5 Ingredients or Fewer

Halfsies Chicken

June 19, 2021
28 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 15 hours
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This is THE go-to recipe for my family and our relatives for when friends and family come over. It's technically a no-brainer when we invite people over and need to figure out what to cook. It's easy and scrumptious, which all of the best recipes are. Basically, you just throw 4 simple ingredients into a bag or container with the chicken, wait overnight, and let the marinade do the magic. It's called "halfsies" because all the ingredients are half of a regular measurement. Half a cup, half a tablespoon, et cetera—see? Super easy to remember, too!

Test Kitchen Notes

It’s hard to say “Halfsies Chicken” without smiling, which is what caught our attention when we first met the recipe. That was also the first time we met its author, Mimi; Halfsies is her first recipe on the site! As she notes, the name comes from the marinade’s measurements—sugar, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, all of which are half of something, a cup, a tablespoon, a teaspoon. And yes, that sugar also caught our attention. With chicken, really? It works. The result is ultra-tender, with a teriyaki-like savory-sweetness. A few notes from our testing: If you don’t have the real deal, a grill pan works great here. If you don’t have 10 to 20 hours to marinate, 6 will do. And if you happen to measure 1/2 tablespoon instead of 1/2 teaspoon cayenne—well, we might have done that, too, and it turned out delicious. Plus, it’s still Halfsies. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  1. Place chicken in a plastic bag or large bowl. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Add this sugar-salt mixture to the chicken and use your hands to disperse evenly.
  2. Leave in the refrigerator for 10 to 20 hours. Halfway through, toss to evenly marinate.
  3. Prepare a grill over medium heat. Take the chicken out of bag/bowl and place on grill. Grill until cooked through and golden brown, flipping halfway through—about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
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31 Reviews

Brenda June 24, 2023
Super simple and flavorful, good on stovetop or grill. Found recipe a couple years ago; partner enjoys a bit more cayenne.
Pfreemanlynde May 31, 2022
Easy, yes. Flavor, not as good as my usual marinades. I think adding lemon juice would help. Also, easy to overcook boneless skinless thighs.
Jennifer M. May 17, 2022
I made this for the first time today but opted to bake it since I don’t have a grill. After letting the chicken marinade for 20 hours, I browned each side in cast iron pan (3 min each side) and then baked in the oven for 20 min on 400 degrees. I know someone else recommended baking at 400 so thanks for the tip! This recipe is so easy and officially in the rotation.
akitagal August 2, 2021
I must be in the minority on this recipe. Made it for a dinner exactly as written and we all felt it did not have enough flavor. I did enjoy the moistness of the chicken, and was so hoping this would be our easy go to recipe, but it was not to be.
Anonymous June 13, 2021
Very good! I used 1/4 tsp. Cayenne, even though it broke the “halfsie” formula. Loved this recipe! I made it with the chicken thighs which I loved, but husband still prefers white meat, which I will try next time! Nice caramelization, browsing, and flavor!!!!
michelle May 23, 2021
this was really really good. just a couple things I learned the first time out: don’t let your grill get too hot. I put my chicken on the grill and walked inside to wash the platter… by the time i got back minutes later the underside was all ready blackened because of the high sugar content. So my advice: lower the temperature and don’t walk away. you really should “(wo)man the grill” So to speak. Oh, and be prepared for a bitch of a clean-up. Totally worth it though.
Megan May 28, 2020
I only had chicken breasts and I ran out of cayenne, so I subbed smoked paprika. I will definitely try again with thighs and cayenne. I really enjoyed the flavor of these and they couldn't be easier. A good summer grilling recipe for the times when you put a lot of effort into the sides and need an easy low maintenance protein to make it a meal.
Corj June 2, 2019
I've been buying packs of skinless boneless chicken thighs, marinating with this recipe and freezing them. Defrost, pound-out slightly, dredge in panko and pan fry. Squeeze a little lemon juice on top. I don't eat meat myself but everyone loves this. Great and easy recipe for using a bargain cut.
KarenLee53 May 23, 2019
What kind of salt are we talking about here? Kosher? Table? Sea salt? Does it make a difference?
Samantha May 23, 2019
I use kosher salt and it works wonderfully! We eat this almost weekly, especially in the summer!
Jeanne January 11, 2019
Oop, no cayenne. So I used smoked paprika instead and it was delicious!
Cecile January 8, 2019
Can you make this with chicken breasts? I'm not a fan of chicken thighs if I have an option.
20ozMocha March 4, 2019
I hope you give it a try, on the dark meat. No one in my household can stand dark meat- least of all, myself. But we all love this recipe, as written. I was shocked and pleased!
Liz December 27, 2018
This is my go-to grilled chicken recipe! It's so easy to make and the sweet & spicy balance is fantastic! I'm not a big leftover chicken fan but I purposely make extra so I can use in a big salad the next day. Thank you for a crowd pleasing recipe!
Hubajube April 1, 2018
The name/method reminds me of Three Cup Chicken. I'll definitely try this.
HalfPint March 28, 2018
Made this recipe as written and it's pretty darn good and easy. The large amount of sugar (for that much chicken) seems excessive, but the final dish is not cloyingly sweet. There is a nice touch of sweetness balanced by a little salt, though I would probably add a bit more salt since I love sweet/salty combo. I even tried this with bone-in pork chops giving it an overnight marination. I think it's even better with pork.
meme S. March 18, 2018

What a great recipe. we love it!
Samantha March 15, 2018
Love this! Do you think it would work with bone in chicken thighs as well?
Mimi March 15, 2018
Thanks!!Yes I think so. Just make sure you grill it longer :)
Samantha March 15, 2018
Thank you!! Making this tomorrow!
Mimi March 15, 2018
Yay!! Would love to hear what you think after you try it!
Samantha April 4, 2018
Hi! We made this with the bone in/skin on chicken thighs and LOVED it. You do have to watch a little closer so the marinated skin doesn’t catch fire, but the crispy skin at the end is well worth it. My husband says it should be our go to for when guests come over!
foodlover March 11, 2018
Thank you so much for this recipe. Followed it exactly and the chicken turned out fantastic. My first real success with chicken thighs.
Mimi March 15, 2018
Wow! I'm glad you liked it so much!! It's a crowd pleaser :)
Corj March 9, 2018
Curious about baking this in the oven. If anyone attempts I'd like to know the results.
Mimi March 9, 2018
I have never tried it before but I am pretty sure it would work as long as you make sure they don't dry out. Another option would be searing both sides on a pan and the baking the thighs. Hope you try it out!
Christi March 22, 2018
I’ve baked it the last few times I’ve made it with bone and skin on thighs. Bake at 400 for 30-45 minutes. You don’t get the charred taste but it still tastes great.
Rhonda35 March 1, 2018
Good luck! Looking forward to giving this a try soon.
Mimi March 1, 2018
Aw thank you so much! Hope you enjoy it!
Joy H. March 1, 2018
Congrats on making it to the finalists, and with your first recipe on the site, too! =)
Mimi March 1, 2018
Thanks so much! Congrats to you too! I always admire your recipes on your blog and on Food52!!:D