A Third-A Third-A Third Marinade…and so many ways to enjoy it!

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This may be the easiest, tastiest, and most versatile marinade you’ve ever tried, and all you need is equal parts of three basic ingredients!



Old recipe, new batch.  As luck would have it, we are going to the Dorothy’s house for dinner tonight.  Dorothy is the dear friend behind this amazing marinade….

This is perhaps the easiest marinade ever.  Even better, this recipe demonstrates how three basic ingredients can be the foundation for a multitude of meals that are doable enough for daily dinners yet entirely worthy of company.

After eating the most delicious grilled chicken at our friend Dorothy’s house years ago, I asked her what she put in her marinade that made the chicken taste so good.  She replied:  “It’s easy.  Just remember ‘a third, a third, a third’.”

There was no need to write anything down.  The recipe, which tasted like a complex combination of ingredients, was simply equal parts lemon juice, olive oil, and soy sauce.

Over the years, this marinade has proved to be as versatile as it is easy.  I have used it countless times for vegetables, seafood, and pork as well as the chicken that initially wowed us.  I have passed along Dorothy’s culinary masterpiece to many new fans who are consistently delighted by its flavor and amazed by its simplicity.  Most recently, my father, who dare I say never mixed up a marinade before, started preparing this recipe.

Prior to a family dinner where we planned to serve “a third-a third-a third” salmon, my sister-in-law, Melissa, suggested a subtle sesame flavor might compliment the fish.  Indeed, a small addition of sesame oil enhanced the Asian flavor, and this variation has become a regular in the rotation.

In the spirit of demonstrating how to stretch a three-ingredient staple into several memorable meals, I present the basic marinade recipe, noting the sesame option.  Then, following the recipe are a few options that I implement regularly.  If you happen to create your own spin-off recipe, I would love to hear about it!

More marinade ideas:

  • Preparing a little extra marinade to steep onions, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, and/or mushrooms and grilling them alongside the meat is a simple way to create a complete meal.
  • Marinate and grill whole portobello mushrooms. (Scrape out the gills with a spoon before placing in the marinade.) Top with sliced avocado, tomato, and slivered onion. Serve on a whole grain roll for a “meaty” veggie burger. I also make an Avocado Wasabi Sauce (click here for recipe) that tops off this hearty sandwich beautifully.
  • Grill extra of your favorite vegetables and create a grilled “veggiewich” with your favorite pesto and cheese. Prepare as you would a grilled cheese or use a panini press. Grilling the zucchini, eggplant, etc., in thick strips instead of rounds makes them less likely to slip through the grill grates and creates perfect pieces for layering in a sandwich. (click here for recipe)
  • My mother-in-law uses leftover marinated and grilled chicken to boost the flavor and make quick work of her standard chicken salad. She now makes a habit of grilling extra for this purpose.
Sesame Soy Salmon adds one simple ingredient to the basic marinade for a little extra Asian flavor.

For an delicious and easy side, prepare extra marinade and marinate your favorite vegetables for 30 minutes to two hours prior to grilling. Though they aren’t pictured in this batch, portobello mushrooms and onions are my favorites.

This may be the easiest, tastiest, and most versatile marinade you've ever tried, and all you need is equal parts of three basic ingredients!

A Third-A Third-A Third Marinade
One cup of marinade is a sufficient quantity for two to three pounds of seafood, meat, or vegetables when marinated in a zipper-top bag. A bag allows the liquid to flow freely around the food; if using a bowl, a larger quantity of marinade may be required to evenly coat.
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon sesame oil (I use this when grilling salmon or tuna)
  1. Mix all ingredients together and use as a marinade for chicken, salmon, tuna, pork and/or your favorite vegetables for grilling. You can make any quantity needed based on the amount of food to be grilled. (As noted above, roughly one-third cup of marinade per pound of meat or veggies is perfect when marinating in a zipper-top bag.) Simply follow the basic formula: equal parts of each ingredient, adding one tablespoon of sesame oil per cup of marinade if choosing the sesame variation.
  2. Prior to grilling, allow chicken or pork to marinate in the refrigerator for at least several hours and up to all day. Seafood and vegetables are best soaked for at least 20-30 minutes but not more than two hours. Occasionally flipping the bag will redistribute the liquid throughout the items being marinated.
  • I have tried this recipe using lime juice instead of the lemon juice. Lemon juice is my preference, although lime could certainly be substituted if that is what you have on hand.
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  3. Megan

    My father has used a variation of this recipe for years and I don’t grill beef without it. For an Asian flair, I use the lime juice/oil/soy/ginger/garlic. For regular marinade, I use lemon/oil/worchestershire/garlic. A staple!!

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  5. Kimberly

    I tried this marinade last night. It will be my new go to for marinade. I really liked it. Used it on boneless skinless breasts and it made a big difference on how they came out. They were juicy and delicious.

  6. Molly

    My tried and true “equal parts” recipe is for Pickled Beets. Drain the beet juice into a measuring cup and measure. Add the exact same amount of sugar and also apple cider vinegar. This gives you the exact tartness and sweetness you need. If the beet juice doesn’t fill to a measurable amount, I’ll add just a little water but not so much to water it down. I bring it to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool and then pour over beets. Refrigerate overnight. I also use the same formula to make Red Beet Eggs. Just add hard boiled eggs and sliced onions to the beets and juice.

  7. Susan

    Here’s another one…My no fail salad dressing is equal parts olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey. It is great on greens with sliced pears, bleu cheese and candied nuts.

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    1. Ann

      I love your “pinch, dash, or splash” suggestions, Jennifer. I think next time I will add a little ginger when I make my salmon version with sesame oi!

  9. christine

    I have used this marinade for thin slices of raw salmon, marinade 5 min. and eat it with avocado and some Wasabi. Delicious!

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  14. Pam

    I used this as a basis for grilled tuna steaks, but I added garlic and sriracha for a little kick. It was fantastic!! Even my picky teen aged boys loved it!

  15. Becky Post author

    I grilled some chicken using this marinade yesterday and my whole family loved it. I added some minced garlic and even used bottled lemon juice instead of fresh. It was great. I will definitely use it again. Thanks.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Sam, You don’t actually need an emulsifier for this marinade. It does the job beautifully without. That said, if you’d prefer the thicker consistency, you could add just a bit of honey or Dijon–or a bit of both.

  16. gil claeys

    The 1/3, 1/3,1/3 ratio of Oil, Sour, and Salty is indeed perfect.
    Fold in a teaspoon Za’atar and Lo! One has a marinade for shish kabob.

  17. Carol Graham

    Being an Olio fan, I am trying this with their Meyer Lemon EVOO and the zest of one of the lemons.

  18. Carol Post author

    I used this last night on chicken thighs, and onion wedges and squash spears. I used Meyer Lemon EVOO and added some lemon zest. It was a hit.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Jessica, I think my first choice after the grill might be to pan sear, and then I’d try baking it in the oven. My concern with the Instant Pot is what liquid to cook it in. I’m afraid if you cooked it in the marinade under high pressure the flavors would overpower. If you try, I’d love to know how you make out!

    1. Ann Post author

      That’s a great question, Sheri. As many times as I’ve used this marinade and prepared ribs, I’ve never used this marinade on ribs. I think the outright flavor would be delicious. My only question is whether I would like a traditional barbecue sauce used with it. Perhaps something with an Asian twist, like a Korean barbecue sauce? If you try, I’d love to know what you think!

      1. Sheri

        It was delicious and we started the ribs in the oven and then went out to the grill
        And then we used roasted garlic and Sriracha barbecue sauce from Trader Joe’s it was so delicious my new all-time marinade thank you so very much

        1. Ann Post author

          I am so happy to read this, Sheri…and now mildly hungry, too! Your ribs sound divine and I’m delighted the marinade worked so well.

  19. Donna

    I made the marinade but have some left over because I am only cooking two chicken breasts. Can unused marinade be stored for another time? In the fridge? Freezer?

    1. Ann Post author

      Yes, Donna, the marinade will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. If the olive oil separates and firms up, just let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes and then stir to incorporate. I haven’t frozen it before, so I’m not sure how that would turn out. If you happen to try, please report back!

  20. Mary McGovern

    Ann, this is the second marinate of yours I’ve tried and it’s also wonderful! (Sweet and sour sauce was the first) We used it with grilled chicken on Saturday and it got rave reviews, just as you suggested. Thanks for sharing this delicious, yet so easy recipe! I’m about to try your leafy green pesto next…it will be a real stretch for my hubby.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Mary, I’m so glad you are two for two and am wishing you luck with the pesto! I anxiously await feedback and have my fingers crossed that your husband will enjoy!