This pineapple chicken marinade is so good your family is going to gobble it up. It doesn’t use soy sauce or brown sugar, but still has a great sweet and savory flavor. With just a one-hour marinating time, you can have juicy baked or grilled pineapple chicken even on a busy weeknight.
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If you want a healthier version of a pineapple marinade for chicken, then this is the recipe for you.
Most pineapple marinades have soy sauce and brown sugar, but this one is naturally sweetened using just pineapple juice and coconut aminos. The aminos also replace the soy sauce and provide both a little bit of savoriness and sweetness that makes your chicken so good.
I grill a lot of chicken for my family (just see all the gluten free chicken recipes on this site for proof), and have a ton of different from-scratch sauce and marinade recipes. This marinade with coconut aminos is right up there as a family favorite, along with this balsamic marinade for chicken, this dijon mustard chicken marinade, and this Greek yogurt marinade for chicken.
You can use this pineapple juice chicken marinade with thighs or breasts – we have used it with both cuts of chicken and they turn out really tasty. We prefer boneless skinless thighs and breasts as they take less time to cook, which is important for us on a busy weeknight!
Read on for what goes into this marinade, tips for cooking chicken with it, and lots of helpful information!
Pineapple marinade ingredients
(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.)
- Pineapple juice – this should be canned or bottled. I buy a can of pineapple rings and use the juice from there, then eat the chicken I’m cooking in the marinade with the pineapple. You can also just buy pineapple juice on its own. See the tip further down in this post about marinating chicken in pineapple juice if you want to use fresh juice.
- Coconut aminos – this fills in for the soy sauce that’s typically in a pineapple marinade. It provides a bit of additional sweetness and a bit of savoriness.
- Apple cider vinegar – this recipe calls for vinegar as canned pineapple juice is less acidic than fresh. You can substitute white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar if needed.
- Garlic – use two large cloves or three small to medium-sized ones. If you really like garlic you can use a couple more in the marinade.
- Ground ginger – make sure your ginger isn’t old as otherwise it won’t be as flavorful. You can also replace it with 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger if you prefer.
- Kosher salt – I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt in this recipe. If you have a different brand of kosher salt, use this salt conversion chart from Epicurious to determine how much salt to use.
- Oil – you want a higher heat oil for this. I typically use avocado oil.
Making a pineapple juice marinade for chicken
Marinades are quite easy to make – just measure out the ingredients, add them together, then stir to combine!
I like to start by pouring the coconut aminos into a measuring cup, then adding all the other ingredients into that same measuring cup and stirring them with a small whisk. This way I’m not dirtying an additional bowl or jar.
Marinade storing tips
After making the pineapple marinade, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for at least one week.
You can also freeze the marinade. Place it in a freezer-safe container and it will keep for several months. When you’re ready to cook with it, completely thaw the marinade before putting it with any raw chicken.
If you’re going to freeze the marinade (or any liquid) in a mason jar, be sure and leave room at the top of the jar for the liquid to expand as it freezes. If you don’t, when the liquid tries to expand it will break the glass!
How to cook pineapple chicken
You can either grill or bake your pineapple marinated chicken. I am including brief instructions for both methods below, or you can see photos and detailed instructions for grilling in my separate posts for grilled pineapple chicken thighs and grilled pineapple chicken breast.
For either grilling or baking, you want to marinate the chicken in a plastic bag or other sealed container for one hour total. The first 40 minutes should be in the fridge and for the remaining 20 minutes place the chicken on the counter to let it warm slightly.
Tip for marinating chicken in pineapple juice
Because the chicken only marinates for 1 hour, it’s okay to use fresh or canned pineapple juice in this marinade. I would omit the apple cider vinegar if using fresh juice as you won’t need the additional acid.
When marinating with fresh pineapple juice, it has an enzyme called bromelain that will break down the meat if left for too long. Canned pineapple juice does not have this enzyme due to the high temperatures of the canning process.
This recipe makes enough to cook about 1.5 pounds of chicken. This equates to roughly 2 chicken breasts or anywhere from 4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs.
Cuts of chicken to use
Boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts are recommended when using this marinade. Bone-in meat takes longer to cook and because this marinade has natural sugars in it, it could result in the charring of your chicken, especially when grilling.
COOKING YOUR CHICKEN BREASTS EVENLY
When cooking chicken breasts, make sure each breast is the same thickness. This ensures it will cook more evenly which helps keep it from drying out!
Use a meat pounder or tenderizer to pound your chicken flat before marinating it. If you don’t have one, you can buy one at any of the following websites:
Baked pineapple chicken
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil, then place the chicken on the pan. Do not discard the marinade.
- Place the pan in the oven and cook the chicken for 15 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, make a glaze. Place a small saucepan over high heat and empty the used chicken marinade into it. Bring to a boil then let boil for at least 5 minutes, stirring with a whisk to avoid burning. (Yes, this is safe to do according to the USDA).
- When the 15 minutes are up, bring the chicken out and lightly brush the glaze onto it. Place back in the oven and cook for another 5 to 15 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes. If desired, brush additional glaze on top of the chicken and serve.
We LOVE our Thermoworks Thermapen ONE meat thermometer to quickly and easily check the internal temperatures of meats. We’ve used a Thermapen for years and they are AMAZING. Get one for yourself here.
Grilled pineapple chicken
- Preheat the grill to between 350 and 375 degrees F.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade with tongs and place it on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes. Do not discard the marinade.
- While the chicken is grilling, make a glaze. Place a small saucepan over high heat and empty the used chicken marinade into it. Bring to a boil then let boil for at least 5 minutes, stirring with a whisk to avoid burning.
- When the 5 minutes are up, open the lid and use the tongs to flip the chicken. Cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
- When the glaze is done, open the lid and brush the glaze onto each piece of chicken as it cooks. This can also be done after the chicken is finished cooking.
- Remove the chicken from the grill once cooked and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. If desired, brush additional glaze on top of the chicken and serve.
If you make this easy marinade for chicken, then don’t forget to leave a star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below!
Pineapple Juice Marinade for Chicken (No Soy Sauce!)
- Measure out the coconut aminos into a measuring cup. Measure out the other ingredients and place them in the cup with the aminos.
- Stir everything together with a whisk until it’s well combined.
- Alternatively you can place all the ingredients in a mason jar, cover it with a lid, and shake vigorously until the marinade is combined.
- This recipe makes enough marinade for around 1.5 pounds of chicken.
- The marinade can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or be frozen in a freezer-safe container for several months. Be sure to thaw completely before marinating chicken with it.