Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs

Barbecue chicken thighs on grill
Ian O'Leary/Getty Images
  • 4 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 4 hrs,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Ratings (82)

Chicken thighs are the juiciest, most-flavorful part of the chicken and when the bone is left in, well, they taste even better. But you have to treat them right in the cooking department and this easy grilled BBQ chicken recipe is perfect!

The chicken is first marinated in an olive oil-vinegar-spice mixture, grilled, and in the final stages of cooking, slathered with a sweet-and-spicy barbecue sauce. The sauce can be changed up with any of these sauce variations.

If you're not a griller, check out the variation for baked barbecued chicken thighs after the directions for this recipe. 

What You'll Need

  • 3 pounds/1.5 kg chicken thighs (patted dry with a paper towel)
  • For the Marinade
  • 1/2 cup/120 mL olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons/45 mL white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • For the Barbecue Sauce
  • 1 cup/240 mL ketchup
  • 1/4 cup/60 mL white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup/55 g packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

How to Make It

Make the Marinade

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons white vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, white sugar, red pepper flakes, and 2 teaspoons sea salt.
  2. Place chicken thighs in a resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over top, seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours.

Make the Barbecue Sauce

  1. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining ketchup, 1/4 cup white vinegar, brown sugar, sweet paprika, 1 tablespoon olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, optional cayenne pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
  1. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes then cover and set aside. If making the sauce a day in advance, cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring the sauce back to room temperature before finishing the recipe but do not boil or overheat it.

Grill the Chicken

  1. Heat a grill over medium-low heat (about 300 F/150 C).
  2. Remove chicken from marinade and discard remaining marinade. Place chicken thighs on heated grill and cook for about 30 minutes with the lid down, turning occasionally.
  3. As the chicken nears doneness, begin brushing sauce over the surface every 5 minutes until chicken is done and the sauce has cooked down to a sticky consistency. Remember, chicken is done when the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165 F/74 C. Make sure to test more than one piece for consistency.
  4. Once cooked through, remove from heat and place onto a large platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.  
  5. Serve with creamy potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, garlic bread or your favorite barbecue side dishes.

Baked BBQ Chicken Variation

Not everyone owns a grill, likes to grill, or even knows how to grill. That's where this baked version of BBQ chicken steps in. So stash the fire extinguisher for now and bake those thighs.

  1. Marinate the chicken thighs using the procedure outlined above.
  2. Prepare the barbecue sauce using the instructions in the grilled recipe.
  3. Heat the oven to 400 F/200 C.
  4. Lightly coat a 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. Remove thighs from marinade, discarding remaining marinade, and place thighs skin-side down in the pan. Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F/190 C.
  1. Carefully pour off any accumulated fat and drippings and brush barbecue sauce over thighs. Using tongs, flip them over and brush the tops with barbecue sauce.
  2. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes, basting with barbecue sauce every 5 minutes. When an instant-read thermometer registers 165 F/74 C, the thighs are done. 
  3. Serve with your favorite sides.  
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 864
Total Fat 55 g
Saturated Fat 12 g
Unsaturated Fat 28 g
Cholesterol 209 mg
Sodium 2,541 mg
Carbohydrates 25 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Protein 67 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)