BBQ Chicken Thighs are a summer grilling classic oozing with smoky, rich, and tangy flavors. Using a savory blend of spices and homemade barbecue, the chicken thighs turn out mouthwateringly juicy and succulent. Pair them with some crisp coleslaw and roasted corn for the ultimate summer BBQ menu.Jump to Recipe
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Homemade quality: You can really taste the difference that homemade BBQ sauce provides this recipe with. It’s better than anything store-bought!
- Easy to make: With just 10 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of hands-on grilling, you’re already halfway to serving up dinner!
- Crowd-pleaser: Whether it’s for a small family gathering or a summer BBQ party, you’ll have guests lining up for seconds.
Smoky BBQ chicken thighs
I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t love a good barbecue, and these BBQ chicken thighs are just what the doctor ordered! They feature a smoky, charred exterior and a tender, juicy interior that is nothing short of incredible.
The homemade BBQ sauce provides a mix of sweet, tangy, and spicy elements that perfectly complement the chicken. And grilling not only accentuates the flavors but also gives them that irresistible char.
I recommend serving these thighs straight off the grill with a side of extra BBQ sauce. For the ultimate summer feast, pair them with other classics like steak and shrimp kabobs, roasted potato salad, and grilled zucchini and squash.
Ingredients & substitutions
- Chicken thighs: Use boneless skinless chicken thighs with the fat trimmed for the best results. If you use chicken breasts, make sure to reduce the overall cooking time.
- Ketchup: Adds a tangy and sweet base to the sauce. If you don’t have ketchup, use tomato paste with a splash of vinegar instead.
- Brown sugar: Infuses the sauce with a rich sweetness and a layer of complexity. Coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup will all work as well.
- Apple cider vinegar: Gives the BBQ sauce a touch of tanginess. White wine vinegar or lemon juice will work in a pinch, but I think apple cider vinegar is best.
- Worcestershire sauce: Provides a deep, savory, umami flavor. If you don’t have Worcestershire sauce on hand, replace it with an equivalent amount of soy sauce.
- Chili powder & chipotle powder: Both add a kick of heat and depth of flavor. Cayenne or extra paprika will also work if you can’t find chili or chipotle powder.
- Garlic & onion powder: Enhances the savory flavor profile of these BBQ chicken thighs. I don’t recommend fresh garlic or onion for this recipe to prevent burning.
- Paprika: I use both regular and smoked paprika to add smokiness and a rich color.
- Kosher salt: To enhance the flavor of the chicken. You can also use table salt, but reduce the quantity.
How to make BBQ chicken thighs
- Mix the BBQ sauce: In a saucepan, mix the ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and all the spices. Simmer it over medium-low while whisking continuously until it transforms into a thick, luscious sauce.
- Marinade the chicken: Pat the thighs dry to remove any moisture and sprinkle them generously with the spice mix. Massage it in, then let the chicken thighs marinate for at least 30 minutes or longer if you have the time!
- Grill the chicken: Heat your grill to 400F, then place the marinated chicken thighs over direct heat for about 4-5 minutes. Flip the chicken and repeat the same process until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
- Add the sauce: Add a tablespoon of BBQ sauce to each chicken thigh and spread the sauce evenly over the thighs. Let the BBQ sauce caramelize for a few more minutes before removing the thighs from the grill.
- Rest & serve: After grilling, let the chicken rest to allow the juices time to redistribute. Don’t forget to serve them with some extra BBQ sauce on the side!
What to serve with BBQ chicken thighs
If you’re planning a summer BBQ feast, pair your BBQ chicken thighs with sides like these:
- Chicken pesto pasta salad
- Creamy coleslaw
- Grilled corn on the cob
- Potato salad with pickles
- Avocado mango salsa
- Air fryer sweet potato fries
- Tomato and onion salad
- Baked asparagus with Parmesan
Frequently asked questions
This BBQ chicken thighs recipe has a mild heat, but you can easily adjust the chili powder and chipotle powder quantities to suit your preference.
Absolutely! Just remember to reduce the grilling time as breasts cook faster than thighs.
Yes, you can bake the seasoned chicken thighs at 425F for about 25 minutes.
Storage & reheating
If you have any leftover BBQ chicken thighs, follow these simple storage instructions:
- Fridge: Once cooled, store extra chicken thighs in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- Freezer: Ensure your chicken thighs are completely cooled, then transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container for up to 3 months.
- Reheating: You can add the thawed thighs to a skillet with enough broth or water to cover the bottom. Cover them with a lid and cook over medium until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
- Honey mustard: Swap BBQ sauce with a mix of honey, mustard, and garlic.
- Teriyaki: Use homemade teriyaki sauce in place of BBQ sauce.
- Cajun style: Use a homemade blend of Cajun spices for an extra spicy kick.
- Tandoori: Use a yogurt-based marinade with tandoori spices for an Indian-inspired flavor.
- Preheat the grill: Make sure your grill is well-heated to the right temperature before starting. This will prevent the chicken from sticking and result in a better flavor.
- Oil the grates: You can further prevent the chicken from sticking by cleaning and brushing the grates with oil.
- Use a meat thermometer: Ensure the chicken is cooked perfectly by using a meat thermometer.
- Avoid burning: Add the BBQ sauce towards the end of cooking to prevent burning.
- Rest the meat: Before serving your BBQ chicken thighs, allow the juices to redistribute by letting the chicken rest for about 5-10 minutes.
- Cleanup: Clean the grill grates after cooking so nothing gets stuck the next time.
Looking for more grilling recipes?
If you enjoyed this BBQ chicken thighs recipe, be sure to check out some more of my favorites like these:
If you try these BBQ Chicken Thighs, let me know what you think! Rate and review this recipe in the comments below. Don’t forget to take a picture and tag me on Instagram @lenaskitchenblog!
Mouthwatering BBQ Chicken Thighs
Make the BBQ sauce (makes extra sauce)
- In a medium saucepan, set over low heat, combine the ketchup, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Whisk together to combine. Increase the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the sugar has completely dissolved and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from heat. Makes extra sauce, use about ¼-⅓ cup for chicken thighs.
Marinate and make the chicken
- Using a paper towel, pat each piece of chicken to remove any moisture.
- In a small bowl, add the garlic powder, chipotle powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, and kosher salt into a small bowl and mix well to combine.
- Sprinkle the spices over the thighs and massage the spices in well.
- Let the chicken thighs marinate for at least 30 minutes, longer if you have the time.
- Preheat the grill to 400ºF.
- When the chicken is ready, place the chicken on the grill over direct heat for 4-5 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Or until internal temperature reaches 165ºF.
- Add a tablespoon of BBQ sauce to each chicken thigh and spread out the sauce evenly over the thighs.
- Close the grill and let the BBQ sauce caramelize for 1 minute, flip and repeat on the other side. Remove the thighs from the grill.
- Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes and then enjoy with any additional BBQ sauce.