How to Make Marinated Chicken for the Freezer in 5 Easy Steps

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Chicken in marinade is one of the easiest freezer meals you can make. Save time and money by making delicious marinated chicken for the freezer.

platter of grilled marinated chicken

I’ve been practicing the art of freezer cooking since the Earth cooled. Or at least since my eldest child was in utero. Seeing as he has now graduated college and owns a real suit, that signifies a long time.

In the old days, we freezer cookers (is that a word?) spent days shopping, chopping, and hopping around the kitchen filling the freezer with a month’s worth of meals. 

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Was it tiring? Yay, totally.

Was it easy? Not really.

There were so many things to juggle, details to track, and meals to make. If you’ve been alive for more than five years, you’ve realized one important truth: things that are easy are things you will continue to do.

When things get hard, it’s harder to get things done. Even important things. The same goes for freezer cooking. 

Was it worth the work to fill the freezer? It was, but the work involved made it harder to make it happen more often.

That’s where quick and easy freezer meal recipes save the day.

If it’s easy to make dinner, you’ll make dinner at home more often.

Freezer cooking can make it easy to make dinner, thereby helping you save money and time and enable you to keep to a healthy diet.

So how do you make freezer cooking, and therefore dinner, easier?

chicken in marinades for freezing

Make marinated chicken for the freezer!

One of the easiest things that I pull together for freezer cooking is chicken bagged in marinades. Not only is it quick to prepare for freezing, but it’s also a quick meal on the other side of thawing.

Just hand the bag of thawed, marinating chicken to my husband to cook on the grill while I make a few sides dishes. And even some side dishes, like mashed potatoes and garlic bread, can be made ahead of time and frozen.

This is an obvious go-to strategy in the summer months due to all the grilling that we do, but it’s also useful all year-round. Marinated chicken can be broiled, cooked on a grill pan, or even sautéed in a skillet.

Talk about winner, winner chicken dinners!

You can freeze chicken in marinades all year long, and almost any marinade will work. In a pinch, you can even marinade chicken in salad dressing or BBQ sauce.

This is a super easy meal prep practice, allowing you to prepare for many dinners in a very short amount of time.

freezer bags in five sizes

What do you need to make marinated chicken for the freezer?

  • Chicken breasts or pieces – I like boneless, but you can use bone-in chicken as well. You may need to double the bag as sometimes bones poke through. My ALDI sells b/s chicken breasts at the regular price of $1.89/lb which makes it super affordable.
  • Ziptop freezer bags or freezer-safe containers with lids – I use plastic bags, but there are a number of reusable silicone freezer bag lines out there. I personally don’t have experience with those to know if they leak. Leaking is a bag thing with raw chicken and marinades. You can also use plastic or glass containers with lids. Make sure that whatever product you use that it is marked for freezing. Ziploc makes freezer-safe bags in many sizes: pint, quart, 1/2-gallon, gallon, and 2-gallon. Note: the 1/2 gallon size is also marketed as marinade bags. The bottoms are flat so they can (sort of) stand on their own.
  • Cutting board and knife – to trim away fat, if desired. Head here to see my recommendations for kitchen tools.
  • Bag holders – Yes, bag holders. They are okay, but not necessary. You can slip your bags into bowls instead.
  • Baking sheet or tray – to hold bags flat in freezer until firmly frozen as well as to hold bag in refrigerator while thawing to catch drips.

So, now that you got your stuff, let’s get to the process, shall we?

freezer bags for chicken marinades

How to Make Marinated Chicken for the Freezer in 5 Easy Steps

1. Prepare your containers.

There’s not much to do to prepare your containers except label them. I use a regular sharpie on both my freezer containers and ziptop freezer bags. Be sure to label them with the date as well as the contents. If there are special serving instructions, add those, too.

trimming chicken for freezer meals

2. Trim the chicken.

There’s nothing worse that biting into a delicious piece of chicken only to find your mouth half-full of gristle or fat. Be sure to trim the chicken.

While it’s not the most pleasant of jobs, it’s not so bad if you can get a lot done at one time. Plan to make several batches of chicken in marinades at one time, and do all that trimming in one fell swoop.

If you’re buying conventional chicken breast, you may find that they are ginormous. You can make your chicken quicker to cook and easier for serving reasonable portions if you cut the boneless, skinless chicken breasts into cutlets by slicing them horizontally through the middle. The portion is still enough for one person, but seems to stretch the meat a little farther.

stirring marinade in bowl

3. Prepare the marinades.

Many marinades contain similar ingredients. This is where you can save a lot of time during your freezer cooking session. You’ll be pulling out all these items at one time and cleaning up once instead of six times.

You can mix many marinades right inside the freezer bags, but not all mixtures blend well in this way. Use a blender or mixing bowl for easiest mixing.

chicken in bags for freezing

4. Add the chicken and marinade to the bags.

Add the chicken and the marinade to the bags. This can be a tricky endeavor if the bags risk tipping over. Pictured you’ll see I used the flat bottomed, 1/2 gallon bags that basically stand up on their own.

You can also use bag holders or simply slip your bags into a series of mixing bowls and fold back the tops.

Once you’ve filled and sealed the bags, squeeze out as much air as possible and massage the bag to distribute the marinade evenly around the chicken pieces.

Lay the filled bags flat on a baking sheet and place the sheet in the freezer to freeze. For best use of space in your freezer, you want the bags to freeze flat. This makes them easier to stack or line up like books on a shelf. 

If your freezer has wire shelving, you don’t want the bag to conform to the shelves. This will make it very difficult to extract a frozen bag of chicken in marinades from the freezer.

Laying the bags flat on a tray until frozen helps you avoid this issue. You can remove the tray later and rearrange your frozen meals.

marinated chicken tray

5. Store the marinated chicken in the freezer.

Store the chicken in marinades in the freezer for 6 to 8 weeks. They will be good longer in a deep freeze that is not opened frequently, but for best quality, use them within 2 months.

About a day or two before serving, pull a bag from the freezer and place it on a tray or dish to thaw in the refrigerator.

Preparing marinated chicken for 6 dinners for 8 people takes me about an hour total, demonstrating how freezer cooking maximizes on your kitchen time. If I were prepping for one of these meals on any given night, I could easily have spent thirty minutes each time.

6 x 30 = 180 minutes or 3 hours.

Save at least two hours by making your chicken in marinades for the freezer.

platter of grilled marinated chicken

Interested in trying some new chicken marinade recipes?

Marinated Chicken Recipes

Try these delicious marinade recipes to add flavor to chicken dishes.

Grilled Buffalo Chicken

Ditch the wings for something meatier. This easy Buffalo Chicken marinade comes together in minutes.

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Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken is a delicious combination of yogurt and spices. It makes for a wonderfully flavorful, freezer-friendly marinade.

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Grilled Dijon Basil Chicken

Dijon and Basil join forces in this flavor-packed marinade that is delicious on grilled chicken.

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Easy Marinated Chicken Without a Recipe

Want to go rouge? Doing a pantry challenge? Learn how to make chicken marinade without a recipe!

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Salsa Verde Chicken to Spice Up Your Grill Night

Salsa Verde Chicken will liven up your next BBQ with its spicy, south of the border, flair.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Bake

Marinated chicken is delicious baked! Who knew? Try your hand at this one-dish chicken and rice bake.

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Grilled Chicken in Buttermilk Yogurt Marinade

Buttermilk and yogurt both have a tenderizing effect on chicken. Toss in your favorite spice mix for a winning marinade.

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The Best Dijon Mustard Marinade for Chicken {Ever}

Dijon and cayenne pepper team up for a kicking chicken marinade that will have you licking your plate.

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marinade ingredients

Chicken Marinade FAQ

How long can you keep marinated chicken in the freezer?

Food is good indefinitely in the freezer if stored constantly below 0 degrees F. However, it will lose taste and texture over time. The limit on frozen, unmarinated chicken is one year, per the USDA.

Marinated chicken has acid present which can reduce its quality under long freezing times. It’s best to use your marinated chicken within in 2 months for best taste and texture.

Can you refreeze marinated chicken that has thawed?

It is safe to refreeze foods that have thawed and kept under safe temperatures. However, if you prefer, cook the marinated chicken, cool, and freeze it cooked.

Should marinated chicken be kept in the fridge?

When you remove marinated chicken from the freezer, you should store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it, up to 2 days.

Can I freeze marinade by itself?

You can freeze marinade by itself and add it to chicken a few hours before serving. 

Can I add frozen chicken to marinade?

Many stores sell chicken flash frozen. You don’t need to thaw the chicken to add it to the marinade, even if you’re making a freezer meal.

Prepare your bag of marinade, add the frozen chicken pieces. Seal the bag as directed above and store it in the freezer. The chicken will marinate as it thaws.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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Comments

  1. Great idea! I am definitely going to try this!

    Oh and is that a Pampered Chef forged cutlery knife on your picture with the cut up chicken or am I just seeing things?

  2. I love a Teriyaki marinade:

    3/4 c. (6 oz.) apple juice
    2 T. sugar
    2 T. soy sauce
    1 T. vinegar
    1 t. ground ginger
    1/4 t. garlic powder
    1/8 t. pepper
    2 T. canola oil

    YUM!!

  3. Love this one…I’m all about marinades and chicken, especially! I have one marinade that is a die-hard…great with any sauce or adding the chicken to whatever meal. It’s really versatile! I’m posting it on my blog this weekend…I’ll add it to your Thursday meme!

    • Teresa says

      Can you post a link here? Those of us coming to this late have no idea how to find you!

  4. Candi says

    Some of our favorites are Apricot Mustard and Honey Lemon. Yum!

  5. Thank you – I am always looking for new ways to marinate meat! We usually use the “Southwest” packet made by McCormick, I think, or I do an Asian one with soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, and ginger.

  6. Sarah says

    I bet you could throw those in the crockpot for the day too (if grilling plans change).

  7. I love this – it looks great and I think I’ll try it! Thank you for the inspiration. Happy Friday!

  8. Andrea says

    One question – I have TONS of frozen meat. I mean, an over the fridge freezer full of it, as well as a deep freeze full of it. Can I thaw some of those items, add the marinade, and then refreeze? I can’t seem to find info on this anywhere.

    • Heidi F says

      @Andrea, Just my thoughts on using frozen meat…I buy the giant frozen bags of Tyson chicken breasts at Costco, mix up a marinade, dump 4-6 frozen chicken breasts in the ziplock w/ the marinade, and then place back in the freezer. When I’m planning to use the meal and defrosting 1-2 days ahead of time, the marinade then has time to soak into the meat as it slowly defrosts. It’s worked great for me. enjoy!

    • Heiss Haus says

      @Andrea, Andrea, I haven’t tried it, but I like Heidi F’s reply. I wouldn’t thaw then refreeze meat, but her approach makes sense for your already frozen meat. After you work your way through all the frozen meat, then when you buy fresh again, you can follow the original instructions, or use Heidi’s approach for frozen meat.

    • carole says

      i’m a little late to the party;-) but i know i have read that you should NOT refreeze defrosted meat. that said, maybe you can add marinade to a baggie, then open your package of frozen meat and transfer it to the baggie, and then put the frozen meat/marinade baggie right back in the freezer??? just an idea…

      • Actually, the USDA says you can refreeze defrosted meat as long as the food as been kept at proper temperatures. Doing so does effect the texture.

        The reason folks are warned NOT to do so is when their freezers have suffered a power failure. They might not know how long the meat has been thawed or how high temperature it has reached. In those instances it’s not safe to refreeze.

        • Carole says

          What do ya know?!! Thanks for that info!!!

    • Laurie Knodl says

      Once you thaw you meat it MUST be cooked first then you can refreeze.

      • That is not true if the meat has been thawed under refrigeration. Please see this statement from the USDA.

        If the meat thawed under less than best conditions, such as during a power failure, then it must be cooked before refreezing.

  9. karen says

    Tuscan Lemon Chicken from Barefoot Contessa–
    1/3 cup good olive oil
    2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
    1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
    big sprig of rosemary
    Freshly ground black pepper & salt
    two large boneless chix breasts

    We’ve also used this marinade on bone-in chix breasts but the flavor is more intense with boneless.

  10. I hate trimming the chicken too but it’s got to be done. I usually portion my boneless breasts into 6 oz. portions and then I take the rest and cut it into stir fry pieces. Usually in bags with a pound and 1/2 works for our family. Great tips, thanks!

    • Madeline Scrogin says

      I’ve never thought of this portioning idea. It is a great idea! I’ve been in the kitchen and loving cooking for my friends and family for so long that when I go on these blogs I usually never learn or read anything new or that I haven’t been doing for years.
      Your idea is definitely a take away idea and I love it. In fact I have several pounds of chicken breasts on my counter right now just waiting to be newly portioned! Thanks again, madeline

  11. Stephanie says

    I started doing this and mixes because of you and Money saving mom. Stave sme a ton of time I started out by just doing one extra meal when I was prepping the first one I liked the convience so much I have started doing a lot more ahead of time.

  12. My favorite marinade right now is a spicy mexican marinade with shrimp (though I am sure it would be great with chicken too). I am actually making it tonight and freezing a few portions while I am at it. It is posted on my blog Coping with Frugality (Camarones a la Diabla): http://copingwithfrugality.blogspot.com/2010/04/camarones-la-diabla-repost.html

  13. Such a great idea – I’ll have to try this next time.

    Can’t wait to see your recipes for the chicken & pizza subs!

  14. Tracy says

    Yum! I have saved these to my recipes folder and will be trying them. This is the kind of freezer meal my fish and broccoli loving family will eat with happy faces! 🙂

  15. nanasewn says

    Can you help me understand fully. I tried this chicken idea and when removing from freezer to cook, the chicken was just mushy and I had to throw it out. Any insight here? Thank you

    and freezer cooking means different things to different people…some cook and freeze, some prepare and freeze raw, correct.

  16. Jenn says

    I had gotten a good deal on the Kens Balsamic dressing, ($1 off coupon on the 8oz variety, came to .22) I dumped it in the bag with my chicken and some sprigs of rosemary and it was DELISH!!!! : )

  17. That dijon marinade looks great – and I love that it has so few ingredients! So simple.

  18. Debbie Fisher says

    This is my favorite:
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup canola oil
    1/4 cup water
    2 TBSP lemon juice
    2 TBSP dried onion (I like to use green onion)
    1 TBSP parsley
    1/4 tsp ground ginger
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1/4 tsp garlic powder

    2 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts

  19. Monica says

    I’ve tried your dijon marinade a few times…delish!

    However, a few weeks ago was the first time that I prepared it for freezing. When I thawed the chicken, the texture was strange… kind of mushy like nanasewn described in her comment. We cooked it anyway, but it just wasn’t the same. Any hints?

    Thanks!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Monica, did you make it exactly like the recipe? I’m not sure what would do that. And, I guess I didn’t understand nanasewn’s question before. I can’t think that I’ve ever had that happen — except when I use lemon juice…. which is why I don’t use lemon juice for freezer chicken, usu. In those cases the lemon juice marinated chicken is tough. What was the cooked texture of this chicken?

      • sally says

        I want to try and marinating some chicken breasts. Love the receipes but I also have a question about some of the comments I read. About how a few people marinade the chicken, freezes it and when its thawed, the chicken is all mushy. I don’t want that to happen. So how can I avoid that, to be on a safe side?! Do I still marinade it using lemon or lime juice or no?

        • Jessica Fisher says

          I’ve not ever had a problem with mushy chicken. I’m honestly not sure why they are having trouble. It may depend on the chicken and if it were previously frozen.

          • Veee says

            Sometimes when you buy chicken at the store it has already been frozen and defrosted. So when you refreeze and then thaw/cook, it will have a strange texture. I’ve had this happen when I bought at Costco before. So maybe that is what is happening.

        • Carmon says

          Meat will get mushy in a marinade that has too much vinegar or acidic juices (lemon, lime, etc). It depends on how fast your freezer freezes the meat before the acid has time to “cook” the chicken. If you are having this issue then write on the bag (add lemon/lime/vinegar upon thawing) and that should be fine. You can open the bag while frozen, add the acid, then thaw it. This won’t allow any chemical cooking of the chicken before it’s time. Hope this helps! And I LOVE all of your recipes Ms. Jessica! Keep em coming!

        • Shelley says

          I would suggest making the marinade at the time you thaw the chicken -OR- freeze the marinade in a separate ziplock bag. Then when you take chicken out of the freezer, put it on the chicken as it thaws.

  20. Amanda says

    I did a mini-freezer cooking day and made the marinades. All of them were a huge hit…but my husband and I LOVED the dijon the most. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Jenn Papale says

    Jess – This is genious! I’ll try yours and then test my favorite marinades the next month. Thanks for the great ideas…as always!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Jenn Papale, genius, eh? That’s pretty cool. 😉 Thanks. I just did a bunch of this today.

  22. I’ve been trying to remember where i got these marinade recipes from. I have tried them, and I really like the dijon one.

  23. Stephanie says

    A little late to the party… but any meal I can hand off to hubby to cook is a winner! I got a great deal on fresh boneless skinless and will be trying these tomorrow!

  24. Amanda says

    What would be another way to cook these up after marinating that doesn’t involve a grill?

    • Jessica Fisher says

      You can cook them in the broiler or in a skillet. Just be sure not to overcook by either method.

  25. vera says

    what kind of oil do you mean when you say oil? thanks!

    • I use olive or sunflower. Those are my preferences. For the Asian recipe, I use the sunflower. You can use whatever vegetable oil you prefer.

  26. Karen Fogarty says

    Our favorite marinade is to use bottled, inexpensive Italian dressing. Quick, easy and the whole family loves it!

  27. DH says

    I do this all the time too, but I tend to make make of a rub than a marinade – dried seasonings with just enough oil to moisten the spices – maybe a teaspoon or so. I also trim and slice horizontally, and use the tenders as stir fry strip like someone else mentioned. The thin chicken filets thaw in the fridge while we’re at work, I stop and get a vegetable on my way home, and I can have dinner done in literally, about 15 minutes…

  28. Cathy S. says

    I recently purchased chicken breasts in bulk at a great price. I have always been under the impression that I could not use those in freezer meals as the meat can’t really be thawed and then refrozen. I suppose that I could just half-thaw and then add marinade?? Then refreeze? Any advice? Thank you.

    • Technically, you can refreeze chicken once it’s thawed. It’s a question of it staying at safe temperatures. Folks are given the advice NOT to refreeze thawed meat in case of an accidental thawing of the freezer when you don’t know if the meat got too hot. I plan to use frozen chicken pieces in my next cooking plan. I’ll just put them in a bag, add the marinade, and take it all back to the freezer. The marinating really happens as it thaws before serving anyway.

      • Cathy S. says

        Thanks so much for the quick reply! Looking forward to using some of your recipes.

  29. Sarah says

    My husband hates cilantro. Could you do the spicy sw chick without it?

  30. Harvey Martis says

    Hi. What if I get frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts from a super market, I will have to thaw that first, then marinate it and again freeze it. On the pack of the frozen chicken it says DO NOT RE-FREEZE.

    What’s the best option in this case?

    • If you’re buying the frozen chicken in the bag where they are individually frozen, you can simply put the frozen chicken pieces in the bag of marinade and place it back in the freezer. If your chicken is in one big frozen block of pieces stuck together, you can freeze the marinade separately and just combine them once thawed or just make the marinade when you thaw the chicken and let it marinate then. You can also thaw, marinade, cook, cool, and freeze the cooked chicken. Lots of options, it just depends on how you buy your chicken.

  31. Jen Lamping says

    Just a quick observation – when I clicked on the “Print this recipe” link for the Marinates – all of the links (including the salsa verde and Dijon) bring up the Asian marinate…thought you’d want to know 🙂

    • Thank you for letting me know. I’ll see if we can fix that.

    • It’s a half-fix. You can print all three on one page, but there’s no way to print them separately. Sorry about that!

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