Give Your Yogurt Marinade Some Extra Zest With One Added Ingredient

Yogurt is a wonderful vehicle for flavoring your favorite cut of meat, whether it's leg of lamb or salmon filets. Its balance of tang and dairy richness coupled with its creamy, adhesive texture makes for a delicious flavoring agent that will effectively coat any protein. Plus, yogurt is rich in calcium and lactic acid, which will help tenderize the meat for the most succulent results. If there's one ingredient that'll bring a yogurt marinade to new and delicious heights, it's citrus.

Whether you want a sour lemon or lime, a sweet orange, or a bittersweet grapefruit, citrus is a multifaceted ingredient that adds flavor and even more acidity to help break down meat. Citrus juice offers a fresh and bright burst of acidity while citrus zest releases its essential oils into the yogurt for more concentrated citrus notes and aromas. You can also let the type of citrus you choose influence any additional spices, herbs, or aromatics you throw into the marinade.

That said, citrus, yogurt, and basic seasonings are all you need to create a well-rounded aromatic marinade. Simply add the juice and zest of your favorite citrus fruit to a sealable bag with a cup of yogurt, season with salt and pepper, and throw in the cuts of raw meat. Give the bag a shake to ensure the marinade fully engulfs the meat, then place the bag in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes before grilling, roasting, or pan-frying.

Yogurt marinade tips and recipe ideas

Full-fat plain yogurt will provide the optimal richness, creaminess, and thickness to coat and tenderize your protein of choice, but you can also use a low-fat two-percent yogurt. The longer your meat sits in the marinade, the tastier and juicier the results, so aim for an overnight marinade. If you want to use a super-thick Greek yogurt, you'll need to adjust your proportions by either reducing the amount of yogurt or adding extra citrus juice until you reach a fluid and coatable consistency.

You can add citrus to any recipe for yogurt-marinated meat. In fact, many cuisines already use this tasty pairing in longstanding recipes. Take, for example, Tandoori chicken – a fragrant Indian dish that marinates chicken in yogurt, lemon, and a long list of aromatics and spices like ginger, garlic, garam masala, and cumin. You could create a creamy jerk marinade for chicken, shrimp, or a flakey white fish by combining orange juice and zest with yogurt, soy sauce, scallions, garlic, scotch bonnet chilies, five-spice, and nutmeg. The sweetness from the orange juice will temper the spice and complement the smokiness.

You can use lime and yogurt with taco seasoning, garlic, and cilantro for a zesty, Mexican-inspired grilled chicken or fish filling to stuff inside tacos or atop a bed of lettuce, guacamole, and mango salsa. A lemon and yogurt marinade with coriander, garlic, red pepper flakes, and paprika would work well for Mediterranean or Middle Eastern skewered chicken or lamb kebabs.