Grilled Chicken Thighs

published Jul 6, 2024
summer
Grilled Chicken Thighs Recipe

It’s the perfect summer dinner.

Serves4

Prep5 minutes

Cook10 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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overhead shot of grilled chicken thighs on a platter, topped with herbs
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Chicken thighs are my weeknight dinner staple, and for good reason — they’re flavorful, incredibly versatile, and easy to cook. Compared to lean chicken breasts, chicken thighs are less likely to overcook and dry out, which makies them much more forgiving to any cooking method. From baked chicken thighs to fried chicken thighs to stovetop chicken thighs, there are so many delicious ways to cook them.

But my absolute favorite way to cook chicken thighs is on the grill — especially in the summer when it’s peak grilling season. Nothing compares to the flavor of lightly charred, smoky chicken thighs right off the grill. Here, a simple-yet-flavorful marinade made with pantry ingredients really takes it to the next level. The best part? Chicken thighs cook quickly on the grill, so this is a weeknight win for all!

Serve these quick and easy grilled chicken thighs with your favorite grilled veggies and a summer salad for a meal you’ll want to make all season long.

Why You’ll Love It

  • It’s all about the marinade. This super-flavorful marinade is the perfect balance of savory and sweet. It’s made with simple pantry staples that you might already have in your kitchen.
  • It’s so incredibly quick. These chicken thighs grill up fast, which makes this one of the easiest and tastiest dinners you can cook all summer.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Key Ingredients for Grilled Chicken Thighs

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs: I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they cook quickly on the grill.
  • Soy sauce: Soy sauce gives a deeply savory, umami flavor to the marinade.
  • Light brown sugar: The light brown sugar adds some sweetness and gives the chicken its charred, caramelized crust when grilled.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar adds some acidity to balance out the savory and sweet flavors of the marinade.
  • Dijon mustard: The Dijon mustard adds some zip and also helps emulsify the ingredients.
  • Ground cumin: A staple ingredient in summer grilling, ground cumin adds another layer of flavor.
  • Smoked paprika: Smoked paprika has a smoky flavor that works perfectly for grilled chicken, but you can use regular paprika if you prefer.

How to Make Grilled Chicken Thighs

  1. Make the marinade. In a medium bowl, add the chopped garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, light brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, ground cumin, smoked paprika, kosher salt, and black pepper. Whisk to combine. 
  2. Marinate the chicken. Marinate the chicken thighs in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  3. Grill the chicken. Grill the chicken thighs over direct, medium-high heat (about 450°F to 500°F) for 4 to 5 minutes per side until cooked through (when the thickest part of the chicken registers at least 165°F on an instant-read thermometer).

Helpful Swaps

  • Marinade ingredients: Tamari can be substituted for soy sauce for a gluten-free marinade. Use dark brown sugar for a deeper, more caramelized flavor. Try other spices, like chili powder and cayenne pepper for some heat.
  • Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs: For bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, set up your outdoor grill for direct and indirect medium heat (about 375°F to 425°F). Cook the chicken, skin-side up, over indirect heat until golden-brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Move the chicken to direct heat and continue to cook until the skin is crisp and lightly charred, turning occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs can be cooked up to 195°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

  • Make ahead: The chicken can be marinated and refrigerated up to overnight.
  • Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 

What to Serve with Grilled Chicken Thighs

Grilled Chicken Thighs Recipe

It’s the perfect summer dinner.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    cloves garlic

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1/4 cup

    soy sauce

  • 1/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked or regular paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • Chopped fresh cilantro, basil, or parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop 4 garlic cloves and place in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk to combine.

  2. Pour into a large zip-top bag. Pat 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Add to the bag, seal, and massage to coat the chicken evenly with the marinade. Refrigerate, flipping the bag halfway through, for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

  3. When ready to cook, heat an outdoor grill to direct, medium-high heat (about 450°F to 500°F). Scrape the grill grates clean if needed.

  4. Remove the chicken from the marinade and let any excess drip off. Place on the grill smooth-side down in a single layer, with space in between each piece. Cover and cook until dark grill marks appear, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken, cover again, and cook until grill marks appear on the second side and the thickest part of the chicken registers at least 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, basil, or parsley leaves if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The chicken can be marinated and refrigerated up to overnight.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.