I love this Vietnamese grilled chicken straight off the grill, in Pho, in rice bowls or in salads. The marinade permeates the chicken to make it succulent, distinctive and delicious.
The grilled chicken blends slightly sweet, tangy, salty and savory flavors from the marinade of ginger, garlic, soy, lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and cilantro. You can make it as hot as you like with chili flakes.
For those who either can’t eat fish sauce for dietary reasons or are a bit queasy about it (I used to be until recently), check out some substitutes below under Tailor To Your Taste.
I strongly recommend boneless chicken thighs because they are juicier, more flavorful and they are far less likely to dry out than breasts. I know many, however, who just won’t hear of eating thighs (despite a lot of effort on my part to change their minds), so go ahead, and use boneless breasts. If you take care not to overcook them, they’ll be great too.
The ingredients for this recipe can be found in the Asian cuisine section of most mainstream grocery stores or in your local Asian market if you have one nearby.
What to serve with the Vietnamese chicken
I like to serve the chicken over white rice with a Thai mango salad.
For a lower calorie lighter meal, try serving the grilled chicken on this Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Quinoa, over Lemon Herb Cauliflower ‘Rice’ stir fry, in a Quick Chicken Pho (recipe by Simply Recipes) or with Roasted Bok Choy and Broccoli.
Tailor To Your Taste
Here are several variations and substitutes you can use for this Vietnamese chicken.
Substitutes for Fish Sauce:
- Fish sauce is made of fermented fish and shellfish mixed with salt. It doesn’t taste like fish when mixed in a sauce, if you’re wondering. If you can’t eat it or don’t want to, here are some substitutes you can use:
Use the Vietnamese chicken marinade as a sauce
- If you like, reserve the marinade and turn it into a sauce by boiling or microwaving it for 2 minutes. Drizzle over the grilled chicken or use it as a dipping sauce. T
- he sauce is particularly good when serving with rice.
- If you don’t like cilantro, you can use Italian parsley instead.
- No problem. You can bake the boneless chicken thighs in the oven. Instructions are in the recipe notes.
- Instead of fresh garlic and ginger, use the frozen cubes, purees in a jar or powder versions (1 garlic clove = 1/4 tsp garlic powder).
- The Vietnamese chicken can be marinated a day ahead, then grilled for 6-10 minutes before serving.
- The cooked chicken is also delicious cold or at room temperature. Use the boiled marinade as a dipping sauce if you like.
Other easy grilled chicken recipes you might like
- spicy honey-lime chicken
- chicken bulgogi recipe (Korean)
- Panzanella salad recipe with grilled chicken
- sweet and spicy chicken wings
- Mediterranean marinated grilled chicken
- grilled chicken burgers with mango salsa
- grilled BBQ chicken
- Thai grilled chicken
- smoked chicken thighs recipe (without a smoker)
How to make Vietnamese grilled chicken
Grilled Vietnamese Chicken
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
- garnish (optional) - 2-3 green onions
Vietnamese Chicken Marinade
- 1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice (about 1 small lime)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon neutral or vegetable oil (vegetable, canola, olive oil-but not extra virgin)
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium is fine)
- 1/2 tablespoon Fish sauce (Note 1)
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon minced garlic (2 garlic cloves)
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger - or more if you like (or pinch of ground ginger)
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (medium to medium-mild heat)
- 1 tablespoon cilantro (and more for garnish if desired)
- PREPARE CHICKEN: Trim larger pieces of fat from chicken (don't worry about smaller ones - they'll burn off). Pound chicken to even thickness for even cooking. I use the bottom of a pot or heal of my hand.
- MARINATE CHICKEN: Place all marinade ingredients in a ziploc bag or sealed container. Mix or squish bag to combine well. Add chicken, Seal bag/container and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or overnight in fridge.
- HEAT GRILL to medium-high. Oil grill with paper towel or spray.
- GRILL CHICKEN AND SERVE: Remove chicken from marinade (reserve marinade for sauce if desired Note 2). If using low salt soy sauce, lightly sprinkle chicken with salt. Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness of chicken. Instant thermometer should read 160F. Add green onions for last 2-3 minutes if using. Transfer chicken to plate. Cover loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Garnish with green onions and chopped fresh cilantro if desired. Note 3 to bake.
- Substitutes for Fish Sauce. Fish sauce is made of fermented fish and shelfish mixed with salt, If you can't eat it or don't want to, here are some substitutes you can use:
- To make sauce from marinade: While chicken is resting, boil reserved marinade in small microwave safe measuring cup or bowl for 90 seconds. Or boil in small pot on stove. This will remove any bacteria. Drizzle over chicken or use as a dipping sauce.
- To bake the Vietnamese chicken (instead of gas grill), heat oven to 425F/218C, place chicken on pan lined with parchment (or even better, on a wire rack over the pan), then bake for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches says 160F/71C with an instant read thermometer. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Make Ahead:
- The chicken can be marinated a day ahead, then grilled for 6-10 minutes before serving.
- The cooked chicken is also delicious cold or at room temperature. Use the marinade (cooked) as a dipping sauce if you like.
The marinade for this chicken is loosely adapted from recipes by Serious Eats and Food & Wine.