This Thai BBQ chicken is a deeply flavorful, juicy grilled chicken breast that’s been brined in a sweet and salty brine then seasoned with an easy Thai chicken marinade of aromatics, spices, and citrus. A great way to have take-out at home! It is chicken so tender and flavorful, it’ll have you licking your fingers!
This grilled chicken recipe is a celebration of popular street food in Thailand. It is served with a dipping sauce so sweet, tangy, and spicy, it’ll make you want to put it on everything. Or just eat it by the spoonful! Make lots of it because it works on more than just chicken. It’s great on pork and shrimp too!
Thai grilled chicken, or “Gai Yang” as it is referred to in Thailand, is popular street food. Recipes are slightly different by region, city, and family, each giving it its own unique interpretation. Gai Yang that is found in the states also varies from restaurant to restaurant as it does there.
Once you’ve had the most deliciously moist grilled chicken you’ll wonder why you haven’t tried this at home sooner. Being able to recreate this incredible dish (or maybe we’ll call it a masterpiece) right at home is truly a gift! Not just because it’s immensely flavorful but because it’s very easy to make, which is always a plus!
- Chicken: Skin on chicken breasts (bone-in) – You want about 4 12 oz pieces for this recipe.
- Sugar & Salt: Used to brine the chicken, giving it moisture and flavor.
- Red pepper flakes – A very common way to add heat to the Thai dipping sauce.
- Garlic cloves – Grated on a microplane, will be used in both the rub and the dipping sauce.
- Vinegar – White vinegar will give the dipping sauce its acidic note, but not overpowering.
- Lime juice – To be added to both the sauce and the rub. A citrus note, giving the chicken a tasty tang.
- Fish sauce – A lovely flavorful way to add salt. It’s made from fermented fish, but it’s not “fishy.”
- Brown sugar – Needed for sweetness in the dipping sauce. It will also add to its texture and color.
- Lemongrass – Important to note, use only the soft or light green parts. Peeling away the outer layer is important to not have a woody bite when eating the chicken.
- Fresh ginger – grated. Can use ground ginger in a pinch.
- Black pepper – A staple seasoning in many dishes. It does a great job grounding other ingredients.
- Coriander – Fresh, minced. Added to the rub.
- Cilantro – Fresh, minced for the rub as well.
- Sesame oil – Used to create a cohesive rub and bring all of the dry ingredients together.
- Optional garnishes: Lime wedges, fresh chopped cilantro, red pepper flakes.
Tips to make Thai BBQ Chicken
- When buying chicken breasts, look for ones of similar size both in weight and thickness. This will make grilling them much easier. You’ll be able to grill similar times and flip at the same time.
- I cut the breasts in 1/2 so they are smaller and cook faster on the grill.
- If you find all mixed sizes you can ask your local meat department, to have them cut you ones that are similar.
- Gently pull the skin away from the meat but be very careful to leave as much attached as you can while still being able to slide the rub into the little pocket. You want all the flavor, but want to skin to stay attached during grilling.
- If you are concerned your chicken will stick to the grill, after heating it up turn the burners off and rub an oil-soaked paper towel over the grates to help prevent sticking. Then turn the burners back on immediately before placing the chicken onto the grill.
- Browning the chicken skin on high, then moving it to the low heat side helps get great color, but gives the chicken the ability to cook evenly. If you leave it on the high side, the chicken will dry out on the outside and not cook through. Low, even heat works best.
Looking for BBQ recipes — See all of our Most Popular Grilling recipes here!
How do I know when the Thai Chicken is done?
Cook the chicken until an instant-read thermometer reads 160°. It will continue to rise about 5° after removing it but the chicken is safe to eat at 160°
You can just note the edges will be a little dryer, but the brining and cooking on low temp will keep the chicken juicy and the flavor will be the same. In fact, this recipe will work for any chicken you have, whole chickens, skinless chicken, bone-in or boneless.
You don’t have to use fish sauce, but this recipe calls for so little I suggest you do. Even if you use just a little bit less, it adds a flavor profile that is important in the chicken.
How long does the marinade/ Thai Dipping Sauce Last?
I’ve never had it last more than the meal I served it at, but tested it when making the recipe. This marinade will last about 3 days in the fridge. While technically it will last up to a week, the cilantro in the marinade starts to change and kind of makes the dipping sauce a little slimy.
Thai Inspired Recipes you might enjoy or that pair with this delicious recipe!
- Spicy Thai Shrimp Soup
- Thai Red Curry
- Coconut Lime Chicken Skewers
- Asian Peanut Slaw
- Caramelized Garlic Sugar Snap Peas
- Jasmine Rice with Ginger and Lemongrass
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- 4 Skin On Chicken Breasts, with bone- each about 12 ounces
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup salt
Thai Style Dipping Sauce
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 garlic cloves, grated on microplane
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup lime juice (fresh is better) about 2-3 limes
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Lemongrass, white part only finely chopped
Thai Chicken Rub
- 12 garlic cloves, grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh ground ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 2/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced
- 1/4 cup lime juice (fresh 2-3 limes)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Grass, white parts only finely chopped
- Lime Wedges
- Fresh Chopped Cilantro
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Disolve sugar and salt in 2 quarts of cold water in a large bowl. Place breasts in the brine, completely submerged.
- Place the bowl into the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but not longer than 60 minutes.
- Remove from the brine, rinse, then pat dry with paper towels.
- Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. It's best to let the sauce sit at room temperature for an hour to let them meld well. I do this while the chicken is brining so Im not using any extra time.
- Once melded the sauce is ready for eating. Store in an airtight container in the fridge if you arent using it right away. The sauce will keep for 3 days completely mixed up. It does last longer but the cilantro starts to leave a film in the sauce that isn't entirely fresh so I toss it at that point.
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until well combined
- Cut the large breasts in 1/2 paying carefull attention to not destroy the skin attaching to the bone.
- Slide your fingers under the skin of the chicken to loosen the skin from the meat. Take special care to not detatch the skin completely.
- Gently rub 1 -2 tablespoons under the skin.
- Then cover all of the outer skin and the back bone of the chicken with rub. Repeat with all breasts.
- Set rubbed breasts on a plate ready to grill. If you are prepping ahead and it will be a while before you grill, cover with plastic and place in the fridge until about 30 minutes before you are ready to grill.
- Turn the burners of a gas grill to high, close lid and let get hot for 15 minutes. If your grill needs, it, scrape any bits off the grates after 15 minutes, they will easily fall away.
- Reduce the heat on all of the burners but one to low. On the still remaining high burner, place the chicken, skin side down onto the grill. Grill until the skin is browned. About 4-5 minutes. Stay with the grill as it may flame up.
- Flip the breasts (use tongs gently to not rip the skin) and grill 4-5 minutes longer.
- Then move chicken to the cooler side of the grill (low burners) and close the lid. (skin side up)
- Cook until the chicken registers 160° on sn instant read thermometer. About 12 -15 minutes if your breasts were about 12 ounces each.
- Once at 160°, remove from grill to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Serve with dipping sauce on the side and garnishes over the top.
The Brining time is done at the time you make the marinde and the rub as well as preheat the oven in the brining time. cooking time is all grilling time.
This recipe is a mix of a recipe from Cooks Illistrated and a class I took with Jet Tila--- It also works with skin on thighs very well, but most Thai recipes Ive had at restaurants always use breasts. I have made this without the skin, and it tastes great, but the chicken is not as moist since it doesnt have the skin to protect it and keep the moisture in.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 142Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7433mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 3gSugar: 19gProtein: 2g
This recipe was calculated using the exact brands and measurements I used to make this recipe. If you are following a strict diet please note changing anything will cause the nutritional info to change. Please calculate your own nutritional information if you want it exact to what you make and use my calculations as a guide only.