2-Ingredient Spicy Chicken Thighs

published Jan 18, 2023
Two-Ingredient Chicken Recipe

This budget-friendly dinner is everything: fatty, tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy—and it comes together using just two ingredients.

Serves2 to 4

Prep10 minutes

Cook1 hour

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Two ingredient spicy chicken thighs in skillet.
Credit: Photo: Murray Hall; Food Stylist: Jessie Yuchen

In my opinion, there’s no better deal than bone-in, skin-on, grocery store chicken thighs. Their utility is unmatched, and the flavor-for-price ratio is just legendary. When cooked right, dark meat and rendered poultry skin is a decadent experience that rivals a restaurant-quality meal. To experience such flavorful cookery for so cheap is an incredible gift, and this dish celebrates all that is great about grocery store chicken thighs. This recipe only requires two ingredients (plus salt and pepper), because when chicken thighs and hot cherry peppers are prepared together, they provide a robust amount of salt, fat, acid, and heat — and all for under $10.

This recipe is actually my take on a dish that my Greek and Italian family made a lot when I was growing up, simply called “chiff choff.” The phrase chiff choff is rather esoteric (you won’t find much about it online). Although the words do appear in a Hawaiian cookbook, chiff choff does seem to have a significance in the older Italian American community. For instance, this restaurant menu is one of the only documents that lists chiff choff anywhere online. They state that it’s an “Italian tradition” made simply by sautéing chicken gizzards with chili pepper, tomatoes, and mushrooms. My theory is that with the rise of supermarkets and readily available affordable cuts of meat, chicken gizzards were eventually replaced by chicken thighs. Hence, the version of chiff choff that I grew up eating.

Credit: Photo: Murray Hall; Food Stylist: Jessie Yuchen

What Makes This Chicken So Good

As mentioned, this unbelievably cheap dish is fatty, tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy. It has everything — and it comes together using only two ingredients. There’s not even a need to coat the pan with oil, as the rendered chicken fat lubricates the pan just fine. That fat, when combined with the sweet and vinegary pickling liquid from the jarred hot peppers, creates a delightfully sticky sauce.

The Price Breakdown

The two pounds of thighs cost $6.10 at my grocery store, and the jar of Cento peppers was $3.39. All things considered, a dish this flavorful and satisfying for under 10 dollars is a miracle. It is my go-to weeknight dinner at home, and one that can easily fit in a regular rotation for even the most novice of home cooks.

If You’re Going to Make These Chicken Thighs, Some Tips

  • Use a cast iron skillet. I made this recipe in two pans: one carbon steel, and another cast iron. The skin crisps up much nicer in the cast iron skillet. (It’s all about the crispy skin.)
  • You can add up to a tablespoon of grapeseed oil to the cold pan. Having a little more oil means that you can also add a bit more of the hot cherry pepper pickling juice. This will create a smooth, tangy and delicious sauce. The oil, however, isn’t completely necessary.
  • Monitor your chicken, but seriously, don’t touch it. It’s nearly impossible to screw up chicken thighs, but you want to let the fat render off as much as possible. Also, you probably won’t overcook the skin. Just take the full 40 minutes that the cold pan method requires to do anything else. Fold laundry, watch a TV show — whatever!
  • Double the recipe and refrigerate leftovers. Letting this dish marinate in the fridge overnight only deepens the flavors more. You lose out on the crispy chicken skin, yes, but the spicy acid seems to penetrate the meat even further when it’s saved and reheated.

Two-Ingredient Chicken Recipe

This budget-friendly dinner is everything: fatty, tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy—and it comes together using just two ingredients.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info


  • 4

    bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2

    jarred mild or hot cherry peppers, such as Cento

  • 2 tablespoons

    hot cherry pepper pickling liquid


  1. Pat 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Season all over with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

  2. Place the chicken skin-side down in a single layer in an unheated, large cast iron or regular steel skillet. Place the pan(s) on the stove on the lowest heat setting possible and cook undisturbed for 40 to 50 minutes. The fat from the skin will slowly render, and you’ll start to notice crispy edges developing around the skin. You should also hear a steady, noisy sizzle and the chicken should be golden brown with some crispy, dark spots on the bottom.

  3. Meanwhile, leaving the pickling liquid in the jar, remove 2 hot cherry peppers from the jar. Twist and remove the stem from each pepper (or chop the stem off with a knife). Coarsely chop or tear the peppers into bite-sized pieces. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the pickling liquid.

  4. Flip the chicken over. Add the cherry peppers and pickling liquid, and stir to combine with the chicken fat.

  5. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers at least 165ºF, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.