2 Quick & Easy Chicken Thigh Recipes Our Senior Editor Swears By

One sweet, one spicy.

October 11, 2018

We've partnered with Just BARE Chicken, producers of humane-certified chicken, to share recipes, videos, and tips that make preparing not-boring, weeknight-friendly meals easy as can be.

After a quick soak in our favorite marinade, boneless, skinless Just BARE chicken thighs are perfect in tacos. Photo by Bobbi Lin

There is, for me, no greater cut of poultry than the uber-versatile chicken thigh. Boneless or bone-in, skinless or skin-on, they stay juicy no matter what, and you can use them in just about anything.

Weeknight tacos? Sure. Slow-cooked curries? Duh! 5-minute quesadillas? Hey, they don’t call me the Chicken Thigh King for nothing. (Just kidding. No one calls me that.)

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I’ve found that by far, the easiest method is to roast off a whole sheet pan of thighs and eat them every which way for a few meals. Dinner becomes lunch and back to dinner again—and I’m a happy bird.

To keep things interesting, it helps to have a few go-to seasonings in rotation. My current favorites, which take just five to 10 minutes of prep, are this jalapeno-cilantro marinade for spicy, vibrant chicken thighs and my brown sugar–paprika dry rub for smoky-sweet chicken thighs. They both work well whether you’ve got 30 minutes or 30 hours before dinner needs to be on the table; either way, setting aside a few moments of prep time will yield massive rewards later.

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Top Comment:
“Chicken thighs are my favourite cut. So much more flavour (than white meat) and more economical. What's not to like?! The two recipes look brilliant and cannot wait to try them. I love that you use the coriander stems too. ”
— Michael T.

The idea here is that you're giving yourself options for dinner, depending on your mood and what you're craving, and then whatever's leftover can easily be transformed for lunch the next day. In this way, chicken thighs become so much more than just chicken thighs—they become a formula.

OK, here's how it all goes down:

If You're Feeling Spicy...

  • Make the jalapeño-cilantro marinade. In a food processor or blender, blitz the jalapeños, garlic, cilantro stems, olive oil, salt, sugar, and pepper and toss with boneless, skinless chicken thighs (the marinade will penetrate the meat better than bone-in, skin-on).
  • Watch TV—or go to bed. Leave the chicken thighs to marinate in the fridge for 4 hours or, if this is you meal prepping, overnight. If you don’t have the time, feel free to let them marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking them off. They’ll still taste great.
  • Cook them off! When you’re ready to roll, drain your chicken in a colander to get rid of excess marinade. Then, lay them on a sheet pan and roast at 400° F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Eat them like this: If I’m roasting off, say, two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, then I have enough for at least four tacos, and maybe a rice bowl the next day. Any leftover chicken I’ll have with a side of coconut rice and a side salad.

If You’re Feeling Sweet…

  • Make the Magic Spice Blend. Spoon the brown sugar, salt, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and celery seed into a Mason jar and shake. I like to keep this by my stove to sprinkle over everything: fried eggs, sliced cucumbers, chicken. Sprinkle it on the underside of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, place them on a sheet pan (skin-side up), then season the skins lightly with more rub before cooking off.
  • Watch TV—or go to bed. Like the marinade, you could let these sit for 30 minutes or so before roasting. More often than not, I’ll sprinkle the chicken with the spice mix the night before, have them all ready on a sheet tray, and then just bake them off straight out of the fridge. This kind of cooking is ideal for weeknight dinners, but it also makes entertaining large hungry hordes quite manageable.
  • Cook them off! Roast at 400° F for 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Because you’re using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (and because the spice blend is dry) you’ll end up with the crispiest skin, and the sugar will caramelize and taste divine.
  • Eat them like this: Since I bake a whole tray of these, I’ll have one or two thighs with white rice and a side salad for dinner the first night. The next day, I might make cheesy, 5-minute quesadillas for breakfast and have a salad topped with any leftover cold chicken for lunch.

These are just two examples of quick, simple ways you can zhush up the everyday chicken thigh. All you need is a good starting point, and then you can take it in any direction. Sometimes I like to marinate chicken thighs in lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and a little sesame oil; I might serve that alongside some roasted fennel. Or for a warmer flavor perfect for fall, I’ll dust them with a fifty-fifty mix of cumin and coriander, lots of salt, pepper, and olive oil, and roast them on a sheet pan with butternut squash; it's an entire meal (complete with a side dish!) all in one.

Whatever I’m in the mood for, chicken thighs seem always to save the day.

How do you like to cook your chicken thighs? Let us know in the comments below!

Feeding your family delicious food doesn't need to be stressful or time-consuming. In partnership with Just BARE Chicken—producers of all-natural, humane-certified chicken that can be traced across the whole supply chain so you know exactly where you food comes from—we're excited to share creative, easy ways to cook with chicken, from marinades to sheet-pan dinners.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Elizabeth
  • Ariana
  • Dee
  • Cybele
  • Binu
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.


Elizabeth January 19, 2020
Question for anyone who has made this: any need to add a drizzle of oil on top of the thighs before putting them in the oven, or will that prevent the skin from getting crispy?
Ariana November 17, 2018
When the chicken is cooking should I flip it over halfway through the 25-30 mins?
Ariana November 17, 2018
*20-25 mins
Author Comment
Eric K. November 27, 2018
Hi! No need, in my opinion; I just leave it in there.
Dee November 4, 2018
I could not agree more; the chicken thigh is the very best part of the chicken. And they are so cheap! Thanks for more suggestions on how to use them.
Author Comment
Eric K. November 27, 2018
Thanks, Dee.
Cybele October 22, 2018
Sounds delicious! Realize bone-in, skin-on is more flavorful, but would it still be good with boneless/skinless thighs?? Thanks.
Author Comment
Eric K. October 22, 2018
Oh, absolutely. I actually prefer boneless, skinless thighs for the jalapeño marinade, but they'd be great w/ the Magic Spice as well. Enjoy!
Cybele October 22, 2018
Awesome. I was mesmerized by the description of the crispy skin for magic spice, so ran out to get thighs with bone and skin, but great to know for future. Thank you!!
Author Comment
Eric K. October 22, 2018
The skin is pretty great. Admittedly, sometimes, I’ll roast a whole sheet pan of those magic-spiced thighs and tear off all the skins that first night. Great nibble with beer or wine. A little indulgent, sure, but hey, who’s counting?
Author Comment
Eric K. October 22, 2018
p.s. Nigella calls them chicken cracklin; I call them skin chips.
Cybele October 23, 2018
After tonight, I can see why. Even my pickiest water declared it his new favorite chicken....thank you!! I’ve already got an extra mason jar of the magic ready to deploy...
Cybele October 23, 2018
^eater. Not water....;)
Author Comment
Eric K. October 23, 2018
Aw! That makes me happy. Thank you :)
Binu October 15, 2018
Hi, I use a similar spice dry for spicy fried fish minus the sugar. It was passed on from my mom, should try your version soon.
I'm planning to do an inspired version with green bell peppers, onions, garlic marinade.i don't use jalapeno. Will let you know how it turns out.
Author Comment
Eric K. October 15, 2018
Hi Binu, that would taste really nice. The jalapeños give a nice clean pepper taste, which is the most important part of this recipe; the bell peppers will mimic that note.
Michael T. October 11, 2018
Hi Eric. Great seeing you in action. Love the chicken thighs recipes. Chicken thighs are my favourite cut. So much more flavour (than white meat) and more economical. What's not to like?! The two recipes look brilliant and cannot wait to try them. I love that you use the coriander stems too.
Author Comment
Eric K. October 11, 2018
Thanks so much, Michael. Well, *I* love that you call them coriander stems!