I'm cooking for 30, Lamb Chops are on the menu and I want to do them in a Yogurt Marinade. I've done Yogurt Marinades with mixed results and I wonder if there are some best practices?

  • How long should I marinade? With vinegar based marinades you don't want to marinate for longer than 2 hours. Is this also true with Yoghurt Marinades? If not, what is the idea amount of time to Marinate.
  • I heard somewhere that you shouldn't add salt when Marinading with Yohurt until after the meat is Marinated. Is this true and if so why?
  • lemon is an important flavour to this kind of dish. Can I add lemon to the yoghurt, or will that make it curdle or do something else negative to the dish?
  • Is there anything else important to consider when using Yogurt as a Marinade?

If additionally you could break it down in terms of chemical processes, that would be sweet. I'm a bit of a food science nerd. thank you very much

  • Just a guess, perhaps you could use lemon zest if citric acid from lemon juice curdles the yoghurt?
    – mfg
    Commented Feb 8, 2011 at 16:38

4 Answers 4


To answer part 1. I recently watched the Chicken Tikka Masala episode from Blumethals "Further Adventures in Search of Perfection". The recipe calls for marinading the chicken for quite a long time. A transcribed recipe says 10 hours: http://www.dominicsayers.com/documents/ChickenTikkaMasala.pdf.

They also go on to compare the results of a yogurt marinade and a yogurt-less marinade on chicken under an MRI scanner. I don't know if this is valid, but the yogurt apparently had an effect.


I make curries all the time and I marinade chicken with tikka spices. I have used yogurt marinades for 2-3 days refrigerated and longer periods from frozen. Bear in mind yogurt tenderizes the meat, so depending on whether you want a substantial bite, don't go for longer than over night.

I think it is because salt will draw out water from the meat which may cause the yogurt marinade to decling the meat / be less effective. I am guessing as that is the reason why I choose not to add salt that early.

You can add fresh lemon. The bottled fresh lemon which has a lot of citric acid is a big no-no as it will often cause the yogurt to curdle.

Top tips: Full fat yogurt is great in that it is harder to curdle and that it will absorb the spices essential oils better, to quote someone on the internet:

The flavors that make spices taste delicious are all aromatic compounds. Aromatic compounds are made of molecules that contain a structure known as a benzene ring, meaning they dissolve best in alcohols or fats. You may have notices this when making drinks, that adding a twist of lemon to a martini adds significantly more flavor in a shorter amount of time than adding a twist of flavor to a glass of water. Similarly, if you make this chai with a non-fat milk, you won't extract as many flavors from the spices as if you make it with a milk that has some fat. So do your spices a flavor, and don't make this with skim milk. Nerdy science note done.

Apologies for the lack of exact science or references to back this up. The rest of the post it's just my experience thus far playing with marinades, not entirely scientific.


I'm afraid I don't have an answer to the salt question. The suggestion may just be because it can be difficult to judge how much salt to use in a marinade.

Yogurt won't curdle, so no worries there.

Other considerations are of course the same as with all marinades: refrigerate during the marinating processes, and don't serve the marinade as a sauce unless you've cooked it first to kill raw-meat microbes.

  • Just to be clear- Yogurt will curdle but it takes heat. Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 14:39

You might want to make up your own yoghurt to use.. I am thinking the commercial ones have chemicals to stop it from fermenting too much. Maybe home made could go that little step beyond to allow the yoghurt to 'bite' into the meat.. Just my thought..

  • Commercial yogurt should work fine, though I suppose you should probably avoid heavily-processed yogurt products (if nothing else, they're expensive and probably won't do anything good for the flavor). The goal here isn't really to ferment the meat - the yogurt is already fermented, and thus contains the acids and enzymes you're after.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 16:12
  • Yes agreed.. You don't have to ferment the meat, but it should have enough enzymes to tenderize the meat.. But yes, try to avoid processed yoghurt..
    – notthetup
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 19:23

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