Can You Use BBQ Sauce As A Marinade For Chicken



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Grilling season is upon us, and one question on many people’s minds is: Can you use BBQ sauce as a marinade for chicken? In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the world of marinades and BBQ sauces to answer that burning query.

Not only will we discuss the pros, cons, and factors to consider when using BBQ sauce as a marinade but also share tips for maximizing flavor with your chosen sauce.

Key Takeaways

  • BBQ sauce can be used as a marinade for chicken, but it is important to consider the type of sauce and its ingredients.
  • When marinating chicken with BBQ sauce, it is essential to choose the appropriate amount of marinade and not over-marinate to avoid dryness or an overpowering flavor.
  • Adding acid like lemon juice or vinegar in the marinade can help balance out the sweetness and enhance flavors while tenderizing the meat.
  • Choosing homemade BBQ sauces made with fresh ingredients offer healthier alternatives with fewer preservatives and additives.

Understanding Chicken Marinades And BBQ Sauce

Marinades and BBQ sauce are both used to add flavor to grilled chicken, but they differ in their composition and purpose.

Differences Between Marinades And BBQ Sauce

Differences Between Marinades And BBQ Sauce

Marinades and BBQ sauces both enhance the flavor of your grilled meals, but they serve differing purposes. A marinade penetrates the meat to add flavor from within while tenderizing it, whereas a barbecue sauce coats the outside of the food to provide moisture and protect against drying out during cooking.

The key difference between marinades and BBQ sauces lies in their composition; typically, marinade ingredients will contain more acidic ingredients like vinegar or citrus juice and may also include enzymes that help break down the protein structure in meats.

For instance, you might marinate the chicken overnight in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, herbs, and salt – resulting in tenderized and flavorful meat ready for grilling.

As you grill this chicken on medium heat, you could brush on some tangy-sweet honey-mustard barbecue sauce periodically throughout cooking to maintain moisture levels on the outer layers.

Can You Use BBQ Sauce As A Marinade For Chicken?

Yes, you can use BBQ sauce as a marinade for chicken, but there are factors to consider and pros and cons to weigh before doing so.

Pros And Cons

Using BBQ sauce as a marinade for chicken can have its advantages and disadvantages, depending on factors like the type of sauce used, marinating time, and personal preferences. Below are some pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to marinate chicken in BBQ sauce:


  1. Enhanced flavor: Marinating chicken in BBQ sauce can add a delicious smokey, tangy, or sweet flavor to the meat that complements the natural taste of chicken.
  2. Tenderization: Some ingredients in BBQ sauces, such as vinegar or citrus juices, can help tenderize the meat which makes it more enjoyable to eat.
  3. Versatility: There are numerous types of BBQ sauces available with varying flavors, allowing you to experiment with different tastes and create unique dishes.
  4. Time-saver: Using BBQ sauce as a marinade is an easy way to incorporate rich flavor without needing a lot of extra ingredients or preparation time.


  1. Dryness potential: Marinating chicken in a highly acidic or spicy BBQ sauce for too long may cause the meat to become dry and less appealing.
  2. Overpowering flavor: If too much BBQ sauce is used or if the marinade time is excessive, it could potentially overpower the natural flavor of the chicken.
  3. Allergens and dietary restrictions: Some commercial BBQ sauces contain gluten, sugar, or high levels of sodium which may be unsuitable for certain individuals with specific dietary needs or health concerns.
  4. Burn risk: The sugars commonly found in most BBQ sauces can lead to faster burning during cooking, especially on high heat. This increases the risk of creating charred bits that can potentially produce harmful compounds when consumed regularly.

By considering these pros and cons along with your personal preferences and limitations, you can make an informed decision on whether using BBQ sauce as a BBQ chicken marinade is suitable for your recipe or not.

Factors To Consider

There are several factors to consider when using BBQ sauce as a marinade for chicken. First, take into account the type of BBQ sauce you will be using because they come in various flavors and consistencies.

Some sauces might be sweet, tangy, or spicy, while others can have a thick or thin consistency.

Another critical factor is the presence of acidic components such as vinegar or hot sauce in your chosen BBQ sauce since it can affect the texture and tenderness of your marinated chicken.

For example, an excess amount of acidity may lead to overly tenderized meat with a mushy texture by breaking down its proteins excessively during marination.

Tips For Marinating Chicken With BBQ Sauce

To ensure a delicious and tender chicken, consider these tips when marinating with BBQ sauce: choose the right sauce for your taste buds, use an appropriate amount to avoid overpowering the flavor of the chicken, marinate for at least 30 minutes up to overnight, and add some acid like lemon juice or vinegar to help tenderize the meat.

Choosing The Right BBQ Sauce

Choosing the right BBQ sauce is crucial when it comes to marinating chicken. It’s best to pick a sauce that complements the flavors of the other ingredients in your dish.

For example, if you’re making a spicy chicken dish, consider using a hot and smoky BBQ sauce to add an extra kick of flavor.

Furthermore, it’s important to check the ingredient label before choosing your BBQ sauce. Some store-bought sauces may contain high amounts of sodium or sugar which can overpower the natural flavors of your chicken.

Consider homemade sauces made with fresh ingredients as they offer healthier alternatives with fewer preservatives and additives.

Using Appropriate Amounts

Choosing the appropriate amount of BBQ sauce marinade for your chicken is crucial to achieving a perfect balance of flavors. You want to ensure that your chicken is fully coated in the marinade but not drowning in it, as this can lead to an overpowering taste.

As a general rule of thumb, one cup of marinade per pound of meat should suffice.

One helpful tip when using BBQ sauce as a marinade for the chicken is to reserve some of the sauce for brushing onto the meat during grilling. This will infuse additional flavor while keeping the chicken from becoming too saucy or sticky.

Additionally, adding some acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to the marinade can help balance out the sweetness and add extra depth to your dish.

Marinating For The Right Time

When marinating chicken with BBQ sauce, timing is crucial. Marinating for too little time will result in a dull flavor while marinating for too long can affect the texture of the chicken.

Generally, marinating chicken in BBQ sauce should be kept under 24 hours to prevent any adverse effects.

It’s also important to consider the size and cut of the chicken pieces when deciding on marination time. Smaller pieces like wings may require less time compared to larger cuts like breasts or thighs.

Removing the skin can also help absorb more flavors from the marinade.

Adding Acid To The Marinade

Adding acid to a chicken marinade can help tenderize the meat and enhance its overall flavor. However, it’s essential to use the right balance of acidic ingredients to avoid over-acidification, which can make the meat tough and dry.

Moreover, wine or beer can also be added as an acid source that complements other flavors in the marinade. When marinating with BBQ sauce as a base, consider adding lemon juice or vinegar alongside other tasty ingredients like honey or soy sauce for a balanced taste that elevates your dish’s flavor profile.


In conclusion, using BBQ sauce as a marinade for the chicken is a simple and flavorful way to add some excitement to your meals.

Final Thoughts On Using BBQ Sauce As A Marinade

In conclusion, BBQ sauce can be a great marinade option for chicken as it adds flavor and helps tenderize the meat. However, it’s important to keep in mind that BBQ sauce contains sugar which can burn easily if cooked at high heat for too long.

It’s also important to choose the right type of BBQ sauce based on your taste preferences and the flavors you want to bring out in the chicken. Marinating time should also be considered carefully, with most recipes calling for 30 minutes to overnight marinating time depending on how much flavor is desired.

Adding acid like lemon juice or vinegar will not only add more flavor but help tenderize the chicken even further.

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