Pan-Fried Stovetop Chicken Thighs

published Jul 19, 2022
Pan Fried Stovetop Chicken Thighs Recipe

These chicken thighs get pan fried on the stovetop to tender bliss and become flavorful thanks to cumin, chili powder, and paprika.


Prep5 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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A photo of a plate of pan fried chicken thighs with a green garnish and limes on the side.
Credit: Laura Manzano

Chicken is an endlessly versatile protein, as are the methods for preparing it. We love chicken thighs because they are succulent, full of flavor, and hard to overcook. Cooking boneless, skinless chicken thighs on the stovetop couldn’t be easier, and the secret to the juiciest chicken thighs imaginable is an ingredient we’re willing to bet you already have on hand: water.  

Should I Use Bone-in or Boneless Chicken Thighs?

While it’s ultimately a matter of preference, boneless chicken thighs cook much quicker and are our choice for this recipe. 

Why Does This Method Work?

Chicken thighs have more fat than other parts of the chicken (such as the breast, for example), and we put that fat to good use in this recipe. This method works for a number of reasons. Starting the chicken seasoned simply, covered in a pan with water allows the chicken to cook fully without spices burning, and creates a flavorful broth-like liquid that is used to make a sauce later on. A lid locks in the heat, so the chicken cooks faster, and generally creates less mess! Once the chicken is fully cooked, the spices are added to the pan and quickly bloomed in oil to impart the meat with plenty of flavor. 

What Is a Pan Sauce?

A pan sauce is a product of opportunism, capitalizing on the residual juices and flavor left by chicken cooked on the stove. In this case, warm spices are combined with the leftover juices to coat the chicken thighs in saucy goodness. 

Credit: Laura Manzano

What Can I Serve with Stovetop Chicken Thighs?

Incredibly tender and flavorful, thanks to cumin, chili powder, and paprika, these particular chicken thighs lend themselves well to Tex-Mex fare.

  • Serve them alongside rice, beans, and plenty of lime juice.
  • Chop them up to use in tacos or burritos.
  • Sprinkle them atop nachos.
  • Serve them on buns with avocados and curtido.

Pan Fried Stovetop Chicken Thighs Recipe

These chicken thighs get pan fried on the stovetop to tender bliss and become flavorful thanks to cumin, chili powder, and paprika.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 8

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup


  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon


  • Lime wedges and fresh cilantro leaves, for serving (optional)


  1. Season 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs all over with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until some chicken fat has rendered and thighs are opaque and mostly cooked through, about 7 minutes.

  2. Flip the chicken and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and continue to cook until chicken is fully cooked through and tender, about 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon paprika in a small bowl and stir to combine.

  3. Pour off the excess liquid in the skillet into a small heatproof bowl but keep the chicken in the pan. Spoon the spice mixture onto the chicken and flip the chicken to coat. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved liquid and simmer, stirring often, until the spices are fragrant and the liquid has come together to form a cohesive sauce, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with lime wedges and fresh cilantro leaves if desired.

Recipe Notes

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