Be the star of any summer barbecue with these healthy marinades for decadent grilled chicken

By Candice Kumai

Memorial Day means that grilling season is officially here. But don't let it wreck your diet: You can eat clean and still indulge in your favorite summer foods-all you need is a little know-how.

These three simple and clean marinades guarantee the tastiest, juiciest BBQ chicken you've ever tasted. You'll be the hit of any backyard cookout.

RELATED: Follow our 30-day countdown to your best summer body and great the season looking hotter than ever!

Mom's Garlic-Ginger BBQ Chicken

Candice Kumai

My mother has been cooking her chicken with three simple ingredients for a lifetime: soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. This five-ingredient marinade is free of preservatives, sugars, and chemical-no BBQ sauce in a bottle can match that!

Serves: 4 to 6


1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sesame oil, divided

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)


1. Place soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag (or large bowl). Seal and vigorously shake or whisk to combine. Add chicken, seal the bag (or cover the bowl with plastic wrap), and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

2. Heat a grill pan over high heat, or heat your charcoal or gas grill to high. Using a silicone brush or a wad of paper towels and tongs, grease grill with remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Grill chicken until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes total, cooking in batches, if necessary. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Hint: Some grills have "hot spots" and flames that vary. Check your grill for regular maintenance and test the heat with one piece of protein prior to cooking all of your chicken.

Photo credit: Candice Kumai

Simple Apricot-Glazed

BBQ Chicken

Candice Kumai

This sweet-yet-savory BBQ glaze, created with basic pantry supplies, is perfect for summer. Just glaze and grill!

Serves: 4


Olive oil


1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, breasts, or drumsticks

1/2 cup reduced-sugar apricot preserves

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon spicy brown or Dijon mustard


1. Preheat a clean grill or a grill pan to medium heat and lightly coat with olive oil.

2. Salt chicken and place gently on the grill for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together apricot preserves, soy sauce, brown sugar, and spicy brown mustard until incorporated.

4. Baste chicken with glaze using a clean paint brush. Cook for 6 minutes on one side, then flip to coat the other side with remaining glaze and continue cooking until firm to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Photo credit: Candice Kumai

Tequila Lime BBQ Chicken

Candice Kumai

When I lived in sunny San Diego, tequila with lime was always one of my favorite pairings. Serve this chicken with fresh mango salsa, chips, guacamole, and some margaritas, and you've got a recipe for the perfect summer party!

Serves: 4


2 tablespoons high-quality tequila

1/4 cup low-sodium tamari soy sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili flakes

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks

Olive oil


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together tequila, soy sauce, olive oil, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, and lime juice. Place chicken into marinade and coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 30 minutes or up to overnight.

2. Preheat a clean grill or a grill pan to medium heat and lightly coat with olive oil. Place chicken gently on the grill for approximately 6 minutes on each side, cooking until firm to the touch.

Photo Credit: Candice Kumai

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