A list of tried & true, easy pork marinade recipes suitable for chops, steaks, tenderloin, roasts, skewers, stir fries and more!
- Go straight to the Recipes or read:
- What Does a Marinade Do – Why Marinate Pork?
- Pork Marinade Tips – Heed These Dos and Don’ts
- How Long to Marinate Pork For?
Why Marinate Pork?
The principal reason to marinate pork cuts is to flavor the surface of the meat. This is of course achieved by way of taste infusion from the marinade ingredients.
Contrary to what many people believe, a marinade does not tenderize the meat (with a handful of exceptions related to specific enzymes) nor does it prevent it from drying out during most cooking methods.
With leaner cuts of pork it is necessary to brine before you marinate in order for the cooked meat to be juicy. For more on this topic read When to Brine, When to Marinate and Can You Do Both?
Pork Marinade Tips – Dos & Don’ts
- Balanced flavors. A good pork marinade strikes a balance between its ingredients – fat, acidity, savory and spicy flavors, aromatics and sweetness. A bit of salt is fine, but do not go overboard as salt dries out meat. Instead, season the already marinated pork with salt right before cooking. When composing your own marinade be sure to cover the bases first (fat and acid) then emphasize the ingredient you want to come through the most. Go easy on the sweet element because sugar burns quickly.
- Pork marinade ingredients ratio. As a rule of thumb use a ratio of
- 3 parts fat : 1 part acid : all other ingredients to taste
- In some instances when a mild acid such as beer or hard apple cider is used you can increase the acidic ingredient a bit.
- Excess acidity. If making your own marinade – refrain from adding too much of a richly acidic ingredient (ex. vinegar or citrus juice). A prolonged exposure to high acidity can make the meat tough. (Our recipes below are carefully calibrated to avoid this issue.)
- Marinade texture. While sometimes it is easier to blend all the ingredients in a marinade you definitely do not need to. Given time thinly sliced garlic or onions and picked rosemary or thyme leaves will impart plenty of flavor. A smooth marinade is not necessarily going to perform better.
- Marinade to pork ratio. Use just enough marinade to generously cover the meat’s surface.
- Contrary to popular belief you do not need to consider the total weight of the pork when you consider how much marinade you need.
- What really matters is the total surface area of the pork since the marinade only flavors the surface and does not penetrate deep into the meat.
- As a quick illustration – a three pound pork collar has a lot less surface area than the same three pound pork collar that has been cut into steaks. Therefore you will need less marinade for the whole collar and using twice the amount will not translate to better tasting meat.
- Non-reactive container. Because most pork marinades include an acidic ingredient such as vinegar, citrus juice, wine or beer be sure to use glass, plastic or other non-reactive container (stainless steel is fine, but not aluminum).
- Refrigerate. Always marinate refrigerated.
- Turning/massaging. If you can, it is always a good idea to engage with the pork as it is marinating and occasionally take it out of the fridge to turn it over and ensure that the marinade covers all of its surface areas adequately. If marinating in a freezer bag then you can also gently move around the pork with your hands and ‘massage’ it.
- Freezing a marinade. Whenever you end up with an excess quantity of marinade you can easily freeze it in a zip-close bag for later use.
- Do not rinse off marinade. Gently scrape off the marinade from the pork and leave a thin coating (never rub the marinade completely off).
- Safety first. Do not re-purpose a used marinade as a dipping sauce, salad dressing, basting liquid or glaze to brush over the already cooked pork. Bacteria from the meat’s surface can easily contaminate the marinade and cause sickness because it was not brought up to the necessary temperature to kill the bacteria during the types of uses listed above. Always discard a used pork marinade OR only use it to marinate more pork, on the same day and either freeze it or refrigerate it. If you want to use a marinade you mixed as a glaze, sauce etc. reserve a small amount of it from the beginning and set it aside until you need it.
How Long to Marinate Pork For?
Smaller pieces of pork (ex. skewered country style ribs) need less time than bigger ones (ex. roast sized loin). In general, you can marinate pork for thirty minutes and up to twenty four hours. Ideally from 4 hours to overnight.
There are are two notable exceptions to the ideal time frame:
- enzymes/yogurt (lactic acid) – if your marinade includes juice from fresh pineapple, papaya, melon or figs a fast acting, protein breaking enzymes contained in these fruits can easily over-tenderize the pork (for example the al pastor marinade recipe below). A marinade that contains yogurt can do the same on account of lactic acid. Keep your pork for less time in enzyme or lactic acid rich marinades.
- highly acidic ingredient – if a marinade is heavily skewed toward a bold acid such as a strong vinegar or citrus juice the meat can easily become tough, therefore you should limit the marinating time. Strong acid denatures meat proteins and the pork can become tough.
TIP: Always bring refrigerated marinated pork to room temperature before you begin cooking. Always thaw frozen marinated pork in the fridge. Once completely thawed treat it as if it were recently refrigerated.
Pork Marinade Recipes
1. Dijon, ACV & Aromatics
Especially good for pork steaks, all types of pork chops and pork loin roast. Apple cider vinegar is very mild so the addition of Dijon does not tip the acid-fat balance but adds flavor and acts as an emulsifier. Full list of ingredients and instructions in the Recipe Card below.
2. Cuban Mojo Pork Marinade
Typically prepared for pork roasts, this is one of the most famous pork marinades in the world. Traditionally made with bitter orange juice, but fresh squeezed lime juice works well too. Lots of garlic and oregano, truly a flavorful mixture. It works great for pork shoulder chops in oven or grilled and pan-seared pork neck chops. Go to the Recipe Card.
3. Hard Apple Cider & Sage
Perfect for whole pork roasts, tenderloin or baked pork chops. Go to the Recipe Card.
4. Curry Ginger
Packed with South Asian flavors and great for pork tenderloin, loin, ham, pork belly, pork shoulder, tenderloin and ham. Go to the Recipe Card.
Mostly known in conjunction with Vietnamese pork chops, but try it with pork skewers or grilled whole pork neck fillet. If you can get your hands on fresh lemon grass – by all means use it as opposed to dried (which you need to soak before you can use it) or lemon grass paste. Go to the Recipe Card.
6. Char Siu Inspired Pork Marinade
Char siu (叉烧), also known as Chinese barbecue sauce, is finger licking good so be sure to reserve some of the marinade to slather all over the pork once its cooked. All cuts of pork get excited about their prospects when this marinade is in their future. Go to the Recipe Card.
7. Al Pastor Pork Marinade
The classic marinade for tacos al pastor is made with fresh pineapple chunks and tenderizes the pork in addition to flavoring it. Do not go overboard with the time you let your pork spend in it (see How Long to Marinade Pork For above). Al pastor is perfect for country style ribs and pork shoulder and must be made in the blender. Go to the Recipe Card.
8. Garlic, Cumin & Fresh Herbs
This one is a favorite for pan-seared or grilled pork chops. Fresh flavors from rosemary, thyme and garlic with a savory depth from cumin – one of the most pork compatible spice. We add mild acidity by way of a flavorful, low bitterness beer. Go to the Recipe Card.
9. Pilsner & Paprika
10. Peachy Pork Marinade
Everyone loves a pork chop with grilled peach slices or a tenderloin topped with peach salsa. This pork marinade uses fresh grated peach flesh (we used white peach for the picture) and lots of thyme and makes a particularly great choice for summer grilling. If you are feeling adventurous, add a tablespoon of bourbon to the recipe below. Go to the Recipe Card.
Free Style Pork Marinade
A few final tips you might find useful when making your own tasty marinades for pork – besides keeping in mind the loose guideline proportion of 3 parts fat : 1 part acid : all other ingredients to taste.
Use Premade Sauces and Condiments to Marinate Pork
Store-bought or homemade barbecue sauce, sweet chili sauce, beer mustard or other mustard you fancy, sriracha sauce, teriyaki sauce, various chutneys, even buttermilk in combination with a bit of neutral oil make for a great pork marinade.
Use Pork Marinades with Beer when Grilling
Marinades in which the acidic ingredient is beer have an important property when it comes to charcoal grilling the pork made with them.
Beer has been found to inhibit the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – carcinogenic substances found on the surface of charcoal-grilled meats. Marinating pork destined for the charcoal grill in a marinade with beer has shown to stop the harmful PAHs from reaching significant levels. Darker beers are thought to have a stronger effect.
How to Make a Keto Pork Chop Marinade
Remember – the marinade simply adds flavor to the meat surface. Therefore the fact that it may include a sweetener as a balancing agent to the rest of the ingredients will most certainly not throw off a keto diet because the marinade is not being consumed.
To be absolutely sure use a lower glycemic index sweetener or skip the sweetener altogether and design the marinade to highlight an herb or a spice.
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DIJON, ACV & AROMATICS
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 6-7 sprigs thyme (or 1/2 tbsp dried)
- 1 shallot, sliced thin
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 4 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/3 cup neutral cooking oil or olive oil
- 8-10 garlic cloves, crushed then minced really fine
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coarse salt
APPLE CIDER & SAGE
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1/3 cup olive oil or neutral cooking oil
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 3-4 sprigs sage (about 10 leaves)
- 1/2 tbsp green peppercorns (optional)
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/3 cup neutral cooking oil
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp yellow curry powder (increase to taste)
- 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 4-5 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil (or other neutral cooking oil)
- 1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp shallot, finely chopped
- 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and finely chopped (or 2 tbsp dried or 2 tbsp lemon grass paste)
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 1/2 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 tsp Chinese five spice
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cups of fresh pineapple, diced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp achiote powder (increase chili powder if not using)
- 1 tbsp Mexican oregano
- 2 tsp salt
- 6 oz orange juice (or dark Mexican lager)
- 6 oz pineapple juice
GARLIC, CUMIN & FRESH HERBS
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup malty beer (Czech pils, dark Mexican lager, amber ale, dunkel, bock etc)
- 3 cloves garlic, halved and smashed
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 tsp pepper
PILSNER & PAPRIKA
- 1 cup flavorful malty pilsner (Czech pils, Munich helles, Mexican lager, American craft pilsner in this style)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 1/2 tbsp garlic powder ( or 2 cloves garlic, minced)
- 1/2 tbsp cumin
- 5 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1/2 tbsp dried)
- pinch of coarse salt
- 1 large peach, peeled and flesh grated
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 7-8 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 1 tbsp bourbon (optional)
DIJON, ACV & AROMATICS
Whisk all the ingredients together adding the thinly sliced shallot and thyme in the end.
Whisk all the ingredients together.
APPLE CIDER & SAGE
Whisk all the ingredients and add the sage at the end.
Use a zester to grate the ginger root. Vigorously whisk together all the ingredients adding the optional kaffir lime leaves at the end. Taste and adjust ingredients to taste.
If using dried lemon grass soak in water for 2 hours before making the marinade. Mix all the ingredients together.
Stir together all the ingredients. Set aside 3 tbsp to use as a glaze and marinate in the remaining quantity.
In a blender combine the diced onion, pineapple chunks, garlic, chili and achiote, oregano, salt, orange juice and pineapple juice. Pulse until blended.
GARLIC, CUMIN & FRESH HERBS
Whisk all the ingredients together adding the fresh herbs last.
PILSNER & PAPRIKA
Whisk all the ingredients together adding the fresh oregano last.
Whisk the grated peach with the honey and lemon juice first. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper, whisk again and add the thyme. If using bourbon whisk it in last.
Nutrition information for pork marinades is irrelevant and therefore not provided. The marinade only flavors the surface of the pork and is not consumed.