oiled grates, flipping halfway through until grill marks appear and cooked through.
Alternatively, place the chicken in a lightly-oiled baking dish and bake at 425°F. No matter your cooking method, the exact timing will depend on your cut of chicken, but it’s done when it registers 165°F with an instant-read thermometer.
3 Tips for Using My Any-Spice Yogurt Marinade
1. Use full-fat yogurt:
The brilliance here lies in how flexible this marinade is. You can use either regular or Greek plain yogurt, depending on what you have. Full-fat whole milk yogurt is ideal because fat equals moisture and flavor, especially when it comes to lean boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but reduced-fat yogurt works, too.
2. The world is your oyster! Well, at least your spice cabinet is:
To make this truly a 2-ingredient situation, I usually reach for spice blends. Garam masala, dried harissa like my favorite rose-kissed one, chili powder, za’atar, herbes de Provence, and Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Seasoning Blend are just a handful that are in heavy rotation in my kitchen.
Everything bagel seasoning, berbere, curry powder, jerk seasoning, and beyond would be great choices, too. Or combine a few spices like smoked paprika, garlic or onion powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, or turmeric to make your own unique spice blend.
3. The best cut of chicken:
My favorite cut of chicken for this marinade is boneless, skinless chicken breasts because it results in the juiciest chicken breasts I’ve tried. I love cutting the meat into large cubes and skewering the pieces for grilled kebabs but use whole breasts if you prefer. Or try boneless, skinless chicken thighs, bone-in thighs or breasts, drumsticks, or legs—this marinade will work magic on them all.