Marinate Chicken With Beer


Every cook knows how to marinate chicken, right? I couldn’t resist using ‘marinate chicken with beer’ as a title and thought it would look weird if I altered it. Anyway, this post is about marinating chicken with beer, and cooking the marinade with it. If you cook the marinade in a pot then when you cook the chicken, the marinade will get cooked and messed up. So what you can do is marinate chicken with beer and then cook them together so that the beer gets cooked at the same time as the chicken.

Beer and Garlic Grilled Chicken

This simple Beer and Garlic Chicken Marinade has become a staple in our house over the past few years.

Juicy, incredibly flavorful grilled chicken is easier than you might think; especially when it starts with a marinade loaded with flavor from beer, garlic, and a sprinkling of herbs.

Beer marinated chicken turns out absolutely perfect; tender and juicy every time.

Beer and Garlic Marinade for Grilled Chicken - get the recipe at

Beer Marinated Chicken

I used beer in a marinade for the first time when I made the Smoky Chicken and Bacon Burgers almost five years ago. (And yes, those burgers are every single bit as amazing as they sound!)

We loved the beer marinated chicken so much, I immediately started playing with a larger batch marinade recipe for grilled chicken.

I’m not a fan of beer myself and I don’t much like the taste or smell of it at all. I do, however, LOVE this marinade. 

If you do not typically have beer in your house (and don’t want to buy a six-pack just to try a new recipe), I have a tip for you. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, they sell individual bottles of beer for less than $1. (You can thank my awesome little sister for that tip.)

Ways To Use Grilled Chicken

We like to make a good bit of extra chicken each time we are grilling chicken and then keep it in the fridge for easy lunches, like the Southwest Chicken Salad pictured below.

I usually double this marinade recipe and will grill a huge batch of chicken all at once. We’ll quite happily eat it all week by itself, over salads, and in sandwiches and wraps.

There’s nothing better than having pre-cooked chicken in the fridge ready to use through the week. Try grilled chicken in one of these recipes for a terrifically tasty and EASY weeknight meal.

Beer and Garlic Grilled Chicken is perfect for quick meals all week long! - recipe at

Chicken Marinade Recipes

It’s amazing what a great marinade can do for a simple piece of chicken and this beer marinated chicken is evidence of that. However, I’m of the opinion that you can’t have too many awesome ways to marinate chicken.

This Very Green Grilled Chicken by Kalyn’s Kitchen and Honey Buttermilk Roast Chicken by The View From Great Island both sound delicious.

Chipotle Chicken Marinade and Mojo Marinade are a couple more go-to chicken marinade recipes that I reach for frequently.

Loaded with some of our favorite flavors, these chicken marinades make all the difference between just another chicken dinner and a meal that the whole family will love.

A close up of a plate of food, with Chicken and Grilling

Beer Chicken Marinade Recipe

  1. Place the chicken in a gallon-size zip-close bag or an airtight container. Stir together the marinade ingredients and pour over the chicken. Seal and turn the bag or container to coat the pieces evenly.
  2. Let rest in the refrigerator for 12-36 hours. I try to marinate chicken for a minimum of 24 hours most of the time because the longer time makes a huge difference in the flavor.
Freezer Meal Instructions

Combine the marinade and chicken in a gallon-size zip-close bag and freeze them together. When you are ready to cook the chicken, thaw in the refrigerator, allowing the marinade to work its flavors throughout the meat. Once thawed, cook as directed.

Beer-Marinated Grilled Chicken


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces (1 can) beer
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Marinating chicken in beer makes it extra tender and juicy. It also lets the bold spices and aromatics soak deep into the meat for added flavor.



Combine oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, onion, garlic, mustard, pepper, ginger and salt in a large bowl. Stir in beer and add chicken.2.

Marinate for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours in refrigerator. Drain and discard marinade.3.

Preheat grill to medium heat.4.

Grill chicken for 12-15 minutes, turning once. Cook until juice runs clear and internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°F.


The complete guide to beer marinated chicken. Choose from several recipes or mix your own beer marinade for chicken leveraging the flavors of different beer styles and spice and herb combos. 

Beer marinade for chicken
  • If you are in a hurry skip ahead to our list of Beer Marinade for Chicken Recipes. 
  • Otherwise let’s look at how beer marinades work, what beers styles to seek out, relevant tips and how you can create your own recipe.   


Beer makes everything better (most things anyways) and beer marinades for meat in general and chicken in particular are no exception. 

First and foremost a beer marinade imparts flavor to the surface of the chicken meat. 

It also makes it juicier (especially chicken breast) and in certain circumstances can tenderize it – when the beer is lacto soured or contains another ingredient with protein breaking enzymes (ex. the al pastor marinade below which contains bromelain from using fresh pineapple).

While flavor infusion is the main benefit, beer marinades have a powerful property when it comes to charcoal-grilling chicken meat that has been in contact with them. 

The anti-radical capacity of craft beer can prevent the formation of carcinogenic substances on the surface of charcoal-grilled meats called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) . Several studies have proven that meat marinated with beer inhibits the harmful PAHs from reaching significant levels. In fact the darker the beer, the stronger the effect.

TIP: In view of the above information always use a beer marinade when charcoal-grilling chicken. 


A good beer marinade should be well-balanced, with ingredients complimentary to each other and to the beer style used. Balance is easy to achieve if you cover the following general categories. 

  • Beer. The selection of a beer style matters – consult the section below for tips and ideas. 
  • Herbs & Spices. Fresh or dried herbs, whole or ground spices drive the general culinary direction of the beer marinade. Select as few or as many as you wish and be sure that they are appropriate for chicken, work with each other and the beer used.  
  • Garlic & Onions. Fresh minced garlic or finely chopped shallots or green onions will never fail you as they contribute zesty flavors to beer marinades. Using garlic powder or onion powder is fine as well.
  • Acid. Even though beer is an acidic beverage the majority of styles do not have a pH low enough to contribute a level of acidity that will balance the rest of the ingredients.
  • Unless you are using a sour ale always add a bit of additional acidity to a marinade. Use juice from fresh citrus, different vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, tamarind paste, mustard (great as emulsifier) etc. 
  • Sweetener. Beer brings about varying degrees of malty sweetness, but adding some honey, agave, brown sugar etc. is always helpful and truly helps create balance. Choose the sweetener in accordance with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Oil. Use milder oils such as vegetable, olive and sunflower oil generously and stronger flavored ones such as sesame or peanut oil more sparingly. Full fat coconut milk can be included in this category.
  • Heat. Adding spicy ingredients is optional but remember that a dash of hot sauce can boost the aggregate flavor base without taking the entire mariande into spicy territory. Use fresh or dried spicy chiles, hot sauces, ground pepper, mustard seeds etc. 
  • Salt & Pepper. A marinade does not need to include salt. In fact, by definition adding salt turns a marinade into a brine. However this assumes the addition of a significant amount of salt that notably increases the salinity of the liquid. Generally a bit of salt and pepper will bring balance to a beer marinade and we recommend using both. If you are not using soy sauce, miso paste or fish sauce or another source of salinity always consider adding a bit of coarse kosher or sea salt. 


It is important to choose a low-bitterness, flavorful brew.

Unless for some reason you want to impart bitterness to your chicken there is no point in using an aggressively hopped, dank IPA or a stout with roasted barley and a bold hoppy bite.

Equally pointless would be to use a bland mass produced, corn syrup based lager that will contribute absolutely nothing of value to your marinade.

Go with well-crafted, flavor packed lagers and ales. Let go of any misconceptions that lagers or lighter beers are not flavorful or that a beer needs to have high alcohol volume to be considered flavorful. 

Consider these styles:

  • traditional European lagers (ex. Czech pils, Munich Helles, bock, Oktoberfest)
  • American craft lagers or Mexican lagers (ex. Vienna lager)
  • wheat ales
  • saisons and Belgian ales in general
  • porters or sweet stouts
  • English mild, English pale ale, Scotch ale, winter warmers
  • lacto soured ales (gose, Berliner Weisse)

TIP: Purchasing single cans or bottles of beer as you grocery shop is a great way to ensure having the right style for your beer marinade recipe.


  • Always marinate the chicken covered (use zip lock bags, airtight containers with lids or plastic wrap to create airtight seal over bowls) and refrigerated.
  • Marinate the chicken for 2 to 12 hours (overnight works great). 
  • You may turn the chicken occasionally during the time it marinates to ensure that all of its surface has had a chance to get infused with marinade flavors. 
  • Always discard a used marinade after removing the chicken from it – do not try to make it into a sauce or to use it for basting. 
  • If you want to use some of the marinade for basting while grilling or baking chicken, separate a small quantity of it in the beginning and keep it refrigerated until you need it. 
  • Pat dry the chicken once you’ve removed it from the marinade and season it with salt and pepper. 


The recipes below are among our favorite to let chicken bathe in and are written to yield enough marinade for:

  • a large whole chicken
  • about 6-8 chicken breasts
  • about 10-12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • about 8-10 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • about 10-12 drumsticks
  • about 24 chicken wings

Chances are that you might be cooking less chicken than noted above and end up with more marinade than needed.

Don’t let a good beer marinade go to waste!

You can easily use extras as a basting liquid or freeze it for later use. Or – our preferred way – marinate extra chicken in the extra marinade. Use a zip-close plastic bag and freeze the whole thing until you need to cook it.

Just be sure to let it thaw in the fridge, not on your counter.

Freeze extra beer marinated chicken for later use. Thaw refrigerated.



This recipe leverages the delicious malty sweetness and herbal Noble hops notes of Helles lager. You can substitute with other golden lagers such as Czech pilsner (most similar), light bock (aka Helles bock) or American craft lagers and blonde ales.

We really like to use it with whole chicken – spatchcock chicken gets particularly juicy and flavorful after bathing in this marinade because once the spine is removed significantly more meat surface gets flavored (shown #6 below). 


  • 12 oz Helles lager 
  • 3-4 green onions
  • 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (increase if you want a spicier marinade)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

How to make it:

Squeeze the lime juice and measure out 2 tbsp. Chop the green onions. Add the ingredients to a bowl (use a large one if marinating a whole chicken) and pour the beer last. Whisk to combine. Submerge the chicken, coat on all sides, cover with plastic wrap and let marinate. 

Step by step helles lager marinade for chicken with chili garlic


For this one we recommend that you use an American wheat ale or Belgian wit as they typically have citrusy notes and are often further flavored with agave, honey and fresh citrus peel or puree. If you use preserved lemons the marinade gets a delightful boost of lemon essence. 

We love to use this juicy beer marinade with chicken breast. 


  • 12 oz wheat ale (American or Belgian)
  • 1 whole lemon or half preserved lemon
  • 2 tangerines or 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 5-6 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper

How to make it:

Zest the lime and the tangerines/orange and squeeze their juices in a bowl. If using fresh lemon – zest it and squeeze 1 tbsp of its juice, if preserved lemons – remove the pulp and slice thinly as shown below (#2). Mince the garlic. Place all the ingredients in a container or zip lock bag and add the wheat ale last. Whisk to combine, submerge the chicken meat and let marinade. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper before cooking.  

Citrus honey wheat ale marinade for chicken - step by step


You can go with either a light or a dark Mexican lager here (aka Vienna lager) and if you want to make the marinade extra spicy use an additional jalapeno or add a teaspoon or two of cayenne pepper.

We frequently use this marinade with skinless chicken thighs.


  • 12 oz Mexican lager
  • 1 lime
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 

How to make it:

Mince the garlic, zest the lime and squeeze its juice, thinly slice the jalapeno. Place all the ingredients in a bowl – add the Mexican lager last, then whisk. Submerge chicken meat and let marinate.

Mexican lager marinade image sequence


You can always count on a dunkel lager with this one but when Marzens (Oktoberfest beers) are in season you can make the perfect Oktoberfest roast chicken by making the marinade with Oktoberfest lager instead. Bock lagers are also suitable. 


  • 12 oz dark German lager
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp Bavarian (sweet) mustard (Bayerischer Süßer Senf)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

How to make it:

Mince the garlic. Whisk together the peanut oil and the Bavarian mustard first, then add the apple cider vinegar and continue to whisk until smooth. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, add the beer last. Add the chicken, coat well and let marinate.


For this Thai inspired marinade we like to use a Belgian wit but American or Bavarian wheat ale or even gose ale can work great (if using gose, omit the lime juice).


  • 12 oz Belgian wit beer
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice (omit if using a sour ale such as gose)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 dry Thai chiles for heat (optional)

How to make it:

Chop the cilantro, mince the garlic and squeeze the lime juice. Let the brown sugar soak in the lime juice (or a bit of beer) until soft. Mix all the ingredients together, adding the beer last. Add the chicken and let marinate.


This spicy beer marinade relies on chili heat which lend heat to the roasty malt sweetness and caramely or chocolaty notes of porters and sweet stouts. It is really good for dark chicken meat, especially of you plan on serving some mole on the side after you cook it.  


  • 12 oz porter ale (or English (sweet) stout)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pitted prunes, (optional)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp chili pepper flakes 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

How to make it:

First mix together the brown sugar and the balsamic. If using the prunes mince them and add them to the sugar/balsamic. Next add the oil, the pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Finally pour the beer, mix together, add the chicken and let marinade.


The tartness of gose (you can also use Berliner Weisse) works beautifully with the deep umami of cured anchovies and the brininess of capers


  • 12 oz gose ale
  • 4 cured anchovy fillets
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

How to make it:

Mince the garlic and finely chop the parsley. At the bottom of a bowl press onto the anchovy fillets and the capers with the back of a spoon until they turn into a pasty mixture. Add the mustard and the olive oil and mix together. Add the rest of the ingredients (pour the gose last) and whisk, then marinate the chicken. 


You can make your own basil pesto or used store-bought pesto for this one.

Beer wise you can go with pilsners (even the North German variety, their herbal hoppiness makes a perfect match), American craft lagers, amber ales, blonde ales, kolsch and of course classic wheat beers. If you use gose ale, skip the lemon juice.


  • 12 oz pilsner or blonde ale or kolsch
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

How to make it:

Whisk the ingredients together to form a homogeneous mixture and add the chicken to the marinade. 


This marinade uses a Vienna lager in addition to classic Mexican al pastor marinade with fresh pineapple. It is typically used with pork but it works incredibly well with  chicken. You can find the recipe here.


Simply browsing the recipes above may have already sparked a few ideas of your own or raised certain objections as to the use of some ingredients that you might not favor or would rather replace. And that is precisely where the beauty of composing a beer marinade lies – bathe your chicken in the flavor mix that makes you happiest!

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