Choose Your Own Ending Marinade Sauce

Susan Feliciano


Remember those books where you could “choose your own ending,” by picking A, B, or C and following that line of writing? This recipe is similar to that. You choose your own flavors, ending up with a very tasty marinade that can be used for most meats, including beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and fish and seafood, even tofu or tempeh.

When using marinades follow this food safety tip: Do not serve the marinade that your meat soaked in, unless you cook it for at least as long as your meat. You can boil used marinade on top of the stove for at least 10 minutes, then thicken it with a starch and/or butter, and use it as a sauce.


★★★★★ 6 votes

2+ cups
10 Min



  • 1/2 c
    any type of vinegar, or half vinegar/half lemon or lime juice. you can also use all lemon or lime juice, but the flavor will be terribly intense. it’s usually better to dilute the lemon/lime juice with a little distilled vinegar, or rice wine vinegar
  • ·
    which are both mild. if using all vinegar, experiment with different flavors, such as red or white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, malt vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or cider vinegar.

  • 1 c
    just water if you like, but why not kick it up with some flavorful liquid? options are broths, wine, beer or ale, apple juice, tomato juice, and i’ve even seen one recipe that called for black coffee. any tasty liquid that is not too strong to drink
  • ·
    straight will work. you can also infuse herbs into water for flavor like a tea, such as basil, rosemary, or french lavender. don’t forget things like tomato paste if you want a thicker marinade.

  • 1/2 c
    olive oil is traditional, but there are other options. melted butter, or “ghee” is tasty. so are peanut butter or sesame butter. using these can be tricky, and sometimes it’s beneficial to thin these out with a little flavorless oil so they mix well.

  • 1-2 tsp
    or more, combined total. salt, pepper, and garlic powder are the backbone of many tasty marinades. try onion powder, celery seed, ground cumin seed, or ground coriander seed. oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, and sage all
  • ·
    make good additions, depending on what flavor combination you want. and don’t forget sweet spices – ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. they give a real punch to lamb, beef, and chicken.

  • 1 Tbsp
    sweetener. for good browning of your meat, be sure to add a sweetener. sugars are what give that nice browned or charred look and flavor to meat. white sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave, molasses, sorghum, maple syrup, even
  • ·
    pancake syrup can be used. don’t use sugar-free syrups because they won’t give that nice browning action. sugar-based fruit syrups work well, too, such as blueberry or blackberry pancake syrup.

  • 1/3 c
    (or more) here is where you can get really creative. condiments such as soy sauce, tamari, ketchup, asian fish sauce, hoisin sauce, plum sauce, various mustards, worcestershire sauce, chutneys, and even fruit preserves or jelly can all serve
  • ·
    as flavorings. here is where you would add in any liquors, such as rum, tequila, or brandy. use one alone, or a combination.

  • 1/4 - 1/2 c
    juice or tomatoes. these would be added to a marinade that had a more bland liquid base. lemon juice in a marinade with wine or broth for the liquid would be ideal. other options are apple juice, lime juice, orange juice, pomegranate,
  • ·
    pineapple, and other tropical juices, pureed tomatoes or tomato juice, even coconut milk.

  • ·
    if you like some bite to your grilled meats, be sure to add some cayenne pepper, or jalapeños to the marinade. hot pepper sauce is also a good option.

  • ·
    liquid smoke or chipotle pepper sauce will give the marinade an extra “on the grill” flavor.

How to Make Choose Your Own Ending Marinade Sauce


  1. Choose one or more from each category of ingredients. Measure your liquid so you get the overall concentration that you want: less liquid for more robust marinades, more for weaker marinades. Or dilute your liquid with water to the desired volume.
  2. Combine all these ingredients. Using a blender is fast and ensures even mixing.
  3. Place meat or tofu into a shallow dish and pour marinade over. Lift meat to allow marinade to run underneath. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Turn meat over halfway through marinating time. NOTE: Pork and soy products require less marinating time than poultry or seafood. Beef or lamb can withstand much more marinating time.
  4. Now all that’s left is to fire up the grill, throw on the meat, and brush on more marinade while cooking. If you want to use the marinade as a sauce, be sure to boil it on the stovetop at least 10 minutes so that any bacteria is destroyed.
    1 - SIMPLE MARINADE. Combine vinegar, butter, red pepper flakes, black papper, and brown sugar for a traditional Carolina Barbecue marinade. Great on pork or chicken.
    2 - CARIBBEAN MARINADE. Combine cider vinegar, chicken broth, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, sugar, a little Tequila or rum, Lime juice, and cayenne pepper. Use on chicken or shrimp.
    3 - HEARTY BEEF MARINADE. Combine sherry vinegar, ale, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground cumin or coriander, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and chopped jalapeno peppers. Great on steak or other cuts of beef.
  6. So you can see, the possibilities are endless.
    Enjoy your grill this season!

Printable Recipe Card

About Choose Your Own Ending Marinade Sauce

Main Ingredient: Pork
Regional Style: Southern
Dietary Needs: Vegetarian
Other Tag: Healthy
Hashtags: #tofu #tempeh #grilling

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