5 Ingredients or Fewer

Back-Pocket Marinade for Grilled Chicken

October  4, 2022
6 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.
  • Prep time 6 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook time 8 minutes
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

An overachieving marinade for grilled chicken that comes together with two ingredients: mayonnaise and hot sauce. The oil and egg yolks in mayonnaise enrich the lean meat and help it char more confidently on the grill. Meanwhile, the hot sauce adds zing from vinegar, kick from chiles, and whatever salt and spices are in your chosen brand. I’ve tried and loved Cholula and Frank’s for this recipe, but I can’t wait to hear what you come up with. The whole point of this marinade is to be flexible, so see what’s in your pantry and roll with that. What’s more: These two ingredients also morph into a dipping sauce. I like a one-to-four ratio, but adjust it to taste until it’s spoon-licking-good. You’re the dipper after all. And if you want to put this marinade-slash-sauce toward any other grilled meat? Go for it—and let me know what you think in the comments below. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is a part of Mayo Week—seven days celebrating all things mayonnaise—presented in partnership by our friends at Primal Kitchen. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Back-Pocket Marinade for Grilled Chicken
  • Marinated chicken
  • 2 or 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 to 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons hot sauce (see Author Notes)
  • 1 pinch kosher salt (optional)
  • Spicy mayo
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, plus more to taste
  1. Marinate the chicken: Halve the chicken breasts horizontally. (If you’re an overachiever, you can also pound them to an even thickness for more even cooking.) Add them to a container or a zip-top bag. Combine the mayo, hot sauce, and a big pinch of salt (if you’re using it) in a bowl. Pour this marinade over the chicken and make sure the meat is fully covered. Refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.
  2. When you’re ready to eat, heat a grill to high for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. While that’s heating up, remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and use your hands to squeeze off as much marinade as possible (this helps it brown better).
  4. Oil the grill grates, then add the chicken. Cover the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until charred. Flip, cover again, and cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until charred on the other side and cooked through (165°F). Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Let rest for a few minutes while you make the spicy mayo: Combine both ingredients and taste. Does it need more hot sauce? Adjust as needed.
  6. Serve the grilled chicken with the spicy mayo for dunking.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Janet Martin
    Janet Martin
  • Andrew Wilson
    Andrew Wilson
  • Alan Foster
    Alan Foster
  • Gretchen
  • Bonnie
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

18 Reviews

AlwaysLookin June 11, 2023
Try Melinda's Sauce, they have every flavor imaginable!! Also love your Jacket!!!!
smrock June 4, 2023
I'm marinating the chicken now and plan to use the chicken like a Buffalo-style chicken sandwich, only without the frying. Perhaps my favorite part of the video was seeing the chicken being marinated in a leftover carry-out container rather than a plastic bag that will need to be thrown out. Sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest impact.
Jen V. July 7, 2022
So easy! So Delish! This is my new go to for grilled chicken.
Alissa August 27, 2021
This recipe is fantastic! I used Frank’s, and we’ve now had this for dinner twice this week. I didn’t make any dipping sauce, because the chicken was so flavorful on its own. This recipe is a definite keeper!
Janet M. July 23, 2021
Simple and delicious. I used gochujang sauce in the recommended hot sauce quantities for a heat that was perfect for my family's tastes. I might reduce by half, particularly for the dipping sauce, if serving to folks not as heat loving as we.
Andrew W. May 31, 2021
Oooo I wonder how it will come out if it try pickapeppa sauce? One way to find out I guess.
Andrew W. June 8, 2021
It came out OK with pickapeppa. The sweetness of the mango was probably a little too pronounced, but all in all pretty tasty.
Alan F. April 5, 2021
Do you think this would work as a marinade in a sous vide cooker, as in: marinade in bag, cook with marinade, then remove excess and finish on cast iron or grill?
Emma L. April 5, 2021
I don't see why not! I'm not very sous vide–versed, but would love to hear how it goes if you give it a try.
Andrew W. June 8, 2021
Mine came out fine after sous vide with the marinade in the bag. My homemade mayo broke at some point in the cooking, which was pretty unappetizing, but the chicken tasted fine after grilling.
Gretchen April 1, 2021
Delicious and so easy! One of the tastiest recipes with so little effort. I don’t have a grill so I sautéed the chicken in a cast iron skillet. I scraped off most of the marinade but the small remnants gave the chicken a lovely rosy hot sauce colored hue.
I served with roasted rainbow carrots and Brussels sprouts- the sweet savory caramelization of the veggies was a perfect compliment to the creamy spicy chicken. Thank you Emma for an outstanding recipe!
Emma L. April 2, 2021
So happy to hear it, thanks Gretchen!
Dan F. March 30, 2021
Just a reminder: Please do not use the mayo/hot sauce marinade as any part of your dipping/dunking sauce! There are marinades that have touched raw poultry or pork that can be safely heated to the proper temp to serve double duty as dipping sauces, but I doubt anyone can pull that off with a mayo-based marinade.
Bonnie March 30, 2021
Always SO excited to see s née Big, Little Recipe. This is on the menu this weekend. Thank you Emma.
Emma L. March 31, 2021
Thanks, Bonnie, hope you enjoy!
S.Neubeck March 30, 2021
I happen to like the taste of tamarind. The 2 most well known products are HP Brown Sauce and Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce. Both are becoming difficult to find . Yes I have put them on chicken.
Deborah J. March 31, 2021
You're in luck. All sizes of HP-B on Amazon, even by the gallon, and probably same for L&PW. As much as i love these two, the one I really crave with tamarind is Pick-a-pepper Sauce - haven't looked on A. yet, next order.
Rosalind P. March 31, 2021
Don't/won't use Amazon. I'm not alone. Try other sources if you agree.