It’s a good idea to have a few different marinades up your sleeve, especially as it starts to get warmer and we can begin to think about dusting off the barbecue. A few ingredients quickly whisked together with a spoon and slathered over meat, fish, or veggies before grilling, barbecuing, or roasting can bring out some beautifully complex flavours. Plus, they’re a lot of fun to make!
A few ingredients quickly whisked together with a spoon and slathered over meat, fish, or veggies before grilling, barbecuing, or roasting can bring out some beautifully complex flavours.
To make a great marinade, you’ll need a mixture of fats, acids, and flavourings. Coconut oil is great, but is usually solid at room temperature, making it difficult to mix with the other ingredients. But it’s not impossible. I often mash herbs and spices into cold coconut oil and rub it over meat like butter, pinching handfuls from the dish as I go.
A lot of marinades use olive oil as the base – if you’d rather not heat olive oil, you could use avocado oil instead which is a bit on the pricey side, but stands up well to heat.
For the acid, vinegars are great – try apple cider, red wine, sherry, or balsamic vinegar. Balsamic is one of my favourite vinegars for marinades because it gives a rich, dark colour to food, as well as a tangy sweetness. Citrus juice and zest – limes, lemons, or oranges – work well too and lift any other, earthier flavours in the dish.
Spices and herbs is where I think you can have fun and start to experiment. I like to add freshly grated garlic to most of my marinades to provide depth. And do really go for it – a big fat clove or two will add so much flavour. Fresh (or ground) ginger is good too, as well as spices such as turmeric, star anise, and ground cumin. These robust aromatics add really deep, sweet flavours that can form the basis of your marinade. And don’t forget leafy herbs – parsley adds a fresh, grassy, almost citrus flavour; woodier varieties like sage, thyme and rosemary give a fragrant earthiness. A pinch or two of chilli powder or smoked paprika will give a spicy warmth. And as for salt, I prefer not to add it until I’m about to cook the food, just because salt tends to draw out moisture and I still want a juicy steak after it’s sat for a couple of hours in its aromatic bath in the fridge.
The marinades below are a good selection to get started with, and each of them offer something different – zesty, creamy, sweet, herby. Feel free to add your own favourite flavours and experiment. And you’d better dust off the barbecue now, just in case!
5 Amazing Paleo Marinades
Zesty Garlic, Parsley, and Lemon Marinade
This is based on the provenzal dressings of Argentina. There, ‘provenzal’ means anything that’s speckled with parsley and garlic as the main flavours in the dish. Just grate 2 medium-sized garlic cloves into a small dish and stir in 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon and then trickle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or avocado oil). Stir it all together and use to coat fish, seafood, chicken, or vegetables before grilling or roasting. This one is also wonderful on spatchcocked chicken before barbecuing – the smoke from the coals adds an extra layer of flavour. I also love this poured over sliced cooked squid, left to marinate, and eaten cold.
Dairy-Free Creamy Indian Marinade
I love this gently spiced paste smeared over fish, seafood, chicken, or turkey. After grilling or roasting, it forms a kind of burnished crust that seems to intensify the flavours. It’s dairy-free as it uses coconut yoghurt as a base. Combine half a teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground ginger, and turmeric powder. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon and 2 heaped tablespoons of coconut yoghurt. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of dried coriander leaf before mixing everything well.
Sweet and Sticky Chinese-Style Marinade
A sweet and aromatic marinade that’s good with pretty much anything. Try it with fish, pork, duck, chicken, or beef. I haven’t tried it with lamb but I reckon it would work beautifully. This recipe uses tamari, which is a gluten-free soy sauce and appears in some Paleo recipes. Switch it out if you don’t eat any soy products at all and use coconut aminos instead. Whisk together half a teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice powder, 1 teaspoon of tamari or coconut aminos, 1 clove of finely grated garlic, and 1 teaspoon of runny honey. Mix until smooth.
You could use this marinade on anything – vegetables, meat, fish, poultry – it uses traditional herbs with the richness of oil and the tang of apple cider vinegar. Mix together 1 teaspoon of dried sage, half a teaspoon of dried parsley, and half a teaspoon of dried thyme. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Brush over foods before roasting or grilling.
Rich Balsamic Marinade
Try this marinade over poultry, vegetables, lamb and beef, especially steaks. I love how the garlic comes through and permeates the dish, while the balsamic vinegar gives sweetness and colour. Grate 1 fat clove of garlic into a small bowl and trickle in 2 tablespoons of olive or avocado oil. Add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and half a teaspoon each of dried basil and dried oregano.
What are your favourite Paleo marinades? Why not share your marinade secrets using the comments box below.