by Olena

Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs

Olena's image
Olena Osipov
5 from 12 votes

THE BEST Grilled Chicken Thighs are ones that provide juicy, flavorful pieces of chicken with very little time and effort. This super simple coconut lime chicken marinade with cilantro and jalapeno provides for a powerful explosion of flavour!

My kids loved this grilled chicken thigh recipe and I promise yours will too! Just like they love simply grilled chicken breast and Greek chicken kabobs.

grilled chicken thighs

These grilled chicken thighs are probably one of the most flavourful pieces of meat you’ll ever enjoy! Right now, this recipe and my mom’s Ukrainian baked chicken thighs or roasted chicken thighs and potatoes are on high rotation.

Whether it’s Greek chicken or grilled salmon, using a marinade is the best way to make sure the flavour penetrates the protein and is permeated throughout every bite. The blend of coconut milk, lime, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno is a mouthwatering combination that provides you with a tangy, spicy, zesty explosion of flavor. Then, once it’s grilled, it’s game over. That beautiful marinade creates a crusty charred exterior, capturing the juices of the chicken inside. I mean, seriously!

The prep is so easy in this grilled chicken thighs recipe. It’s a 7 ingredient marinade that takes no time to whip up in a food processor or blender. Just marinate coconut lime chicken for four hours or overnight and it’s ready for you to grill on a busy weeknight or when you’re having people over for a BBQ on the weekend. Or really, when you just don’t want to turn on the oven! It’s a one-bowl easy chicken marinade that makes for easy cleanup and it’s made with simple fresh ingredients that you’ve probably already got in your fridge.

Skip the dry rub this time around, and you’ll see just how much everyone enjoys the juicy tender chicken loaded with delicious flavour!

Ingredients and Substitutions

Meaty chicken thighs are marinated in a sweet zesty marinade of coconut milk, lime juice, and fresh cilantro. With substitutions, of course.

  • Chicken thighs: You’ll need about 3 lbs in this recipe. Use either bone-in or boneless, but I recommend keeping the skin on. Having crispy skin with all of that flavour is pretty much the law! This amazing marinade will work with any piece of chicken like drumsticks, breast, wings, etc.
  • Canned coconut milk: Fat gives the meat moisture, and the coconut flavour adds to the sweetness and the taste. Substitute with yogurt or buttermilk.
  • Lime juice: An acid that is a must for any marinade. Use lemon or apple cider vinegar if that’s what you have.
  • Cilantro: Pulverized cilantro flavour is intense and perfect for flavoring the meat. It’s such a burst of fresh herbed flavour, just like this avocado cilantro dressing adds one to any veggies.
  • Jalapeno: Adds a tiny spicy kick that is still kid-friendly. Feel free to add more jalapenos for a spicier version.
  • Onions: They tenderize and start “cooking” the meat and are a major component of many great marinades. They also add juiciness to lean protein recipes like chicken burgers and turkey meatloaf.
grilled chicken thighs in blue serving dish

How to Grill Perfect Chicken Thighs

This grilled chicken thigh recipe is very similar to my cilantro lime chicken where cilantro is pulsed with other flavorings in a food processor, quickly marinated and then grilled to perfection.

  • Marinate the chicken: Using a food processor/blender, combine ingredients and add to a bowl. Marinate the chicken for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours. I tried both timings and both were flavorful.
  • Grill: Heat the grill and wipe the grate with oil. Grill chicken for about 15 minutes per side while covered. Start with skin side down first. Reduce heat to low if fat is burning and flip when meat is somewhat opaque on top.
  • Check internal temperature: When a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 165 degrees F, your chicken is done.
  • Rest chicken: Remove from the grill and transfer to a surface and tent it for about 5-10 minutes to allow the juices to settle. Otherwise, if you cut too early the juices run out, and you’re left with all of that goodness gone!

Tips for Easy and Flavourful Chicken Thighs

So here are a few tricks I’ve learned with grilling chicken thighs

  • Leave the skin on during cooking to prevent the chicken from burning and drying. Remove before serving if you don’t want to enjoy the skin. The only times I cook skinless thighs are with this Instant Pot chicken thighs recipe and baked chicken with peppers.
  • Trim off excess fat or skin: Before you even marinate the meat. Why? Well, it is extra fat you don’t want to eat. But also, dripping fat from the skin during grilling will cause flare ups.
  • Bone-in chicken cooks longer, so again it’s important to read the thermometer.
  • Uniform-sized pieces make for much more even cooking. If you happen to be using a variety of chicken pieces, making sure to cook the same sized pieces at once means you won’t have to worry about under or over cooking some.
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs will need to be cooked on lower heat and for less time.
  • Do not marinate chicken past 24 hours because it starts to break down, especially when there is citrus involved. Just like with chili lime chicken.
  • Longer marinated meat will cook faster.
  • Discard the marinade – More often than not you’ll just discard the marinade. There are some cases where you can boil the marinade to cook it down and use it as a gravy or sauce. This is NOT one of those times!
grilled chicken thighs served with cucumber salad on white plate and black fork

What to Serve Coconut Lime Chicken With?

This grilled coconut lime chicken packs such a flavour punch that you don’t serve it with anything that will overpower it. Below is a list of ways to serve it with a simple side.

  • Green leafy salad: Italian inspired arugula salad or Caesar like lemon kale salad not only are easy to prep while chicken is grilling but also can be made ahead. Also lots of nutrition and can be transported to a picnic.
  • Chock full of veggie salads: Creamy cucumber salad (pictured) or Greek salad will round out a healthy meal nicely.
  • A whole grain dish made in the Instant Pot: Enjoy with any healthy whole grain side like quinoa or brown rice.
  • A low carb grilled side: Grill zucchini right after grilling chicken. Because BBQ is still hot, it will be easy to clean it up after messy chicken skin, and also quick to prep while meat is grilling.
  • Classic potato salad: Regular healthy potato salad or low carb cauliflower potato salad provide a classic side dish with less calories either way.

How to Make Ahead, Store and Reheat

Make Ahead: The marinade itself can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time. Marinating happens during this process, so you have a full 24 hour hours to think about all the delicious sides you’re going to make with it!

Store: Keep chicken thighs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. They also freeze really well and can be kept frozen for up to 3 months.

Reheat: On the stovetop, add chicken to a skillet with a bit of water or broth. Cook covered for 5 minutes until heated all the way through.

FAQs

What else can I use the marinade for?

This sauce is good enough to eat by the spoonful! It really can be used to marinate fish and shrimp but if you make extra, you can also use it to drizzle on top of your grilled chicken.

Should I use boneless or bone-in chicken thighs?

To be honest, it’s totally a personal preference. As we know, bones give meat tons of flavour, but in this case, so does the marinade! If you choose to keep the bones in, you’ll need to cook it a little longer. If you use boneless, there’s always the opportunity to chop up any leftovers and add it to a salad!

More Favorite Grilled Recipes

grilled chicken thighs recipe in serving dish
Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs

Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs

THE BEST Grilled Chicken Thighs are ones that provide juicy, flavorful pieces of chicken with very little time and effort. This super simple coconut lime chicken marinade with cilantro and jalapeno provides for a powerful explosion of flavour!
5 from 12 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 9 chicken thighs
Calories: 361kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs chicken thighs bone in or boneless
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk from a can
  • 1 lime juice of
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • Cilantro large handful
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 Jalapeño pepper with seeds for mild; more for hot

Instructions

  • To make marinade: In a food processor/blender, combine coconut milk, lime juice, onion, cilantro, salt and jalapeno pepper until smooth mixture is formed.
    Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs
  • Place chicken in a large bowl or any container that can be covered. Pour marinade over chicken, stir with tongs, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight (but no more than 24 hours).
    Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs
  • To grill chicken thighs: Preheat the grill on high, then reduce to low-medium. Rub the grill with an oiled paper towel.Place chicken skin side down on the grill, close the lid and cook for 15 minutes. If the fat is burning too much, reduce the heat to low. Turn the chicken over, close the lid and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until internal read thermometer
    inserted in the thickest part has reached 165 degrees F.
    Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs
  • Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs

Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

    Make ahead: Chicken can be marinated for a maximum of 24 hours.

      For Reheating: In a skillet, add a splash of water or broth and chicken thighs. Cook chicken covered on low for ~5 minutes.

        Video

        Notes

        • Chicken thighs: Use either bone-in or boneless, but I recommend keeping the skin on. Having crispy skin with all of that flavour is pretty much the law! This amazing marinade will work with any piece of chicken like drumsticks, breast, wings, etc.
        • Canned coconut milk: Fat gives the meat moisture, and the coconut flavour adds to the sweetness and the taste. Substitute with yogurt or buttermilk.
        • Lime juice: An acid that is a must for any marinade. Use lemon or apple cider vinegar if that’s what you have.
        • Cilantro: Pulverized cilantro flavour is intense and perfect for flavoring the meat. It’s such a burst of fresh herbed flavour, just like this avocado cilantro dressing adds one to any veggies.
        • Jalapeno: Adds a tiny spicy kick that is still kid-friendly. Feel free to add more jalapenos for a spicier version.
        • Onions: They tenderize and start “cooking” the meat and are a major component of many great marinades.
        • Cooking tips: Grills vary so check your chicken often. I have a powerful new Coleman grill. Bone in chicken cooks longer and boneless faster. Longer marinated chicken cooks faster as well. Always discard chicken marinade.
        See Recipe Post for more Tips and FAQs.

        Nutrition

        Serving: 1thigh | Calories: 361kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 148mg | Sodium: 312mg | Potassium: 354mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 124IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg
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        olena osipov in the studio

        Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

        My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

        28 comments on “Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs

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        1. 5 stars
          This is the first time where I see a recipe when we’re given even suggestion on what to eat it with… thankful. Great job! I love it! Well done…

        2. Ok I’m such a terrible cook! My paste was not thick like yours – I guess I chopped it too long in my vitamix – hoping it will still taste ok

        3. 5 stars
          Hello Olena, made your recipe with chicken breasts and my husband has so far thanked me 5 times! I used banana peppers and extra lime juice, it was delicious…Also made extra sauce for drizzling on cooked chicken. Thank you again for your wonderful recipes.?

        4. 5 stars
          Very good! I whipped everything up in my vitamix except the pepper because I did not have it. I only had a half hour to marinate but it was still tasty! Next time I will marinate longer. Thank you.

        5. 5 stars
          Olena I am really loving all you’re recipes for the instant pot .my name is Coleene and have been married to Dave for 42 years. So glad I found you’re website ?? I have made jambalaya soup the beef stew and then your healthy recipes I’ve made the healthy tuna salad which is just wonderful we’re really enjoying that

        6. 5 stars
          Delicious!!!! I used about 8 boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins and marinated them for about 24 hours. The chicken was so tender and so tasty! I doubled the marinade recipe and used 1/2 for the overnight marinating and saved the other 1/2 to warm and use as a dipping sauce / drizzle (I could eat this sauce by the spoonful so I dipped my grilled chicken in it and also drizzled it over the steamed green beans we had on the side)! We like heat, so I used a whole large jalapeno, but I did cut back on the onion quite a bit and used a sweet yellow one from our garden (the cilantro was also from our garden – I love summer!!).

        7. 5 stars
          I made this today, but changed the recipe a little bit: I chose the chicken breasts sliced in half and cut in smaller pieces and cooked them in a wok (like stir frying) at med-hi with the marinade. Added some garlic and coconut oil to the marinade too. When the chicken was completely cooked and golden, I added more coconut milk (1/4 cup) with 1 tsp of cornstarch for a creamy sauce. Complete success! Thank you!

        8. 5 stars
          Made this for friends the other night. and it was extremely tasty. I opted to used the chicken breast halves (always trying to stay trim) and shallots because I didn’t have any red onion on hand. It was a big hit with everyone, and really easy to make. I served it with corn grilled in their husks and Cajun seasoning, and roasted bell peppers with lemon pepper and goat cheese. Excellent!

        9. I made this for dinner tonight and it was very tasty!! I used boneless thighs and it was great on the grill. My whole family loves it. The only alternation I did was add fresh garlic and like zest. Loved it, will repeat

        10. What would be a good side to accompany this dish? I love the idea of the chicken, but I can’t think of how to make it a complete meal.

          1. For sure! Preheat oven to 425 F degrees and place chicken on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake boneless skinless chicken for 20 minutes or until the chicken has an internal temperature of 165°F. Ovens vary so check and if necessary cook a bit longer. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for 5-10 mins covered with foil. This makes meat more tender.:) Hope this helps.

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