This spicy chicken marinade has the best smoky heat, and the spiciness can be customized to your liking. Make the spicy chipotle marinade in just minutes then use it to flavor your favorite cut of chicken.

Complete the meal with some corn salsa, garlic butter rice, and creamy cucumber salad.

Spicy Chicken Marinade on chicken breasts in a baking dish.

Spicy chicken marinade

Whether you're like us and love the fiery burn on your tongue, or you're tentatively testing out the spicy waters, this is a recipe you'll love. The heat level is customizable from a tingle to a full-on burn. And no matter which end of the scale you go for, the delicious smoky flavor will keep you coming back for more.

We use a can of flavorful chipotle peppers in adobo sauce as the base for this smoky/spicy marinade. Then we add a few of our favorite spices, oil, and some vinegar. The result is a spicy chicken marinade that is simple to make and absolutely packed with flavor.

How to make this spicy chicken marinade recipe in 4 steps

This is an incredibly simple marinade that packs a punch with flavor and heat.

  1. Put the ingredients into your food processor or blender.
  2. Blend the marinade for about one minute. It's ok if it's a little bit chunky.
  3. Pour the spicy marinade over some chicken.
  4. When you're ready, cook the chicken!

In just 4 easy steps, you'll have made a delicious chicken dinner!

Full recipe in the recipe card below.

4 pictures showing how to make this spicy chicken marinade recipe.

Ingredient notes

  • Oil – choose an oil with very little flavor like avocado, canola, or grapeseed.
  • Chipotle peppers – look for the jar in the Latin/Mexican area of your grocery store. They will come packed in adobo sauce.
  • Apple cider vinegar – you can use wine vinegar instead. Or substitute 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.
  • Onion powder, garlic powder, and oregano – onion and garlic granules can be used instead. We like to use dried oregano leaves, but powdered works, too.

Variations to try

  • Make it a sweet and spicy chicken marinade by adding a few tablespoons of honey.
  • Swap the vinegar for lime juice.
  • Add ¼ cup of finely minced cilantro.

Can I freeze spicy chicken?

Yes! Spicy chicken freezes very well. Simply put the raw chicken and marinade into freezer bags in portions that you'll use. Then freeze the chicken for up to six months. The marinating process will stop once the chicken is frozen, but start again when you take the chicken out of the freezer. We love these reusable Stasher freezer bags for freezing all sorts of things, including this chicken.

Spicy chicken marinating in freezer bags.

What cut of chicken works best to marinate

This spicy chicken marinade can be used to marinate your favorite cut of chicken.

Chicken thighs – this recipe makes enough to marinate 16 chicken thighs. Skinless works best as the skin won't get crispy with the wet marinade.

Chicken breast – You can marinate 8 chicken breasts with this recipe. Rather than cooking all the chicken, freeze some of the uncooked marinated chicken to enjoy later!

Chicken wings – This is a great spicy chicken wing recipe and makes enough for at least 4 lb. of wings.

How to cook chicken in a spicy chicken marinade

Once you've made the marinade and chosen the type of chicken you'd like to eat, the last step is deciding how you want to cook the chicken.

Baked: This is the simplest method. Put the marinade-covered chicken into a pan and pop it into your oven at 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Boneless thighs – 12-15 minutes. Boneless breast – 20-30 minutes. Bone-in thighs and wings – 35-40 minutes. All cuts should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stovetop: Chicken breasts or boneless thighs work best for this method. Put the chicken, marinade, and ¼ cup of water into the pan, cover it and let it simmer gently for 8-10 minutes for thighs and 15-20 minutes for breasts. Add more water, if needed.

Grilled: If you want to grill your spicy chicken, a grill mat will help keep your bbq clean. Boneless chicken thighs are your best option as they cook quickly so you won't risk burning the marinade.

Slow cooker: skinless breast or thighs work best for a crockpot. Add the chicken, marinade, and ¼ cup of water and set the timer to cook for 2-3 hours on high or 4-5 hours on low.

How long should I marinate chicken

The acid (vinegar) in this recipe will break down the meat, making it quite tender. But after too long, the meat will become mushy. It is best to marinate chicken no longer than 24 hours.

For the best flavor, marinate the chicken for 6-8 hours.

What makes a good chicken marinade

A good marinade consists of four things:

  1. Oil – helps transfer some of the fat-soluable flavors into the meat. It also rounds out the flavor and gives it more depth. We use a neutral-flavored oil so that it doesn't compete with the smoky chipotle flavor.
  2. Salt – draws the water-soluable flavors into the meat. It also loosens the fibers making them more tender.
  3. Acid – tenderizes the surface proteins and gives the meat flavor. We use apple cider vinegar in this recipe.
  4. Flavor – We use chipotle peppers and spices to give the marinade lots of flavor.

What to serve with spicy chicken

We like to tame the heat by serving this with our creamy cucumber salad or our creamy celery salad. A few other sides that go well with spicy chicken are:

Chicken breasts marinated in a spicy chipotle marinade in a baking dish.
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Chicken breasts marinated in a spicy chipotle marinade in a baking dish.

Spicy Chicken Marinade

  • Author: Kristen Stevens
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Marinate Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: North American

Description

This spicy chicken marinade has the best smoky heat, and the spiciness can be customized to your liking. Make the spicy chipotle marinade in just minutes then use it to flavor your favorite cut of chicken.

If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star review in the comments!


Scale

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup neutral-flavored oil (like avocado or canola)
  • 1 12-ounce can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (see notes)
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon EACH: onion powder and garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: oregano, sea salt, and pepper
  • 2 lb. chicken (see notes) 

Instructions

  1. Add the oil, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper to your food processor and blend for 1 minute. It's ok if the marinade is still a little chunky. 
  2. Pour the marinade over the chicken and let it marinate in your fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Choose one of the methods below for cooking the chicken

Baked: This is the simplest method. Put the marinade-covered chicken into a pan and pop it into your oven at 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Boneless thighs – 12-15 minutes. Boneless breast – 20-30 minutes. Bone-in thighs and wings – 35-40 minutes. All cuts should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stovetop: Chicken breasts or boneless thighs work best for this method. Put the chicken, marinade, and ¼ cup of water into the pan, cover it and let it simmer gently for 8-10 minutes for thighs and 15-20 minutes for breasts. Add more water, if needed.

Grilled: If you want to grill your spicy chicken, a grill mat will help keep your bbq clean. Boneless chicken thighs are your best option as they cook quickly so you won't risk burning the marinade.

Slowcooker: skinless breast or thighs work best for a crockpot. Add the chicken, marinade, and ¼ cup of water and set the timer to cook for 2-3 hours on high or 4-5 hours on low.

Notes

This marinade makes enough for 16 boneless chicken thighs, 8 boneless chicken breasts, or 4 lbs. chicken wings.

For a less spicy experience, use ½ can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. 

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Spicy Chicken Marinade on chicken breasts in a baking dish and the recipe title on top of the picture.