Thai Coconut Grilled Chicken

August 27, 2020

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Thai Chicken made with creamy coconut milk, vibrant fresh lime, a delicious blend of spices, a hint of sweetness, and Sambal Oeleck for an exciting spicy kick!

Thai Coconut Grilled Chicken Thighs shown overhead on a white oval platter. Chicken is garnished with cilantro and flowers are shown to the side.

Thai Coconut Chicken

It’s a simple Thai style chicken recipe that finishes with incredible results, thanks to a well rounded and nicely seasoned marinade. And yes it may seem like an interesting blend of ingredients but it will remind you of a good curry.

In other words you’ll never get tired of this chicken!

Pair it with steamed jasmine rice (or coconut rice) and grilled or sautéed vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, peas, asparagus, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc), for an easy and nutritious dinner.

What to Make with Extra Coconut Milk

Wondering what to make with the leftover coconut milk? Bake my favorite coconut cake (use a hint of regular milk if you’re a tad short on coconut milk), add it to oatmeal, make french toast or try it in this tasty Hawaiian Fried Rice.

Thai Coconut Grilled Chicken Thighs in a wooden serving bowl with rice and decorative flowers.

Ingredients Needed and Possible Substitutes

  • Chicken thighs: Use boneless skinless for this recipe.
  • Canned coconut milk: A key ingredient, it makes the marinade nice and rich. Canned coconut cream mixed with a bit of water will work fine too.
  • Limes: This ingredient adds so much flavor to the marinade. In a pinch lemons will work.
  • Sambal Oeleck: This is an Indonesian hot chili paste commonly used in Thai cooking. You could also use Sriracha.
  • Brown sugar: Light or dark brown sugar can be used. If you are out just use granulated sugar.
  • Vegetable oil: Olive oil will work great too.
  • Coriander, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon: This blend of spices adds so much flavor to the chicken. You can omit the turmeric if you don’t have it.
  • Ginger: As always fresh is best. In a pinch use 1 1 /2 tsp dried ginger.
  • Garlic: Again go with fresh if you can. Use 1 1/2 tsp dried as a last option.
  • Salt: Season the marinade to taste before you add the chicken.
  • Cilantro: No substitutes here, just omit if you don’t like it.

Image of marinade ingredients and chicken for Thai coconut grilled chicken thighs.

How to Make Thai Coconut Chicken

  1. Make marinade: In a medium mixing bowl whisk together coconut milk, lime juice and zest, sambal oelek, brown sugar, vegetable oil, coriander, cumin, turmeric cinnamon, ginger, garlic and season with salt to taste (I use about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp).
  2. Reserve of portion of marinade: Measure out 1/3 cup of the marinade mixture (leaving plenty of the garlic and ginger behind), and reserve separately in the refrigerator for later use.
  3. Pour marinade over chicken: Place chicken thighs in a gallon size resealable bag. Pour remaining marinade over chicken in bag. Seal bag while pressing out excess air.
  4. Rest in fridge: Transfer to fridge and let marinate 1 – 6 hours.
  5. Heat grill: Preheat a gas grill over medium-high heat, to about 400 degrees (clean grill grates).
  6. Cook chicken on grill: Place chicken on grill and cook 5 minutes, then baste chicken with reserved 1/3 cup marinade mixture. Cook on opposite side until chicken registers 165 degrees in center.
  7. Finish with cilantro: Serve warm garnished with fresh cilantro.

Collage of four images showing steps of preparing coconut lime marinade and grilling chicken.

Can I Use Chicken Breasts?

Yes. Thighs are best but chicken breasts will work just fine too if that’s what you prefer. Just be careful not to over-cook because they’ll start to dry out.

Cooking Variations

  • Stovetop: You could also cook this on a grill pan over medium-high heat on the stove top along with a bit of olive oil in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat. It should take about 6 minutes per side.
  • Oven: Bake on a foil lined and greased baking sheet in a 425 degree oven until baked through (about 25 minutes).

Close up image of Thai Coconut Grilled Chicken Thighs

More Thai Style Recipes to Try

Thai Coconut Chicken

5 from 1 vote

This incredibly tasty chicken is made with creamy coconut milk, vibrant fresh lime, a delicious blend of spices, a hint of sweetness, and Sambal Oeleck for an exciting spicy kick!

Servings: 6
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinating Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk (briefly warmed and stirred if lumpy)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice, plus 2 tsp lime zest
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp sambal oelek, to taste for desired heat
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs,* trimmed of excess fat (about 2 lbs)

Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together coconut milk, lime juice and zest, sambal oelek, brown sugar, vegetable oil, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and season with salt to taste (I use about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp).

  2. Place chicken thighs in a gallon size resealable bag. Measure out 1/3 cup of the marinade mixture (leaving plenty of the garlic and ginger behind), and reserve separately in the refrigerator for later use.

  3. Pour remaining marinade over chicken in bag. Seal bag while pressing out excess air.

  4. Transfer to fridge and let rest 1 - 6 hours.

  5. Preheat a gas grill over medium-high heat, to about 400 degrees (clean grill grates).

  6. Place chicken on grill and cook 5 - 6 minutes, then baste chicken with reserved 1/3 cup marinade mixture. Cook on opposite side until chicken registers 165 degrees in center of thickest portion, about 5 minutes longer.

  7. Serve warm garnished with cilantro.

Recipe Notes

*Chicken breasts will work great too. Use about 5 medium and grill just to 165 in center about 4 - 5 minutes per side.

Nutrition Facts
Thai Coconut Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 226 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 144mg48%
Sodium 171mg7%
Potassium 448mg13%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 30g60%
Vitamin A 701IU14%
Vitamin C 6mg7%
Calcium 22mg2%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Thai
Keyword: Coconut Chicken, Thai Chicken
Author: Jaclyn
Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit