Grilled Chicken Thighs

4.93 from 14 votes
↓ Jump to Recipe 4

This post may contain affiliate links | disclosure policy

These juicy grilled chicken thighs are the perfect summer meal. A quick 30-minute citrus marinade dramatically boosts the flavor before searing on the barbecue.

Tray of grilled chicken thighs served with lemon wedges.

Recipe Science

  • When grilling chicken thighs, the bone acts as insulation, helping retain moisture and preventing the meat from drying out.
  • The acidic citrus marinade tenderizes the meat by breaking down proteins, while the oil and seasonings add moisture and flavor.
  • High-heat grilling triggers the Maillard reaction, creating a flavorful, browned crust on the chicken skin.

Why It Works

My go-to chicken marinade is always a hit during summer cookouts. The timing and techniques for cooking with dark meat slightly differ from cooking with chicken breasts. This recipe is designed for chicken thighs, whether you like them with crispy skin or boneless.

The marinade is concentrated with savory and spicy seasoning. The poultry only needs a 30-minute dip in the tangy lemon and herb mixture. I also use it as a light sauce to baste during grilling. Like my grilled BBQ chicken, this meal pairs well with creamy coleslaw, potato salad, or crisp corn on the cob.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients to make grilled chicken with a flavorful marinade.
  • Chicken: If you prefer crisp skin, use bone-in chicken thighs. The bone provides insulation, preventing the meat from drying out on the grill and requiring more cooking time.
  • Marinade: A well-balanced and effective marinade always contains salt, fat, an acidic ingredient, a sweetener, and seasonings like herbs and spices. For this recipe, I use a citrusy combination of lemon juice and zest, mustard, soy sauce, honey, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, paprika, olive oil, and water.
  • Oil: Use a high smoke point oil like vegetable oil to grease the grill grates to prevent sticking.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

It’s easy to customize the grilled chicken thighs recipe. Try these tasty options:

  • Using Boneless Thighs: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs quickly infuse the marinade’s flavor and cook faster on the barbecue. Trim off excess skin and fat from the pieces before marinating, and the cooking time will be shorter.
  • Citrus: Use lime for a zest swap or orange juice for a sweeter taste.
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
  • Seasoning: Add garlic powder or onion powder for a roasted allium flavor. Want to use a quick and easy dry rub instead of a marinade? Use my classic grilled chicken seasoning mix on top of the chicken.
  • Make it Spicy: Add some heat with cayenne, chipotle, chile powder, or red chili flakes. Add my cajun seasoning for a savory and hot spice blend.
  • Add a Sauce: If you prefer chicken thighs coated with a sweet and tangy flavor, check out my homemade BBQ sauce recipe.

How to Make Grilled Chicken Thighs

Marinade ingredients added to a small bowl.

Step 1: Prepare the Marinade

I use kosher salt to brine the chicken quickly. Olive oil helps to enhance the taste of any fat-soluble seasonings. Pungent Dijon mustard and fresh lemon juice provide a tangy and bright flavor to the grilled meat.

Marinade mixture after being whisked to combine.

Honey balances the acid in the marinade; you don’t need much, and it doesn’t make the marinade overly sweet. Minced garlic, chopped parsley, lemon zest, black pepper, and paprika add a bold taste. Whisk the ingredients together and reserve ¼ cup for basting.

Several raw pieces of chicken thighs marinating in a baking dish.

Step 2: Marinate the Chicken

Add the meat to a dish, then pour the chicken marinade on top. Make sure all sides are well coated. The sodium and add-ins only need about 30 minutes to season and tenderize the meat.

Step 3: Preheat the Grill

Whether using a charcoal grill or a gas grill, ensure the grill grates are hot and greased to prevent sticking. The marinade does contain fat from the olive oil, so shake off or dab excess liquid with paper towels before adding the chicken pieces to the grill.

With the grilling cooking method, too many drippings can cause flare-ups and potential burning, so keep a close watch on the meat. eat, between 375 to 400ºF (191 to 204ºC). This range gives the meat a golden brown char while gently cooking.

Chicken thighs basting and cooking on a barbecue grill.

Step 4: Grill the Chicken Thighs

I like to sear both sides for 5 minutes to kickstart cooking. Then, I baste with the grilled chicken thigh marinade every few minutes on each side for more flavor. For chicken thighs, a meat thermometer should reach 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77ºC) in the thickest part of the meat.

I find that bone-in pieces require about 25 to 30 minutes of cooking. Bone-less thighs take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness, and longer for bone-in pieces.

Tray of bbq chicken thighs with a wet marinade liquid brushed on top.

Step 5: Serve the Chicken

Cover the chicken with foil for 5 minutes before serving to allow the meat to rest and stay warm. Now, you can serve the delicious chicken recipe with veggie side dishes or a refreshing fruit salad for a complete meal!

Frequently Asked Questions

Should chicken be at room temperature before grilling?

The raw meat should not sit at room temperature for an extended time. Bacteria multiply rapidly, especially in the temperature danger zone between 40 to 140°F (4.4 to 60ºC). They can double in as little as 20 minutes; be careful on those hot summer days! Never leave food out of refrigeration for over 2 hours, or it could cause food spoilage or illness. However, it’s okay to let it sit at room temperature for no more than 15 minutes while preheating the grill to take the chill out of the chicken for even more cooking.

Do you flip chicken thighs when grilling?

Yes! For even cooking, flip the chicken thighs. Get a good crust formed for about 5 minutes on each side, then continue to cover and cook, flipping every 2 to 3 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked.

How long do you grill chicken thighs?

Bone-in chicken thighs need about 12 to 15 minutes per side. The bone acts as an insulator, requiring more cooking time to the center. Boneless pieces need about 5 to 8 minutes per side.

Can I use the marinade as a sauce?

Yes, however, I recommend simmering the sauce over medium heat for about 5 minutes to mellow out the intense garlic flavor. Alternatively, substitute 1 teaspoon of garlic powder for the minced garlic. It will have a more roasted taste.

Serve This With

If you tried this Grilled Chicken Thighs recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Grilled Chicken Thighs

Delicious grilled chicken thighs flavored with a quick 30-minute citrus marinade, the perfect meal for a summer barbecue.
4.93 from 14 votes
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American


  • cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on


  • Prepare the Marinade – In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together olive oil, water, lemon juice, mustard, soy sauce, honey, garlic, parsley, salt, lemon zest, black pepper, and paprika. Reserve ¼ cup for basting.
  • Marinate the Chicken – Add the chicken to a baking dish or large resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate. Press out any excess air if using a plastic bag. Marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes.
  • Preheat the Grill – Preheat the grill over medium-high heat between 375 to 400ºF (191 to 204ºC). Keep one burner off for indirect heat cooking. Clean and carefully grease the grates with the oil.
  • Grill the Chicken – Shake off excess marinade from the chicken. Lightly dry the surface with a paper towel. Place the meat skin-side down on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and baste with the reserved marinade. Cook covered for about 5 minutes. Repeat flipping and basting with the remaining marinade every 2 to 3 minutes.
    Cook until the internal temperature reaches about 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77ºC) on a meat thermometer, about 25 to 30 minutes. If browning too quickly, move the pieces to the indirect heat side of the grill to finish.
  • To Serve – Cover the chicken with foil to keep warm. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Video

YouTube video


  • Servings: About 6 pieces, varies by brand
  • Marinade: Makes about 2/3 cups
  • Storing: Store grilled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating: Cover and microwave the chicken on high heat in 15 to 30-second increments until hot.
  • Marinating Ahead of Time: Chicken can be marinated for up to 24 hours, but wait to add the lemon juice (acid) until the last 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Using Boneless Thighs: Check for doneness after the first 10 minutes of cooking. Less time will be needed.
  • Make it Paleo: Use pure maple syrup instead of honey. Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. 
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute soy sauce with gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos.
  • Make it Keto: Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Omit honey or use erythritol.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 481kcal (24%)Carbohydrates 3g (1%)Protein 32g (64%)Fat 38g (58%)Saturated Fat 9g (45%)Polyunsaturated Fat 7gMonounsaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 0.2gCholesterol 189mg (63%)Sodium 1036mg (43%)Potassium 420mg (12%)Fiber 0.3g (1%)Sugar 2g (2%)Vitamin A 251IU (5%)Vitamin C 3mg (4%)Calcium 23mg (2%)Iron 2mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

Tried this recipe?

Tag me on Instagram. I'd love to see how it turns out!

Tag @jessica_gavin

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

Quick & Easy Meals in Under 30 Minutes!
Get 25 simple meals your whole family will love.
Jessica Gavin standing in the kitchen

You May Also Like

Reader Interactions

4.93 from 14 votes (12 ratings without comment)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Kim says

    I made these grilled chicken thighs tonight for company. It was delicious!!! Everyone loved it and asked for the recipe. This is a favorite.