Learn How to Grill Chicken Thighs that are juicy, tender and delicious! With little time and effort this super simple grilled chicken thighs marinade provides for a powerful explosion of flavor!

We also love this chimichurri chicken, grilled chicken burgers and yogurt marinated chicken.

Grilled chicken thighs served in a baking dish.

These grilled chicken thighs are probably one of the most flavorful chicken recipes you’ll ever enjoy!

I love to use a dry rub like taco seasoning or all purpose seasoning when grilling, but today we are talking about how to grill chicken thighs using fresh ingredients for a change. Marinade is the best way to make sure the flavor penetrates the meat and is permeated throughout every bite. Plus your grilled chicken thighs will have a crusty charred exterior.

This 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.

Grilled Chicken Thighs Marinade

Grilled chicken thighs are marinated in chicken marinade made with 7 fresh simple ingredients.

  • Canned coconut milk: Fat gives chicken moisture, and the coconut flavor 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 juice or apple cider vinegar, if that’s what you have.
  • Cilantro: Pulverized cilantro flavor is intense and perfect for flavoring the meat. Parsley will work as well.
  • 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.
  • Chicken thighs: You’ll need about 3 pounds of bone-in skin-on chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken thighs will work as well.

How to Grill Chicken Thighs Perfectly

Here is how to grill chicken thighs in no time! Whip up marinade in a food processor or blender, marinate for as little as 1 hour or overnight, then grill.

Cilantro, jalapeno, onion, lime juice and coconut milk in a food processor.

Prepare the marinade: In a food processor or blender, add coconut milk, lime juice, onion, cilantro, salt and jalapeno. Process until smooth. I love my small food processor for these purposes!

Chicken thighs with chicken marinade in a glass bowl.

Marinate the chicken: In a large bowl, pour marinade over the chicken thighs and stir well to coat meat evenly. Cover, place in the refrigerator and marinate chicken thighs before grilling for 1 to 24 hours. I tried both timings and both were flavorful.

Grilling chicken thighs on the grill.

Grill chicken thighs: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (400-450F) and rub grill grates with oiled paper towel. Grill chicken thighs for about 8-10 minutes per side while covered. Start with skin side down first, reduce the heat to low if fat is burning and flip grilled chicken pieces when meat is somewhat opaque on top.

Thermometer inserted in grilled chicken thighs showing 165 degrees F.

Check internal temperature: When a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 165 degrees F, your grilled chicken thighs are ready.

Rest the chicken: Remove chicken from the grill, transfer to a platter, cover with foil and let meat rest for about 5-10 minutes to allow the juices to settle.

How Long to Grill Chicken Thighs?

How long to grill chicken thighs depends whether you use bone-in chicken thighs or boneless chicken thighs, their size and how long they have been marinating.

Here is a handy time table with grilling times to use as a point of reference. As always, adjust accordingly to your grill and other factors mentioned above.

ChickenGrilling time
Bone-in chicken thighs14-16 minutes
Boneless skinless chicken thighs10-12 minutes

Should I Grill Chicken Thighs on High or Low Heat?

When it comes to grilling chicken thighs there are a few methods. I like to grill chicken thighs on high heat around 400 to 450 F or you can grill them at 350 to 375 F over direct heat.

Some people also like to use two zone grilling where once you preheat the grill you leave one side with burners on and grill chicken thighs on the other side with indirect heat.

The method you choose largely depends on how fatty are your chicken thighs and your grill.

Do You Grill Chicken Thighs with Skin Side Down First?

Grill chicken thighs with skin side down first, so it crisps up nicely. It is important to have well cleaned grilled grates so chicken skin doesn’t stick to them. Do not peak under the skin earlier than necessary. When cooked, crispy skin should slide off easily from the grill grates when metal spatula is inserted under it.

Tips for Best Results

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 out. Remove before serving if you don’t want to eat the skin.
  • Do not check grilled chicken thighs with a knife: Do not cut with a knife into grilled chicken to see if juices run clear. If you cut too early, the juices run out and all of that goodness is gone. Instead, use a quality digital meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is ready.
  • Trim off excess fat or skin: Before you even marinate the meat, so dripping fat during grilling won’t cause the flare ups.
  • Do not marinate chicken past 24 hours because it starts to break down, especially when there is citrus involved.
  • 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 Grilled Chicken Thighs with?

Grilled chicken thighs are perfect for a busy weeknight or when you’re having people over for a BBQ on the weekend.

This grilled chicken packs such a flavor 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 dish.

How to Store and Reheat

Store: Refrigerate grilled chicken thighs leftovers 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: Add chicken to a skillet with a bit of water or broth. Cook covered for 5 minutes until heated all the way through. Or microwave.

FAQs

Do you grill chicken thighs with lid open or closed?

Always grill chicken thighs with lid of your grill closed.

Do you flip chicken thighs on the grill?

Yes you have to flip chicken thighs on the grill only once.

How do I avoid flare ups?

Some chicken thighs are larger and contain more fat than others. Also some grills run hotter. If you see your chicken thighs on the grill are causing too many flare ups, use two zone grilling method. Keep burners on one side and move chicken to the other side of the grill and cook over indirect heat.

What is the key to grilling chicken thighs?

All grills have hotter parts of it. Flip chicken thighs in order you put them on the grill and cook chicken on the edges of the grill longer. If you see flare ups, cook chicken over indirect heat. And always keep the cover on your BBQ on unless you’re flipping chicken thighs.

More Chicken Thighs Recipes to Try

More Favorite Grilled Recipes

Browse through all my favorite healthy grill recipes!

Closeup of grilled chicken thighs recipe in serving dish.
Grilled chicken thighs served in a baking dish.

How to Grill Chicken Thighs

Learn How to Grill Chicken Thighs that are juicy, tender & delicious! Super simple grilled chicken thighs marinade is an explosion of flavor!
5 from 14 votes
Servings 9 chicken thighs
Calories 361
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 16 minutes
Marinating Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 26 minutes

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • In a food processor or blender, combine coconut milk, lime juice, onion, cilantro, salt and jalapeno pepper. Process until smooth.
  • Place chicken thighs in a large bowl or any container that can be covered. Pour marinade over chicken, stir with tongs, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight (but no more than 24 hours).
  • Preheat grill on medium-high heat (400-450F) and rub grill grates with oiled paper towel. Place chicken thighs skin side down on the grill, close the lid and cook bone-in chicken thighs for 7-8 minutes, boneless chicken thighs for 5-6 minutes. Turn the chicken over, close the lid and cook for another 7-8 minutes or 5-6 minutes or until internal read thermometer inserted in the thickest part has reached 165 degrees F.
  • Remove chicken on a platter, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Serve grilled chicken thighs warm with cucumber salad, avocado corn salad or mango black bean salad.

Video

Notes

  • Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • Reheat: In a skillet, add a splash of water or broth and grilled chicken thighs. Simmer covered on low for 5 minutes.
  • Make ahead: Chicken can be marinated for a maximum of 24 hours.
  • Some chicken thighs are larger and contain more fat than others. Also some grills run hotter. If you see your chicken thighs on the grill are causing too many flare ups, use two zone grilling method. Keep burners on one side and move chicken to the other side and grill over indirect heat.

Nutrition

Serving: 1thigh | Calories: 361kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 148mg | Sodium: 312mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North American
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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!!).

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. Ummm, coconut and cilantro are a match made in heaven. Hoping for one or two more nice days before winter so I can try this recipe out!

    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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