I´m a huge fan of good meat marinades. However, marinades usually include a lot of oil and adding it to a high fat meat, e.g. lamb or pork is adding more calories in my food than I care for.

Do you know of a good replacement for oil in marinades?

I was thinking of using a mixture of water and mustard...

4 Answers 4


Try using spirits with little to no taste on their own (apart from the alcohol), like vodka. Ethanol is a pretty good solvent and will help get the flavor out of your spices. When heated, the ethanol will simply evaporate.

Personally, I often use a ginger-garlic-soy sauce marinade with some alcohol added to give pork an amazing taste. Be careful with the soy sauce, tho. It contains a lot of salt.


If you google fat free marinade, you will find a myriad of recipes from many sources.

As a more general principal, you have many options:

  • For chicken and pork, brining (which seasons, but despite the myth does not add flavor)
  • Some marinades have soy, water, or citrus as their main base with little or no fat
  • Dry rub the meat with herbs and spices, which is probably the most effective method of adding flavor
  • Use a sauce or mop (as the barbecue folks say) during the cooking to add flavor; these tend to be low fat.

There is always whiskey-balsamic marinade:

1 part whiskey

1 part balsamic vinegar


Oil is needed for marinades when you are using spices, as most spices are oils. The oil added to the marinade provides a medium for flavors like cumin and chili, helping liberate them from whatever powder or whole spice they are in. Water doesn't do anywhere near the job that oil does on these, you're better off just rubbing them on directly.

Oil is also sticky, so it will cling to the meat after it is removed from the marinade, keeping some of the flavor outside.

So if you are making a marinade that uses powdered or whole spices you need oil to best extract them, and there is no substitute. You are better off choosing a marinade that uses herbs, acids, water, and salt.

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