14 Store-Bought Marinade Brands, Ranked From Worst To Best

What's the easiest way to spice up a mundane dish? A great marinade! Simply add it to meats or meat substitutes along with veggies, then sauté or grill for an easy dinner everyone enjoys. Your toughest task will be choosing the best marinade for your recipe. Although both are seasoning options, marinades are not like dry rubs. Rubs are a dry mix of spices, while marinades contain liquids. This allows the seasonings to soak and soften your meats and veggies, as well as give them flavor. 

But not all marinades are equal. Some are best suited to enhance the essence of foods and bring out the full flavor of meats like chicken or pork. Others add new flavors to the dish and give it a specific regional profile, like mojo or teriyaki marinades. The key to getting the perfect flavorful soak is not only to be mindful of your timing but also to start with the best marinade possible. We tested several different brands to help you select the perfect one for your meal. Then, we ranked them from worst to best according to flavor, versatility, pricing, and nutritional content.

14. Great Value Lemon Pepper

One of the most versatile seasoning mashups is lemon pepper. It is believed to have originated in India, where both ingredients are abundant. Recently, lemon pepper chicken wings gained popularity as a regional dish in Atlanta, but the seasoning can also be used for other dishes. For example, it's an excellent citrusy ingredient to transform fries.

The acidic lemon in the seasoning easily translates it into a marinade, too. Walmart's Great Value brand seems a no-brainer at a price too low to resist. It looked right, so what could possibly go wrong? The trouble started the moment we tried to open the bottle. The cap seemed glued shut, and we had to break it to get it open. While that may have been a fluke, the aroma was not. It smelled more like ammonia than lemon. Hopefully, cooking would fix the problem.

Sadly, that was not the case. The Great Value lemon pepper marinade was too strong for vegetables. While it worked better on meat, there was no more than a hint of peppercorn flavor. It was also the only marinade that contained high fructose corn syrup — an ingredient we deemed unnecessary in a savory seasoning. That helped to land this marinade at the bottom of our ranking. 

13. Lawry's Mesquite with Lime Marinade

Mesquite is a seasoning derived from the mesquite tree, which is native to Mexico and the American Southwest. The pods of the tree are often ground and used in seasonings and marinades for beef and umami-rich meats, while the wood chips are often used for smoking. 

Lawry's Mesquite with Lime Marinade is part of its reasonably-priced 15-Minute Marinades line. It is very salty straight out of the bottle, with 330 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. After an overnight marinade and some time on the grill, the saltiness melts away and leaves a subtle mesquite flavor with a little kick. The charred sections were best, which leads us to believe that this marinade is better suited for grilling than stovetop cooking.

One of the ingredients in this marinade is caramel color, which is used to make foods brown. While the Food and Drug Administration has not restricted the use of the ingredient, this caramel color (4-MEI) is listed in California's Proposition 65 database after research indicated it caused tumors in lab animals. However, there has not been enough research to conclusively link any potential health risks to humans, but we'd still rather avoid it in the meantime. 

12. Salamida State Fair Spiedie Sauce

Spiedie, pronounced "speedy," sauce originated around Binghamton, New York. The idea for this sauce came from Italian immigrants who flavored their meat with a blend of Italian herbs. Eventually, the tangy and savory spices were blended into an oil and vinegar base to create this famous marinade. Because of its homegrown tradition, no two spiedies are alike. Every family has their own secret sauce recipe. Salamida State Fair Spiedie Sauce, which is gluten-free and vegan, is readily available to anyone who wants to try this marinade and get a consistent flavor with every grilling. 

Like all of the products we reviewed, this marinade has pros and cons. It was the only marinade that could be used as a topping for your Italian subs, which made it incredibly versatile. We found that an overnight marinade made the sauce taste even better. Overall, it imparted a hearty flavor to vegetables and brought out the inherent flavor of the chicken. Charred pieces tasted even better, making this an ideal sauce for grilling.

The downside was that this product contains monosodium glutamate (MSG). The Food and Drug Administration allows MSG to be used in food, and there hasn't been any conclusive evidence to show any health risks of eating this food additive. However, there is still a public reaction to MSG. Thus, we could not rank this marinade any higher.

11. Lawry's Herb & Garlic with Lemon Marinade

Next up is Lawry's Herb & Garlic with Lemon Marinade, which is a member of the brand's 15-Minute Marinades line. Straight of the bottle, this sauce is a bit acidic and quite salty. That's not surprising, considering it contains 330 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. It also contains finely minced vegetables, which may explain why it did not taste as good as a veggie marinade. While it is flavorful, this is a true marinade that does not work as a dressing. 

Using it on meat was a different story, however. The flavor was subtle, even after marinating the food overnight, but still tasty. It's a better choice than some of the lower-ranked sauces and has a hardier flavor than other lower-quality lemon pepper marinades we sampled. This Lawry's product also contains a small amount of soy, so be aware if you are serving it to anyone with a soy allergy.

10. Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos, Garlic

According to the organization Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), nearly 32 million Americans have food allergies. That includes 26 million adults — or about 11% of people over age 18. While the marinades on this list were often delicious, many contained soy. So, we wanted to include options that people with soy allergies could enjoy too. 

Coconut Secret is a fantastic soy sauce alternative brand. Instead of soybeans, the company uses coconut aminos to make its products. Coconut tree sap is harvested, processed, and filtered to produce a similarly-tasting alternative. Salt and seasonings are then added to achieve the right flavor.

Coconut Secret is keto-friendly, gluten-free, and certified USDA Organic. The garlic aminos contain 300 milligrams of sodium and 3 grams of sugar per tablespoon, which makes your dishes both salty and sweet. The taste is akin to teriyaki with added garlic. It's versatile for meat, veggies, rice, or Asian noodles. You may want to add a bit more salt to overcome the hint of coconut flavor in the background, but it's still a flavorful choice for anyone on a soy-free diet.

9. Badia Cilantro Lime & Garlic Marinade & Dressing

If you like cilantro, Badia's Cilantro Lime & Garlic Marinade & Dressing is a pretty good choice. Though, we thought that the flavor was too acidic to accommodate every vegetable. We recommend only using it for those veggies that marinate well in a vinegar-based solution. This makes sense, as it's one of the only products we reviewed that doubles as a dressing. Meanwhile, the marinated chicken made with this sauce was tasty but still a bit acidic. But you can subdue some of the acidity by serving it over plain or quinoa rice to absorb some of the tanginess. 

It's important to know, especially when serving this dressing at a party or celebration, that not everyone can tolerate the flavor of this dressing because of the cilantro. In fact, some people think cilantro tastes like soap, while others just have an aversion to the seasoning.

8. Badia Spices Mojo Marinade

Mojo criollo is a marinade from Cuba that is made with naranja agria: bitter or sour oranges, otherwise known as Seville oranges. Besides the citrus, mojo marinade also contains garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and various other seasonings. There are regional and individual variations of the sauce, which can be used on Cuban sandwiches, shrimp kebabs, and pork dishes. It is also great for mojo roasted chicken.

We were impressed by the mojo marinades we reviewed, including the Badia Spices Mojo Marinade. The company takes pride in food safety, as shown by its Safe Quality Foods certification. The sauce itself is gluten-free and MSG-free.

How did the Badia mojo taste? It was a bit salty and tangy. You could taste the influence of the juices, including the bitter orange. This might be a bit jarring for anyone not used to mojo sauce, but it left a delicious aftertaste. Badia's mojo marinade is a pretty good accompaniment for everything we made with it, but it is just a bit tangier and saltier than we expected.

7. Salamida Cornell-Style Chicken Bar-B-Que Sauce

While most of the marinades on this list are flexible for many types of foods, some are meant solely for one item. This is true of Salamida State Fair Cornell-style Chicken Bar-B-Que Sauce, which is lactose-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free.

While labeled a barbeque sauce, it does not look or smell like a traditional sauce. It's yellow with the consistency of vinegar. In fact, this was the only sauce we reviewed that contained apple cider vinegar. You can also spice it up with ketchup, honey, or fresh garlic for a more profound flavor. 

We found that Salamida chicken sauce works best as a 24-hour marinade. Upon opening and tasting, the sauce immediately brought chicken to mind. Instead of testing vegetables on this one, we only tested it on chicken. It was tasty but mild and probably required a longer saturation time, which is also recommended on the bottle. When using this marinade, stick to chicken dishes for the best flavor. 

6. Iberia Mojo Criollo

There's enough room in this town for more than one mojo sauce. We wanted to compare different marinades with the same culturally unique flavor to see how the tastes compared. Iberia's Mojo Criollo fits the bill because it was both readily available and quite affordable.

Unlike some of its competitors, this mojo marinade does not contain bitter orange. But, it does list both orange and grapefruit juice from concentrate. This gave the marinade a completely different flavor than the other mojo sauce we tried. There was much less tang to it, making it more palatable and flexible. This marinade can be easily used for all kinds of foods and recipes. It is also more readily available to use as a dipping sauce.

But the question remains: Is it true mojo without the bitter orange? That is a question for purists. However, Iberia's sauce may be a milder way to introduce this unique flavor to anyone looking to expand their palate. 

5. Grace Jamaican-Style Jerk Marinade

Chef Eddie Gallager (Eddie G), head of Locavore Ventures, started Grace to help everyday cooks easily prepare professional-quality dishes, and his jerk marinade certainly fits the bill. Jerk-style marinades originated in Jamaica and are named after the jerking motion used to turn and chop the meat while cooking on an open flame.

Jerk marinades are traditionally made by blending various ingredients with hot scotch bonnet peppers, which are so spicy that anyone who handles one should be wearing gloves. Grace's jerk marinade has a rich flavor filled with the taste of hot peppers, along with soy sauce, nutmeg, brown sugar, green onion, and more. 

The sauce was too salty to eat right out of the bottle. However, after marinating, the jerk sauce gave a delicious and exotic flavor to chicken, pork, and veggies, followed by a nice kick of heat. With a gravy-like consistency, it's easy to marinade and drizzle the sauce over your meat, veggies, and rice before serving.

Although the sauce only contained trace amounts of caramel color, it lost the brand a few points. Otherwise, this marinade is a great addition to expand your culinary adventures.

4. We Love You Korean Original Bulgogi Sauce

Bulgogi is a popular Korean barbecue preparation. This traditional dish, also called Korean barbecue beef, is often used for thin-sliced beef but works well for other proteins like chicken or pork. The dish itself has several regional interpretations. For example, Korean chefs often grate a Korean or Asian pear over the meat to add fruity flavor. Otherwise, bulgogi simply requires a balanced blend of sweet and savory ingredients, including soy sauce, sesame oil and seeds, garlic, and ginger. 

We Love You's Original Bulgogi Sauce ingredient list doesn't contain pears. You can add them if you'd like, but the sauce already has the right balance of sweet and savory. Instead of sugar, this bulgogi sauce contains apple juice concentrate as the only sweetener, which perfects the blend. The overnight marinade gave the chicken and vegetables a strong flavor, so we recommend capping your marinating time. The flavor worked well on vegetables but was even better on the meat.

This brand is Project Non-GMO Verified and certified gluten-free. It also contains soy. We recommend trying this marinade on flank steak for a delicious night of dining.

3. Primal Kitchen Greek Vinaigrette & Marinade

Primal Kitchen aims to help cooks create mouth-watering recipes with healthy ingredients through its line of condiments, sauces, and dressings that are compatible with paleo and keto diets. Its products are great for vegan diners, too, and those avoiding seed oils like canola or soy.

Its Greek Vinaigrette & Marinade is an excellent representation of the brand. Most of its ingredients are organic, but this dressing is also Whole 30-approved, keto and paleo diet certified, Project Non-GMO Verified, and vegan. One 2-tablespoon serving contains no added sugar and 190 milligrams of sodium, making it an option that suits a range of dietary preferences. 

It had a mild but tasty flavor right out of the bottle that is perfect as a sandwich or salad dressing, which was better than some of the lower-ranked brands we reviewed. But we did question its usefulness as a marinade. The dressing solidifies overnight, so only use this to marinate your foods for a short time.

The flavor was delicious yet subtle, hitting just the right notes for Greek recipes. It worked wonderfully on both meats and veggies. Primal Kitchen's products come in on the higher end price-wise, but we felt it was worth it for its simple recipe, eco-friendly glass bottle, and versatility. It earned a relatively high position on the list, partly because it is useful for several different applications. 

2. Primal Kitchen No-Soy Island Teriyaki Sauce & Marinade

Although it's universally classified as an Asian sauce, teriyaki did not originate in Japan. The word is a Japanese term for a style of cooking fish, but the sauce itself is not widely used in the country. Instead, it most likely came to America from Japanese immigrants attempting to mimic their homeland's cuisine in a foreign country. Some debate that the teriyaki craze started in Hawaii, while others believe Seattle was its birthplace.

No matter how it came to American shores, the sauce's popularity can't be denied. If you love the taste of teriyaki but hate how you feel afterward, it may be because some of the ingredients, like soy or gluten, don't make you feel so good. Primal Kitchen has the solution with its No-Soy Island Teriyaki Sauce & Marinade, which features Hawaii-inspired ingredients like pineapple juice.

Similar to other products from the brand, this sauce is certified USDA Organic, Whole 30-approved, keto and paleo diet certified, Project Non-GMO Verified, certified gluten-free, and vegan. It contains 180 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon.

This sauce had excellent flavor and was not too salty. However, unlike other coconut amino-based sauces, we didn't need to add any extra salt. The flavor hit just right with a mild, delicious taste. We recommend using No-Soy Island Teriyaki to impress your guests at your next Asian-inspired dinner event.

1. G. Hughes Sugar-Free Parm Peppercorn Marinade

And that brings us to the top pick: G. Hughes Sugar-Free Parm Peppercorn Marinade. The brand's visionary, Guy Hughes, grew up on backyard barbecue and went on to participate in barbecue contests, like Rib Fests and Burnoffs, where his sauces received high praise from the judges. 

After that, Hughes believed that people were ready for sugar-free sauces rather than ones with no added sugar. The difference is in the FDA labeling requirements. No added sugar means that no sugar was put into the recipe, but naturally sweet ingredients (like fruit) can still be used. Sugar-free, on the other hand, means that one serving of the food contains less than 0.5 grams of both added and non-added sugar. It's a higher standard to reach, but all of G. Hughes' sauces are sugar-free.

The flavor of the Parm Peppercorn Marinade was so good — just a little sweet, with a little kick of an aftertaste. The sauce is also free of artificial preservatives, however, it contains milk ingredients and may be made with soybean oil. If you're looking for the perfect marinade for just about any dish at a reasonable price, this is it. Use it to baste, as a dip, in stir-fry, and for grilling. Try it for chicken wings, veggie skewers, and grilled shrimp over pasta. You won't regret trying this one.

Our methodology

We selected items based on availability at the time of purchase. Instead of choosing steak sauces, we tried several flavored marinades across numerous cuisines. These included both unique and classic marinades, as well as some that doubled as dressings.

As soon as the bottles were opened, we tasted each one raw. Then, we marinated chicken and vegetables in each sauce overnight. The food was then cooked on a cast iron pan, and we also charred a separate piece to ensure it got the perfect crispness. The overriding factor in the ranking was the overall taste and whether it was a good fit for vegetables, meat, or both. We examined if it faithfully recreated the expected flavor, had a good balance of salt, and could be used as a topping or a dressing.

A few more ranking parameters included the nutritional value of each product and pricing. A simpler ingredient list generally improved the score of the sauce, while other ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup, negatively impacted the ranking.