Sweet & Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich With Pickles

July  6, 2021
14 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg. Food stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop stylist: Ali Slagle
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • makes 4 sandwiches
What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Sweet & Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich With Pickles
  • Pickles
  • 1 Kirby or ½ English hothouse cucumber, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 to 4 chiles serranos, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
  • BBQ Chicken & Sandwich Assembly
  • 1/2 cup piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sambal oelek
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons white miso
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 sesame seed buns, toasted
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
  1. In a small bowl, toss the cucumber with a pinch of salt; let sit 5 minutes and squeeze to expel excess water. In another small bowl, whisk vinegar, sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 4 tablespoons water. Add cucumber and serranos to brine and let sit at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour to pickle. Once brined and ready to serve, add the sesame seeds and mix well.
  2. Prepare grill for medium-high heat. In a large saucepan, whisk together piloncillo, vinegar, sambal, fish sauce, Sriracha, garlic, miso, and ginger. Add chicken and toss to coat. Transfer chicken to a plate and let sit until ready to grill. It’s OK to leave it out at room temperature for up to 30 minutes. If you need longer, cover with plastic and chill for up to 8 hours.
  3. Transfer saucepan with marinade to the stove and bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half (about 1 cup), 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. Grill chicken, turning and basting often with reduced marinade, until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Toast buns on both sides.
  5. Place one chicken thigh on bottom side of bun. Top with pickles, sliced scallion, and cilantro. Top with remaining bun and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lisa F
    Lisa F
  • Bikegirl227
  • Eva
  • Jo
Rick Martinez

Recipe by: Rick Martinez

Rick Martinez is currently living his dream—cooking, eating and enjoying the Mexican Pacific coast in Mazatlán. He is finishing his first cookbook, Under the Papaya Tree, food from the seven regions of Mexico and loved traveling the country so much, he decided to buy a house on the beach. He is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit, New York Times and hosts live, weekly cooking classes for Food Network Kitchens. Earlier this year, he was nominated for a James Beard Award for “How to win the Cookie Swap” in Bon Appétit’s holiday issue.

11 Reviews

Jo June 13, 2023
Made this tonight and were pleasantly surprised with the taste and texture. Going to try it again, thinking we will replace our fave “Unami Burger” with this. The pickles took it over the top! The sauce was great, not too spicy, and we will use the extra sauce and chicken in roll ups for another dinner. Will definitely put this into our dinner rotation.
SparkyCJW September 13, 2021
This is a keeper!!! Did not find it too hot/spicy... rather just right. Thinking of many ways to use the sauce...shrimp, calamari, wings... thank you @rick_andrew_martinez.
miniaturemezzo July 26, 2021
This sandwich is amazingly delicious. My partner, who is a crispy chicken sandwich devotee, has said this has taken the throne for their favorite chicken sandwich! I think the game-changer lies in the inclusion of fish sauce with all the spicy ingredients in sauce/marinade. I also included a swipe of Kewpie mayo on the sesame-brioche bun with the other toppings, for a creamy component (though other diners did not and enjoyed it as-is). We've made this twice now and will definitely keep it in our rotation!

It has rained every time we've planned to grill this summer (ugh) so we've made this under the broiler. We set it to high and broiled on a cooling rack set inside a half-sheet tray. I took the chicken out of the oven to flip + baste every two minutes until it was done cooking (checked with a probe thermometer to reach 165F; probably did about 10 minutes total for our medium-sized thighs).

It is SPICY so be forewarned if you are meek to spice. However, the sauce balances the spice incredibly with the umami/sweetness, so it's not a 'mean' spicy the way some hot sauces are. It is truly a spicy bbq sauce, and my dinner pals added extra to their chicken because they loved it so much. Thanks, Rick, for this amazing recipe -- I can't wait to get your cookbook!
Michele July 22, 2021
So I made this exactly as it says except after tasting the marinade, I thought "oh HALE no! I can't use the serranos too!" And this coming from a girl who puts hot sauce ON her hot sauce! lol! It's HOT! I mean H.O.T.! If you can't handle heat, I would recommend cutting back in the sriracha or the sambal oelek in the marinade. Anyway, once assembled, this was AH-MAZING!!!! Sooooo good! I will absolutely be making it again and for lots of friends next time. Yum.
Lisa F. July 5, 2021
Yum, yum, and more yum! These are absolutely delicious! The crispy, tanginess of the pickles paired with the heat makes it. I will definitely be returning to this recipe. And I am definitely a Rick Martinez fan now - will be following his other recipes! ¡Y que viva Mazatlán!
Michele July 2, 2021
Omg! He is just the cutest thing! I wanna be his neighbor and cook together and get fat together! lol! Gotta try this recipe; it looks amazing. Thank you for posting it!
Bikegirl227 July 1, 2021
This recipe was a home run and perfect for the firecracker BBQ season! The chicken thighs were juicy and the glaze delivered on the sweet and heat. I used half brown sugar and half palm sugar for the sweet. I had Siriacha and sambal oelek to deliver the heat. The pickles brought it all home with more sweet and heat from serranos. Pow, bang, pop! Loved it!
Betsy June 1, 2021
Excellent recipe! My grill is kaput, so I ended up roasting the chicken in a pan at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. I added a little more sauce halfway through the roasting. It was very tasty but to mimic the grill I might broil the chicken at the very end next time. I'm going to use the leftover sauce for a tofu/broccoli stir-fry tonight.
Jessica June 1, 2021
Delicious! I made this exactly as written except I couldn't find serranos, I had to use jalapenos. The only thing I would change is to make more sauce next time because it was so tasty.
Eva May 30, 2021
This was FANTASTIC. I really have nothing else to say. A group of us gobbled it all up (ate the chicken on burger buns from Claire Saffitz’s recipe on NYT). We ate a bit of the extra glaze dribbled on grilled fish and then fantasized about what else we could put it on.

The glaze is definitely sweet and spicy, but not excessively either. It’s really well-balanced with a healthy zing of acid that shines through even when reduced to sticky perfection. Instant favorite.
jason May 23, 2021
made this for breakfast and my palette is awake. Perfect summer grilling recipe