I love this Grilled Vietnamese Chicken in Pho, in rice/noodle 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, 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 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 to change their minds), so go ahead, and use boneless breasts. If you take care not to overcook them, they’ll be great.
For a lower calorie lighter meal, try serving the grilled Vietnamese chicken on Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Quinoa, in a Quick Chicken Pho (recipe by Simply Recipes) or with Roasted Bok Choy and Broccoli. It’s also perfect paired with Jasmine rice.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Substitutes for Fish Sauce: Fish sauce is made of fermented fish and shelfish 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:
- Drizzle with 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. The sauce is particularly good when serving with rice.
- If you don’t like cilantro, you can use Italian parsley instead.
- Instead of fresh garlic and ginger, use the frozen cubes, purees in a jar or p0wder versions.
Make Ahead Grilled Vietnamese Chicken
- 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.
Grilled Vietnamese Chicken
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
- garnish (optional) - 2-3 green onions
- 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice (about 1 small lime)
- 1 1/2 tbsp neutral oil (vegetable, canola, olive oil-but not extra virgin)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium is fine)
- 1/2 tbsp Fish sauce (Note 1)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp minced garlic (2 garlic cloves)
- 1 tsp fresh grated ginger - or more if you like (or pinch of ground ginger)
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes (medium to medium-mild heat)
- 1 tbsp 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 cilantro if desired.
- 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.
The marinade for this chicken is loosely adapted from recipes by Serious Eats and Food & Wine.
Here are two other types of marinated grilled chicken you might like: