Recipe for a Crowd: Honey & Chili Chicken Thighs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce

Recipes from The Kitchn

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When I started planning my All-American Beer Bottling Party, I knew I wanted a main dish that would come together easily and quickly, that would feed a crowd of hungry beer bottlers, and that would go with — or be made with! — beer. These chicken thighs have it all. They're tossed with honey, chili powder, and a splash of amber ale and then quickly roasted in the oven, where the honey and beer bake down to a sticky glaze. Served with a cool and creamy cilantro sauce, they were the perfect no-fuss dish to serve at my party — or any summer gathering!

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Roasted chicken thighs are the very definition of "fool-proof," which is exactly what I want when cooking for a dinner party. In the chaos of the moment, I might forget to set the timer while they're roasting or neglect them on the counter for a few minutes too long before serving. No worries — chicken thighs stay tender and moist even if overcooked a little and they're just as tasty room temperature as they are hot from the oven. Trust me: I've done both of these things.

Make these chicken thighs with whatever beer you're drinking. I had amber ale in the fridge when I made these and I like the malty flavor of this beer with the honey, but I think they'd be just as good with a stout, a wheat beer, or even a pale ale. The only rule here is that you like what you're drinking: if that's true, then you'll probably like it with your chicken as well!

With several side dishes going around the table, one chicken thigh per person was plenty for my party. Even so, I always make a few extras just in case someone is still hungry. If there are any thighs leftover after the party, they're fantastic in sandwiches the next day.

One last note about this cilantro sauce — it's addictive stuff! It was the perfect cooling counterpart to the chicken, but by the end of the meal, we were also using it as a dip for bites of pretzel and generally licking our plates clean. In the following days, I drizzled the leftover sauce over tacos, added it to guacamole, and ate it as a dip with regular tortilla chips. This is all to say that this is a versatile sauce, so keep it in your back pocket whenever you find yourself in need of a quick sauce to go with dinner.

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Honey & Chili Chicken Thighs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce

Serves 8 to 10

For the chicken thighs:
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup amber beer
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish

For the sauce:
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 cups loosely packed cilantro
1 lime, zest and juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 450°F. 

Whisk together the honey, chili powder, beer, cider vinegar, and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken thighs to the bowl and stir until the thighs are evenly coated. At this point, the thighs can be baked immediately or refrigerated for up to three hours.

Arrange the chicken thighs on a baking sheet and drizzle any dressing remaining in the bowl over top. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through and the thickest part of the thighs register 165°F with an instant read thermometer. 

While the thighs are roasting, make the cilantro sauce. Combine the sour cream, cilantro, lime zest and juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process continuously until the cilantro is minced very fine and the sauce is light green in color. Taste and add more lime juice, salt, or cilantro to taste. The cilantro sauce can be made the day ahead and kept refrigerated until serving. 

Serve the chicken thighs immediately after roasting. Spoon any extra glaze from the pan over the hot chicken and garnish with roughly chopped cilantro. Serve the cilantro sauce alongside.

Recipe Notes:

Grilled Chicken Thighs: These chicken thighs can also be grilled over high heat for 4 minutes on each side with the grill covered.

Bigger or Smaller Crowds: This recipe can be halved for smaller crowds or doubled for even larger crowds. Just make sure the thighs are spaced about an inch apart; roast in batches if necessary.

Photography: Danielle Tsi
Styling: Tracy Benjamin

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