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BBQ Boneless Chicken Thighs On The Grill

BBQ boneless chicken thighs are juicy and flavorful with a delicious sweet-tangy BBQ sauce. The secret ingredient is French salad dressing.

The easy recipe for the marinade/sauce has been in my family for about 50 years. It looks like regular BBQ sauce, but it’s not.

grilled chicken thighs over corn on plate

We use the sauce on steak, chops and chicken. Simple and always delicious. Not exactly gourmet, but it works. The dressing takes the place of ketchup which forms the base of most BBQ sauces.

My sisters and I call this marinade “mother’s famous BBQ sauce”. My mother has no idea where she got it. All I know is that, back in the day, we used it on anything we grilled. And loved it.

What to expect

Easy: Grilled barbecue chicken is a breeze to make. It’s great for a summer BBQ, picnic, potluck or an easy weeknight meal.

Amazing sauce: The combination of sweet and savory ingredients used in the sauce recipe makes a delicious marinade that also be used for other types of meat or fish.

Bottom line: Grilling chicken thighs with a sweet-tangy sauce (just 5 ingredients plus salt & pepper) results in tasty, tender, juicy chicken in 25-45 minutes.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

boneless skinless chicken thighs flattened on cutting board with sauce in cup
french dressing, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, brown sugar
Sauce/marinade ingredients

Chicken: I prefer to use thighs – in this case, boneless skinless chicken thighs – because dark meat, whether it’s boneless or bone-in thighs, are juicier, more forgiving and more flavorful. Boneless chicken breasts work well too for you hard core white meat eaters. You can also use bone-in chicken thighs (with or without skin), but the cook time will be longer.

French dressing: This is the secret ingredient in the sauce. It has the perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors.

Sauce/marinade: includes soy sauce, brown sugar, mustard and French dressing – a nice balance of sweet, tangy and salty.

Here are a few substitutions and add-ins you could try:

Instead of chicken:

  • Try pork chops, pork tenderloin or flank steak (marinate the flank several hours at least).

Sauce substitutions:

  • Substitute Catalina or California dressing for the French dressing
  • Use maple syrup instead of brown sugar
  • Use low sodium soy sauce instead of regular strength.

Sauce add-ins:

  • Add herbs to the marinade such as thyme, oregano or chives
  • Add a dab of sriracha (hot sauce) to the marinade, a splash of Worcestershire sauce or a pinch of cinnamon.

Step by step instructions

boneless skinless chicken thighs flattened on cutting board with sauce in cup
Flatten boneless thighs with the heel of your hand or bottom of a pan for even cooking.
chicken thighs in bowl marinating in sauce
Whisk chicken marinade ingredients together and add chicken. Reserve a few tablespoons on the side for basting. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight in the fridge.
marinated thighs grilling on bbq
Grease the grill grate and heat. Grill chicken thighs for a few minutes per side until cooked through.
grilled glazed chicken thighs on cutting board
Baste with remaining marinade and serve

Tips for leftover chicken

Other ways to use this cooked marinated BBQ chicken:

  • Chop it into a salad
  • Make a chicken sandwich or wrap
  • Add it to a fresh vegetable pasta.

Recipe FAQs

What is the best way to thaw chicken?

It’s best to thaw chicken either in the fridge, under cold water (covered in a sealed plastic bag) or in the microwave, NOT on the counter for safety reasons. Thaw chicken completely and use within 24 hours.

How long should I marinate the chicken?

You can marinate the boneless chicken anywhere from 20 minutes to a day. If the chicken pieces are on the small or thinner side, 25-30 minutes is fine. Larger pieces could use more time to infuse flavor, but it’s not necessary – especially if you drizzle on some extra sauce after grilling.

Should you rinse chicken before cooking it?

No. It’s best not to rinse chicken before cooking it because rinsing can increase contamination on your counters, utensils and sink.

What is the best way to check if chicken is cooked on the grill?

Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness. The chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165F/74C in the thickest part of the meat. I can’t live without my Thermapen One (I bring it on vacation!). Here’s a video on using the touch test if you don’t have a meat thermometer.

How long do cooked boneless skinless thighs last in the fridge?

As long as you keep the cooked chicken in the fridge in an airtight container or wrapped well with plastic wrap, it should be good for 3-4 days.

What to serve with grilled chicken thighs

This BBQ chicken recipe goes with almost any side. Here are a few great pairings.

Shortcuts

  • In a pinch, I skip the marinating altogether. This means dinner on the table in 20-30 minutes.
  • Instead of fresh garlic, use minced garlic from the jar, a frozen cube or a pinch of garlic powder.

Make Ahead 

  • The BBQ chicken thigh recipe can be made a day ahead and grilled just before serving.
  • Alternatively, grill the chicken ahead and serve it at room temperature or chill it and serve it cold. You can warm it up if you like in the microwave or oven. If you do, I suggest, under cooking it a bit first.
grilled chicken thighs over corn on plate

Other marinated chicken recipes

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grilled chicken thighs over corn on plate
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4.84 from 18 votes

BBQ Boneless Chicken Thighs On The Grill

BBQ grilled boneless chicken thighs are juicy and flavorful with a delicious sweet-tangy BBQ sauce. The secret ingredient is French salad dressing.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time7 minutes
marinating30 minutes
Total Time42 minutes
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 3 (or 2 bigger portions)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, Note 1 (or boneless breasts)
  • salt and black pepper

Marinade/Sauce, Note 2

  • 3 tablespoon French dressing (or Catalina or California dressing)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar or to taste (if you like it sweeter, add 3 tsp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced (one small clove)
  • Optional: 1/4 tsp sriracha; 1/4-1/2 tsp dried thyme or oregano.

Instructions

  • MAKE MARINADE/SAUCE: Put all marinade ingredients into a small bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust flavors. You will have between 1/4-1/3 cup.
  • MARINATE CHICKEN: If chicken thickness is uneven, pound to even thickness. No need to make the chicken thin. Tip: I do this with the heal of my hand on a cutting board. Combine marinade and chicken in a bowl or ziploc bag, reserving about 3 tbsp to use as a finishing sauce. Marinate for 20-30 minutes at room temperature. If marinating for longer – up to a day – refrigerate chicken, covered.
  • HEAT GRILL: Spray grill with oil or grease grill with a paper towel dabbed with oil. Heat grill to medium-high heat, about 450-475F/232-246C.
  • GRILL CHICKEN AND SERVE: Grill chicken with lid closed 3-4 minutes depending on thickness. Turn chicken pieces over. Baste with reserved marinade/sauce. Close lid. Grill for another 2-4 minutes until chicken is cooked through. The internal temperature of the chicken on an Instant thermometer will read 160F/71C. Temperature will rise as chicken rests for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

  1. Chicken options: Boneless chicken breasts work well too for you hard core white meat eaters. You can also use bone-in chicken thighs (with or without skin), but the cook time will be longer.
  2. Marinade/Sauce substitutes
    • Use maple syrup instead of brown sugar
    • Use low sodium soy sauce instead of regular strength.
    • Substitute Catalina or California dressing for the French dressing
    • Variations: Add herbs to the marinade such as thyme, oregano or chives. Or add a dab of sriracha (hot sauce) to the marinade, a splash of Worcestershire sauce or a pinch of cinnamon
  3. Make Ahead: The recipe can be made a day ahead and grilled just before serving. Alternatively, grill the chicken ahead and serve it at room temperature or chill it and serve it cold. You can warm it up if you like in the microwave or oven. If you do, I suggest, under cooking it a bit.
 
Nutrition values are estimates.

Nutrition

Calories: 270kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 144mg | Sodium: 642mg | Potassium: 383mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 111IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg
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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    This looks so delicious! I bet this is gonna be a hit on family dinners and potluck parties. I can’t wait to try this grilled barbecue chicken recipe. Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂