Delicious Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs

Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs
The Spruce
  • Total: 4 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 4 hrs
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
864 Calories
55g Fat
25g Carbs
67g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 864
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 55g 70%
Saturated Fat 12g 61%
Cholesterol 209mg 70%
Sodium 2541mg 110%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2g 5%
Protein 67g
Calcium 62mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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.

If you don't like to cook on the grill, check out the variation for baked barbecued chicken thighs after the directions for this recipe. 


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  • 3 lbs./1 1/2 kg. chicken thighs
  • For the Marinade
  • 1/2 cup/120 mL. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp./45 mL. white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. 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 tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp./15 mL. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Optional: 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, these bbq chicken thighs are broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for cooking.

Make the Marinade

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel.

  3. 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.

  4. Place chicken thighs in a resealable plastic bag.

  5. Pour marinade over top, seal bag, and turn to coat. Refrigerate for two to six hours.

Make the Barbecue Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. 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.

  3. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

  4. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes and 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, discard remaining marinade, and place chicken thighs on heated grill.

  3. Cook for about 30 minutes with the lid down, turning occasionally.

  4. 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.

  5. Once cooked through, remove from heat and place onto a large platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.  

  6. Serve with your favorite sides.  

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. Heat the oven to 400 F/200 C. Lightly coat a 13 by 9-inch pan with cooking spray.

  2. Remove thighs from marinade, discarding remaining marinade, and place thighs skin-side down in the pan.

  3. Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F/190 C.

  4. Carefully pour off any accumulated fat and drippings and brush barbecue sauce over thighs. Using tongs, flip thighs over and brush the tops with barbecue sauce.

  5. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes, basting with barbecue sauce every five minutes. When an instant-read thermometer registers 165 F/74 C, the thighs are done. 

  6. Serve with your favorite sides.  

Recipe Variations

The sauce can be changed up with any of these sauce variations:

  • Simple BBQ Chicken Sauce: Simple yet delicious, this barbecue chicken sauce is easy to make and packed with flavor. It will bring forth nostalgic memories of childhood cookouts and summer evenings, sitting with friends and family enjoying barbecued chicken with a humble, but tasty sauce.
  • Alabama White BBQ Sauce: It's white, rather than red, and not made with a tomato or fruit base, but mayonnaise instead. It's creamy, tangy, peppery, and slightly sweet if sugar is added, with a rich flavor that is a great addition to most grilled foods, but especially chicken, turkey, smoked pork, and grilled fish.
  • North Carolina BBQ Sauce: This barbecue sauce is in the Piedmont or Lexington dip tradition found on the western side of North Carolina. It includes cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, butter, salt, and hot pepper sauce.
  • Cornell BBQ Sauce: Created by Cornell's Professor Dr. Robert C. Baker as a way to increase the consumption of small chickens to help out the poultry farmers, this sauce has become a mainstay in central New York State. What makes this sauce different from other barbecue sauces is the egg. When emulsified with the vinegar and oil, it develops a thick consistency, similar to mayonnaise. This sticks nicely to the chicken, allowing it to penetrate the skin and meat to tenderize and give the chicken a wonderful flavor.
  • Bourbon BBQ Chicken Sauce: A deeply rich sauce, bursting with sweet bourbon and tomato flavor, this sauce is a great accompaniment to chicken. Whether grilling breasts, thighs, or drumsticks, you'll fall in love with this bold and delicious chicken sauce.
  • Apricot Chili Glaze: Rich with sweet apricot flavor and the boldness of Asian-inspired ingredients, this barbecue sauce is perfect for chicken. Given that this is a somewhat sugary glaze, just take care not to allow flare-ups on the grill as this can burn the chicken.
  • Smokey Chicken Sauce: If you're looking to add a bit of smokey flavor to your chicken, this sauce is ideal. With liquid smoke as one of the ingredients, you'll get that delicious smoke flavor without all of the hassle of actual smoke from the grill.
  • Caribbean Chicken Sauce: Infused with colorful Caribbean flavors, this sauce has a hint of jerk components that adds a powerful kick to grilled chicken. If Serrano peppers are too spicy, use a milder jalapeño.
  • Apple BBQ Sauce: You probably wouldn't think of applesauce as the base for a barbecue sauce. However, this recipe combines concentrated apple flavor with traditional ingredients, yielding a mouthwatering barbecue sauce specifically designed for grilled chicken. Be sure to pick an unsweetened applesauce to help balance the flavors.
  • Sweet Bourbon BBQ Sauce: If you're looking for a sweet, yet tangy, flavor from your barbecue sauce, this sweet bourbon option is the one for you. With ketchup, maple syrup, bourbon, oil, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper, this sauce can be whipped up in no time, using a majority of ingredients that you quite possibly already have on-hand.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve with creamy potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, garlic bread, or your favorite barbecue side dishes.

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