BBQ Chicken Marinade

The classic Chamorro marinade is quite simple.  Start off with a base of soy sauce and vinegar — the ratio is up to you, but I like using a 1:1 ratio of soy sauce to vinegar (e.g., 1 cup soy sauce mixed with 1 cup vinegar).

I also add a few other ingredients to my marinade to give it an additional depth of flavor.  What you add depends entirely on you, so you can be as creative as you can here.  Some of my favorite add-ins are garlic and onions (powdered or fresh), ginger, brown sugar (not too much because sugar burns easily), honey, and sometimes even a cup or two of coca cola (use your favorite soda).

Marinate your chicken for several hours or overnight before grilling to allow the marinade to really soak into the meat.  I like using zip lock bags to marinate any meat I plan on grilling.  Just flip the bag over every hour or so to ensure all the meat gets marinated evenly.

Grill the chicken as you normally do.  We have a smoker, so I start off by smoking the chicken  — skin side down — for 30 minutes, then I crank up the heat to 275 degrees and cook the chicken — skin side up now — for about an hour and a half or until it’s done and a nicely browned.

Make a smaller (fresh) batch of your marinade (do not reuse the marinade the chicken was soaking in) for glazing the chicken after it’s done.  Place the marinade in a small sauce pan and add some corn starch to it.  Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sauce thickens slightly.  Brush the glaze over the cooked chicken to give it a beautiful (and tasty) sheen.

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll love it.

My recipe below makes enough marinade for approximately 3 pounds of chicken.  It’s also good for marinating pork chops, ribs, and steaks.

BBQ Chicken Marinade
Classic Chamorro marinade that's sure to make your neighbors come out of their homes wondering what's grilling that smells so good!
Serves: 2 to 3 cups
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup vinegar
Optional Marinade Additions:
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (powder or minced)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (or ½ small onion, finely diced)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ginger (ground or freshly grated)
  • 1 cup cola
  • ⅓ cup vinegar
  • ⅔ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • Add any of the other optional ingredients used in your marinade
  1. Place all of the marinade ingredients in a large zip lock bag. Seal the bag then shake it up to mix the ingredients together. Add the chicken to the bag then re-seal. Marinate the chicken for several hours before grilling.
  2. Place the glaze ingredients in a small sauce pan. bring to a boil, whisking contantly. Cookmuntil the sauce thickens. Brush the glaze on the cooked chicken.


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  1. Judy M Wiseman says:

    We were stationed there late 90’s. We loved Guam and the food. We make Chamorro chicken all the time. When there the recipe used was soy sauce, vinegar, onions, garlic and boonie peppers chopped up. I use equal amounts of water, soy sauce, white vinegar (water cuts down on salty), onions, garlic and jalapeno peppers. (DH can’t handle the heat like he could back then) Marinate overnight and grill. We love the leftover just as much. I love you site. I come here all the time!

  2. Flor says:

    Hi I’m making the bbq glaze and followed the recipe but it tastes too salty.. what can I do?

  3. Helena says:

    Hi I’m wanting to try this but dont have vinegar and I’m wondering if that’s ok?

  4. Leilani says:

    What brand of soy sauce do you use?

  5. irene savoie says:

    Hey there!

    Followed this to a T, including all alt ingredients, marinading in the fridge right now! My round of guy’s can hardly wait for BBQ’d wings tonight! I’ll let ya know how it turned out but I can tell it’ll be a smash hit!

    Thanks for posting your recipe!

  6. Mike Kelley says:

    The recipe I learned while stationed on Guam from 1972-74 was given by a Chamorro woman who became my son’t godmother. Basically, it was:
    3 parts soy sauce to 1 part vinegar
    Fresh lemon juice from 3-4 lemons
    One whole onion, diced large
    Fresh ground pepper to taste
    Granulated garlic to taste
    Chicken pieces (all of them) and leave the skin ON!!!

    Marinate chicken for about 4 hours. Personally, I found longer usually made it too salty for my taste. After returning to the States, some years later I subbed orange juice for lemon, and that’s wonderful, too.

    Cook on a HOT grill, skin side DOWN to keep the meat from scorching, about 2-3 minutes, then turn, and cook about 7-8 minutes on the other side, then go back to the skin side to finish. Toss the chicken into a baking dish and cover with foil to rest about 5-10 minutes, then enjoy! I bet you don’t have leftovers!

  7. Gary says:

    What a blessing! I was stationed at Agana at the Naval Air Station for 1 1/2 years in the late 70’s. I became friends with several Guamanian’s and experienced the wonderful flavors of the local food. I have the chicken soaking right now! I made your red rice yesterday. Heavenly!!!

    Brings back a lot of great memories!

  8. James W Neal says:

    I also lived in Guam as a child. My father was in the Air Force. When we first moved there in 1967 housing was unavailable on base so we lived in an old warehouse that had been converted into apartments. We used to have huge BBQ parties there where they cooked in this style. I to this day love this food. This marinade is incredibly good on everything. We were also often invited to local fiestas and my mouth is watering now thinking about it and that was nearly 50 years ago. I’ll never forget my experience on Guam and the kindness of the people there.

    • Hafa Adai! Thanks for sharing your memories of your childhood on Guam. The island has changed a lot over the years but the hospitality of the locals has not. Hopefully you can go back for a visit. If not, you at least can travel there through our local island dishes. Thanks again for stopping by.

  9. Sammie says:

    Can you put the marinade in a bag with boneless chicken breast and freeze, then thaw and cook?

  10. Rob says:

    I had the amazing opportunity to live on Guam for a year in the late 90s. One night, while walking back to my place in Mangilao, I saw large group of people at a local pavilion eating and talking. Suddenly someone spotted me and called out to me to come over. Thinking I was being mistaken for someone else I reluctantly made my way to the group. When I arrived the lady who called me over told me to eat. I tried to explain that I didn’t know anyone there nor had I brought anything to share. The kind lady smiled, said not to worry, and handed me a plate. She then proceeded to load it up with red rice and walk me through several tables filled with colorful and divinely smelling meats and sides, describing each of them to me and encouraging me to put some of everything on my plate. When I started eating – my life changed. Foods and flavors I had never experienced, growing in the Southeastern States, soon sent my taste buds into a state of euphoria. This would be my first of many local fiestas, first of countless meals of traditional and hybrid Chamorro and Filipino foods, and the start of my lumpia addiction. As I ate with and talked to the people there that night my love for Guam was solidified. The island is beautiful, the food amazing, but best thing about Guam is the people.

    I made this recipe tonight for my family and some friends and it was greatly enjoyed them. For me to say I enjoyed it would be insufficient because as I ate, just briefly, I was 19 again standing under a tent in Mangilo and realizing that even though I was thousands of miles away from my hometown, I was indeed home.

    Si Yu’os Ma’åse’

    -Rob F

  11. Madelyn says:

    This looks amazing! I printed the recipe to try it, thanks!

  12. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve never heard of it before but tried it and it’s so delicious! This recipe is definitely a keeper and I’m sure to check out more of your recipes! I was running low on charcoal so after marinating for several hours I cooked the chicken leg quarters in a convection oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and then finished them off and glazed tham on the grill. Worked out perfectly. 🙂

  13. jumpjumper says:

    Sounds great and I just happen to have bought a bag of drum sticks this week .I can ,t wait to make this.

  14. Kirk Shuttleworth says:

    Hafa Adai, I use the same as your recipe but add Olympia beer when avail. or Busch kinds, never tried coke I’ll give it a try.

  15. ilive2sing says:

    I lived in Guam for 3 years (Dad was in the Navy) and my mom learned how to make this marinade. Every time we grilled chicken or ribs it was with “Guam Marinade.” I lost my Chamorro cookbook (so sad) so I’m very grateful for this! We always just used the basic version with onion and garlic as the only additions when I was a kid so that’s how I’m making it now… but I’m probably gonna try the other additions another time! Thank you so much for making these recipes available! 🙂

  16. Jodie says:

    Did u add all the optional marinade ingredients or did you pick and choose what you wanted to add.


  17. Nieves says:

    1 cup cola, what kind?

  18. Chelsie says:

    Do you add all of the optional ingredients or is it better with only certain combinations of the ingredients? Any info would be greatly appreciated!

  19. Wendy says:

    These look and sound delicious I generally bake my chicken parts at 400f for 20 minutes and they come out perfectly cooked tender and juicy. My question is , would not cooking them for 45 minutes dry them out?

  20. Carla says:

    May I use rice vinegar

  21. Melinda says:

    What type of vinegar please???!! Thanks

  22. Libby M says:

    I ran across your marinade recipe, SO DELICIOUS! I made it and it was a huge hit. Thank you so very much for sharing. My BBQ wasn’t working so I baked it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then cooked it stovetop in its glaze for another 5 or 8 minutes. I am hooked!

  23. Jillian says:

    My husband said this was the best chicken he’s ever had! I remembered my brother grilling something similar after he had lived in Guam for a year, equal parts soy and vinegar and sugar is how he did it. I liked yours with a little less sugar! So good!

  24. […] BBQ Chicken Marinade | Annie’s Chamorro […]

  25. Jenice says:

    Do you use a baking pan or cookie sheet to bake in oven? What temp & how long?

    • Bake it on a rimmed sheet pan at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. You can baste the chicken with the marinade as it bakes. Check to see if the chicken is completely cooked through before eating (if still pink inside, bake them longer).

  26. Lupe says:

    I’m gonna try this.!!

  27. Dustin says:

    This recipe is amazing. My best friend growing up was from Guam and besides Spam, rice and ketchup which is also good. When his family would BBQ You would find me at the table several times. Your recipe brought me right back to my best friends BBQ’s in the park. THANK YOU!

  28. Monique says:

    I made it and it was a little to sour for menot a vinegar person but ty for the recipe

  29. dame says:

    How do you cook the ribs with this recipe. Low and slow on grill or baked?

  30. Ron says:

    Hi, I used your marinade recipe for my barbecue, and I have to say, it was delicious! Thank you so much! I live in the mainland and have missed island food for a very long time. Your marinade made my 4th of July special! By the way, the glaze was extra delicious! Happy 4th, and again, thanks!

  31. dana says:

    Mmm! White vinegar or Apple cider?

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