Cooking outdoors is so simple and delicious with this Grilled Chicken Thighs recipe! The key to the best-grilled chicken recipe is to marinate the meat for a few days before grilling chicken thighs. This makes tender and juicy chicken effortless.
The chicken marinade for grilling chicken here is made with ingredients you likely have on hand. Tomato ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch, and some other sauces are a quick way to mix and marinate chicken. This grilled chicken marinade has been proven to be moist and super flavorful when served! We especially love it with a side of unleavened bread and mashed potatoes!
Moist Grilled Chicken Thighs:
The secret to tender grilled chicken thighs is to marinate the chicken thighs for at least 24 hours before grilling. This makes the meat extra moist and flavorful so plan ahead and keep this soaked in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them. The longer it sits in the chicken marinade the better! Some of the vinegary condiments like ketchup, bbq sauce, or soy sauce add a ton of flavor and tenderize the meat. Grill chicken thighs on a gas or charcoal grill over direct heat for 5-7 minutes without flipping. Turning over too much can dry out the meat.
This chicken thigh recipe comes from Alina who catered this for crowds. When there was a gathering of 20+ people I brought 10 pounds of chicken thighs to her and we marinated them together. I was able to watch how much sauce she added and scaled down the recipe to family size. You will love this chicken meal, our children sure love it too!
Chicken- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are best because of their darker meat than chicken breast. You could also use bone-in or skin-on thighs but the cooking time will take slightly longer. If you score them on a deal it’s the perfect main dish to make for a crowd on a budget! I prefer my chicken thighs without skins for this recipe.
Marinade- some of the sauces have a little sweetness, oil, and acidic vinegary flavor, for bold flavor. Most of these sauces are probably in your pantry and the fresh garlic is a must for extra flavor! I use mayo, ketchup, ranch dressing, bbq sauce, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce for marinating as well as seasoned salt for the chicken seasoning and lots of fresh garlic.
Note: you can use any soy sauce-based sauce like my eel sauce or Yoshida sauce as it adds savory umami flavor to the marinade and works as a meat tenderizer. For spicy chicken thighs season with black pepper and use a spicy ranch dressing.
How To Grill Chicken Thighs:
To grill chicken you will need a gas or charcoal grill. You could use a stovetop pan for grilling but it won’t give you that charcoal-smokey flavor as outdoor grilling would. Invest in an instant-read meat thermometer to know the chicken temperature and ensure that it’s fully cooked. Grilled boneless chicken thighs are done when the meat thermometer reads 170°F. They can take longer to cook than breast meat so, count on 10-15 minutes to grill.
- Place chicken thighs in a large food container (preferably a large bowl with a lid.) Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.
- Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. I let them sit in the fridge for 2-4 days depending on how quickly I need them. They will get better in flavor and cook tender if you allow 2 days or more.
- Grill chicken thighs over direct heat for about 5-7 minutes on each side or until the meat thermometer reads 170°F when inserted at the thickest part.
- Let the grilled meat rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with your favorite summer sides! We love them with creamy mashed potatoes, a fresh green leaf salad, and unleavened bread!
How To Store and Reheat Leftovers:
Leftover grilled chicken thighs make fantastic meals! You can make a grilled chicken sandwich, top it over a salad (grilled chicken salad), or make a chicken wrap with flour tortillas (whole wheat flour tortillas for a healthy option!) Simply cool and store leftovers inside an airtight food container in the fridge for up to 5 days. I like to grill a big batch (triple it sometimes), and then reheat leftovers in the oven for another dinner. Kids love this chicken meat dipped into ketchup or ranch dressing!
How To Reheat Grilled Chicken Thighs: place leftover grilled chicken into a 9x13 baking dish. Add 1/2 cup of water and bake in a preheated 350°F for 30-45 minutes to steam the chicken. This will revive the meat and will taste as if it came off the grill. You can also microwave them with a splash of water covered to create steam.
Can you Grill Frozen Chicken?
If using frozen chicken thighs, you’ll need to thaw the meat completely before marinating.
How Long To Cook Chicken on the Grill?
Chicken thighs take about 10-15 minutes to cook on the grill. That’s about 5-7 minutes per side. You want the internal temp to reads 170°F as it has darker meat than other chicken cuts. Depending on how small the chicken pieces the cooking time can vary. For instance, chicken tenders or chicken kabobs on skewers will take much quicker.
Tips For Grilling Thighs:
- The darker meat in the thighs contains more muscle, proteins, and fat tissue than breast meat making it more compact and sheltered. This is why chicken thighs can take longer to cook.
- Preheat the grill over high heat to get the heat going. Once the grill reaches a temp of 450-500°F you can place the meat over the grill grates. This creates charred grill marks. Typically, the temp will drop after all the meat is placed on the grill so, you do not need to change the cooking temp, a gas grill will gradually build up the temp again.
- If the chicken sticks to the grill when trying to flip, it needs extra time to cook. Leave it on for another 2 minutes then try flipping again.
- Avoid flipping or moving too much once the meat is on direct heat. For juicy chicken, flipping too often will dry out the meat and the excess juices will drip onto the fire, causing more flames and higher heat. Try flipping once halfway in between the cooking time.
- Wash the meat well and briefly drain, leaving it watery. This will dilute the creamy sauces and make a better marinade.
More Chicken Recipes:
- Rotisserie-style Chicken Leg Quarters
- Teriyaki Chicken wings
- Chicken Salad Sandwich
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Did you make our chicken thighs recipe? Leave us a comment and rating below to tell us about your experience!
Grilled Chicken Thighs
- 1 grill
- 3.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 11)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup ranch dressing
- 2 Tbsp BBQ sauce (heaping)
- 1 Tbsp seasoning salt
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
- 2 Tbsp ketchup (heaping)
- 1 head garlic (minced)
- Combine the chicken thighs and marinade, in a large food container.
- Mix well and marinate for at least 24 hours or 2-4 days if the time allows.
- Preheat a grill to high heat (450°F.) Add the chicken thighs and cook for 5-7 minutes per side or until the chicken reaches 170°F with a meat thermometer in the thickest part.
- Rest 10 minutes before serving.
- Grilled chicken thighs are best reheated in a 9x13 pan with 1/2 cup of water covered at 350°F for 30-45 minutes. This steams the chicken thighs and revives the meat as if it came off the grill.
- Chicken thighs are darker meat so you will want the internal temperature at 170°F.
Nutrition per serving