Grilled chicken is a perennial favorite, but who among us hasn’t overdone a delicate breast to the texture of sawdust inside? The dark meat of the bird is far easier to cook through and still keep juicy. These are some of our favorite grilled chicken thigh recipes to prove it.
Packed with relatively lean protein, chicken thighs are also usually the cheapest option, so they’re great for budget grilling. But they’re just as versatile as any other part of the bird when it comes to marinades and rubs.
How to Grill Chicken Thighs
If you want to grill whole chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on is the best way to go as far as keeping things juicy while giving yourself some wiggle room (great if you tend to lose track of time):
Be sure to hold off on slathering them with any sugary sauce (i.e., most BBQ sauces) until they’re partly done, or else they’re more likely to burn.
Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs, 4 packs for $30 from Crowd Cow
From free-range chickens free of added hormones and antibiotics.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Buying & Storing Chicken
But chicken thighs also make fantastic skewers, in which case boneless pieces are obviously easier to cut, and you won’t want the skin either.
In either case, remember to oil your grill grates so nothing sticks.
Grilled Chicken Thigh Recipes
These are some of our favorites for the summer BBQ:.
Once you have the above chicken grilling method down, you can riff with any BBQ sauce you dream up (or find at the store). This sweet and spicy sauce incorporates ripe summer stone fruit; you can use nectarines or peaches, but you should definitely get a few extra to throw on the grill along with the chicken. Get our Grilled Chicken with Nectarine BBQ Sauce recipe. (Try our Tangy Bourbon BBQ Chicken recipe and our Maple Mustard BBQ Chicken recipe too.)
This recipe uses boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but the spicy, smoky, and slightly sweet dry rub helps keeps the meat tender along with adding tons of flavor. Instead of a sticky BBQ sauce, we grill tomatillos and avocados to blend into a creamy take on salsa verde. Get our Chipotle Grilled Chicken Thighs with Spicy Tomatillo Sauce recipe.
Related Reading: More Great Reasons to Grill Avocado
A wetter marinade has the same benefits of infused flavor and moist meat; this Mexican-inspired one is built on dried chiles you rehydrate and blend with ginger and cumin. Get our Adobo Marinated BBQ Chicken recipe. (Leftover meat is great chopped up for adobo tacos.)
For a Japanese marinade, combine yellow miso with ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and a few other ingredients. After grilling, pair with a refreshing cold noodle salad for a great contrast. Get our Grilled Chicken Thighs with Miso Marinade recipe. (No miso? Try our Grilled Chicken Thighs with Soy Marinade.)
Moving on to skewers, a yogurt-based marinade is a staple of Indian, Middle Eastern, and other cuisines as it really tenderizes the meat. This easy recipe adds lemon, smoked paprika, and a handful of other spices. Wrap these in flatbread or serve over rice or salad. Get our Spicy Yogurt Chicken recipe.
BearMoo Stainless Steel Flat Kabob Skewers, 10 for $19.99 from Amazon
The flat design of these skewers keeps your food stable on the grill.
While this recipe works beautifully on a grill pan indoors, if you have the real thing, you may as well use it every chance you get. So you don’t waste any of your precious herbs, the oft-discarded cilantro stems get pounded into the marinade here, while the cilantro leaves go into the cooling coconut dip. Get our Turmeric Chicken Skewer recipe.
Honey and Sriracha join forces for sweet-spicy skewers reminiscent of buffalo chicken, so it makes total sense to serve them with creamy blue cheese. Try them with a celery and carrot slaw for crunch. Get the Grilled Honey Sriracha Chicken Skewer recipe.
A French-inspired recipe would of course be simple yet chic; grainy mustard and fresh orange juice flavor the bird, while fresh fennel and black olives add their own Mediterranean flair. Get our French Chicken Kebab recipe.
Chicken thighs are but one of the many mix-ins you’ll find in this Spanish dish; chorizo and a sea of shellfish also figure in, but you can pare it down a bit if you prefer. If you don’t have a paella pan, try making a smaller version in a cast iron skillet on your grill. Get our Grilled Paella Mixta recipe.
Hold up—this is a stir-fry, cooked in a wok. But it does use juicy pieces of chicken thighs, and using your wok on the grill is the secret to restaurant-quality results! So try it before summer’s over and pile it up on steamed rice. Get our Spicy Chicken Asparagus Stir-Fry recipe.