How Do I Choose the Best Yogurt Marinade?

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  • Written By: Cynde Gregory
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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A good marinade for meat, fish, or vegetables includes an acidic base that helps break down connective tissue to make the food more tender along with one or more flavoring agents. While many cooks regularly tenderize cuts of meat using vinegar or wine, not everyone knows that yogurt-based marinades are a wonderful way to prepare foods for outdoor or indoor grilling. Yogurt’s sassy zing combines well with any number of flavor enhancers from garlic and ginger to lime and curry. The ingredients added to make the best yogurt marinade largely depend on the type of food and cooking style.

The length of time a food should marinate is generally determined by what it is. While beef can handle an overnight soak, chicken and fish are more delicate, and a strong, acid-based marinade can turn them to mush if they remain in the bath too long. Yogurt marinade, however, is gentle enough to allow poultry to soak up its flavors for eight hours or more. Not only does yogurt break down connective tissue, but it also suffuses meat so that, when it is grilled, it doesn’t dry out so easily.

Lamb and yogurt have been paired in Mediterranean cooks’ kitchens for eons. Lamb chops or chunks cut for shish kabob can take a nice long swim in a yogurt-based marinade to which mint, garlic, and lemon have been added. Instead of lemon, wine vinegar or white wine can stand in.


A favorite quick meal for cooks around the globe is tandoori chicken. This Indian dish features yogurt marinade that includes garlic and ginger, a splash of vinegar, and seasonings such as garam masala powder or paste as well as ground cumin. The marinade protects the roasting chicken, which means it can be cooked in a very hot oven or grill without drying out.

Fish steaks such as tuna or swordfish benefit from a deep sea dive into a fragrant herbal yogurt marinade. This one adds equal parts mayonnaise, a splash of milk, and tarragon to the mix. For extra pizzazz, lime zest kicks in a nice high note, or a drop or two of hot sauce can be used instead.

Coconut milk added in a 2:1 mix to yogurt marinade is another way to go. This marinade lends a Thai sensibility to chicken, fish, or meat. Ginger, curry paste, or powder and garlic deepen the flavors, and some fresh cilantro sparkles it up a notch. A little peanut butter adds an amazing richness, particularly to chicken, without overwhelming it.


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Post 3

Yogurt marinade is great, but if you use too much of it, or use very watery yogurt, the food doesn't come out as well. I made that mistake one time. The yogurt marinade was too much and turned into curd while the meat was being cooked. Not the most pleasant result. I learned later that I only need several spoonfuls, or one spoonful of yogurt marinade per piece of meat.

The yogurt marinade I've had the best result with so far is the marinade for yogurt kabob. It's made with thick Greek yogurt rich in protein, garlic, tomatoes, butter and oregano. I cook the tomatoes and garlic in butter with oregano first. Later when it's cool, I add the yogurt, mix in the meat and marinate overnight. You can make this with beef, lamb or even chicken. I promise you, it will be the best kabob you have tasted.

Post 2

@simrin-- Chicken marinated in yogurt is very popular in Southeast Asian cuisine. My family is from India and many of the chicken dishes we cook at home is marinated that way.

My grandmother makes an amazing chicken dish marinated in basically the same recipe you described. The only difference is that I don't think she adds any lemon. She does put onion, nuts, oil, and lots of spices like cinnamon, chili and turmeric though. She also uses full-fat yogurt because it's more tasty.

Have you ever made a yogurt marinade with fruit before? For some reason, I think that the combination of fruit and yogurt would be really good for a marinade. I'm familiar with the use of onions, garlic and scallions in yogurt marinades, but I've never heard anyone use fruit.

Post 1
I love yogurt marinades. I feel like they do a much better job than marinades based entirely on oil and lemon juice. For some reason, yogurt absorbs really well into meats. I also completely agree with the article that it particularly does wonders on chicken.

I made tandoori chicken with yogurt marinade once in the oven and it turned out really well. I've even marinated chicken meant to be cooked on the stove in this yogurt marinade a couple of times and it worked that way too. The recipe I use is really simple. It's finely chopped onions in plain yogurt with a splash of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. The rest is dry spices.

I keep the chicken in this marinade overnight in the fridge and cook it the next day. The result is a juicy, soft, flavorful chicken dish.

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