Vietnamese-Inspired Lemongrass Chicken Thighs Recipe

Vietnamese-inspired lemongrass chicken is fragrant, juicy, pungent, and mildly spicy, a seemingly simple dish that hides complex flavors. This is the perfect recipe to make for a weeknight dinner or a gathering with friends and family.

There's something about the smell of Vietnamese chicken: strong, musky, layered and slightly stinging. According to Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table, the secret to these layered flavors and scents is the combination of lemongrass and fish sauce. Lemongrass is an essential ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, imparting a unique flavor that can't be replicated by any other herb or spice. It adds a distinct, citrusy flavor and aroma to many Southeast Asian dishes.

This recipe showcases the fragrant lemongrass perfectly, allowing its bright, lemony notes to shine through in the marinade. The marinade also features a blend of fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and red chile, which together create a salty, sweet, and spicy melange. As a result, these marinated chicken thighs are a flavorful and aromatic dish. Serve them with steamed rice, spring rolls, and fresh herbs for a taste of Vietnam in your own home.

Gather the ingredients for lemongrass chicken thighs

For this Vietnamese lemongrass chicken dish, you'll need lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, lime juice, garlic, ginger, red chile, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and vegetable oil. Optional garnishes include additional sliced red chile, fresh cilantro leaves, and lime wedges.

Step 1: Mix the marinade

In a bowl, stir together the lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon finely chopped red chile to create the marinade.

Step 2: Add chicken to the marinade

Add the chicken thighs to the marinade, ensuring each piece is well coated.

Step 3: Marinate the chicken

Cover with plastic film and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

Step 4: Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Step 5: Pat the chicken dry

Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Reserve the marinade for later use.

Step 6: Preheat oil in a skillet

Heat the vegetable oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Step 7: Sear the chicken

Sear the chicken thighs for 5 minutes, until the skin is golden.

Step 8: Cook the chicken on the other side

Flip the chicken thighs over and sear for another 2–3 minutes.

Step 9: Transfer chicken to a baking dish

Transfer the chicken to a baking dish.

Step 10: Top with the remaining marinade

Pour over the remaining marinade.

Step 11: Bake

Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 F.

Step 12: Set the oven to broil

Set the oven to broil on high.

Step 13: Broil the chicken

Broil for 5 minutes.

Step 14: Rest the chicken

Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Step 15: Garnish and serve

Garnish with cilantro leaves, sliced chile, and lime wedges, if desired.

Can I cook lemongrass chicken with breasts instead of thighs?

While this recipe is designed for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, you can certainly use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs. The marinade and cooking method will work well with either cut. However, it's important to note that chicken breasts tend to dry out more easily than thighs due to their lower fat content. To prevent the breasts from becoming overly dry or tough, you'll need to adjust the cooking time and keep a close eye on them. Chicken breasts typically require less time in the oven than thighs, so start checking the internal temperature after about 10–12 minutes of baking. Use an instant-read thermometer and remove the breasts from the oven once they reach an internal temperature of 165 F. You may also want to consider pounding the chicken breasts to an even thickness before marinating and cooking. This will help them cook more evenly and prevent the thinner portions from drying out before the thicker parts are fully cooked.

Can I skip the marination time in this chicken recipe?

While marinating the chicken is recommended for maximum flavor, you can skip the marinating step if you're short on time. But, keep in mind that the marinade plays a crucial role in infusing the chicken with the aromatic blend. During the marinating process, the chicken absorbs these flavors, resulting in a more complex and well-seasoned final dish. Be forewarned that skipping the marinating time may result in a dish that lacks the depth of flavor and signature lemongrass essence of the original. The chicken may also be less tender and juicy without the tenderizing effects of the marinade.

If you choose to skip the marinade, you'll need to season the chicken directly with salt, pepper, and the other marinade ingredients before searing and baking. However, simply coating the surface of the chicken with the seasonings won't allow the flavors to penetrate the meat as deeply. If time allows, marinating the chicken for even 30 minutes is highly recommended to fully capture the intended flavors and textures of this dish.

Can I adjust the heat level or seasonings in this Vietnamese chicken recipe?

You can absolutely adjust the heat level and types of seasoning in this Vietnamese lemongrass chicken recipe to suit your personal taste preferences. For those who enjoy a spicier kick, you can easily increase the heat level by adding more chopped red chile or even a teaspoon or two of chili garlic sauce to the marinade. This will give the dish a bolder, more fiery flavor. On the other hand, if you prefer a milder dish, you can reduce or omit the chopped red chili altogether. You can also use a less spicy variety of chili or pepper to dial down the heat.

You can also experiment with different herbs and spices to give the dish a unique flavor twist. For instance, you could add fresh cilantro or basil to the marinade for an herbaceous note, or try incorporating curry powder or other warm spices for a more complex depth of flavor. The key is to not overwhelm the dishes with these seasonings. Start with small amounts and gradually increase until you achieve the desired level of heat or flavor intensity.

Vietnamese-Inspired Lemongrass Chicken Thighs Recipe
4.9 from 17 ratings
The flavorful, aromatic marinade for this easy chicken recipe combines lemongrass, red chile, and fish sauce for a delicious mix inspired by Vietnamese cuisine.
Prep Time
2.17
hours
Cook Time
22
minutes
Servings
8
servings
Lemongrass chicken with chili and cilantro and lime
Total time: 2 hours, 32 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red chile
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Optional Ingredients
  • Sliced red chile, for garnish
  • ⅛ cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • Lime wedges, for serving
Directions
  1. In a bowl, stir together the lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon finely chopped red chile to create the marinade.
  2. Add the chicken thighs to the marinade, ensuring each piece is well coated.
  3. Cover with plastic film and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  5. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Reserve the marinade for later use.
  6. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  7. Sear the chicken thighs for 5 minutes, until the skin is golden.
  8. Flip the chicken thighs over and sear for another 2–3 minutes.
  9. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish.
  10. Pour over the remaining marinade.
  11. Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 F.
  12. Set the oven to broil on high.
  13. Broil for 5 minutes.
  14. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  15. Garnish with cilantro leaves, sliced chile, and lime wedges, if desired.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 241
Total Fat 9.5 g
Saturated Fat 1.8 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 134.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 9.2 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Total Sugars 6.8 g
Sodium 709.9 mg
Protein 29.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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