Vietnamese Grilled Chicken

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.

Grilled Vietnamese Chicken with grilled green onion

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:
    • Worcestershire (note this has anchovies in it). Use only 1 -1 1/2 teaspoons. 
    • Soy sauce (but it won’t have the same depth of taste).
    • Recipe for Vegan Fish Sauce from Food52.
    • Recipe for Vegetarian Fish Sauce using mushrooms by Cook’s Illustrated.

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 grill?

  • 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).

Make Ahead 

  • 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

How to make Vietnamese grilled chicken

thighs, ginger, garlic, soy, fish sauce, lime oil, cilantro, red flakes
Ingredients: Chicken, ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce, cilantro, soy, lime, garlic, chili flakes, oil
Pound thighs to even thickness. I use the heel of my hand to do it.
marinade in measuring cup
Whisk together Vietnamese chicken marinade ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup.
chicken marinating in ziploc
Marinate chicken for 30 minutes or overnight in the Vietnamese chicken marinade
chicken on grill
Grill thighs 3-4 minutes per side on medium-high heat. I like to grill green onions along side the chicken.
grilled vietnamese chicken on plate with sauce
Drizzle chicken with marinade if desired or used the marinade as a dipping sauce. It must be boiled for 2 minutes to eliminate impurities. 

Grilled Vietnamese Chicken with grilled green onion on plate pp

grilled chicken thighs on white plate with green onions
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4.84 from 103 votes

Grilled Vietnamese Chicken

I love this Grilled Vietnamese Chicken in Pho, on rice or in salads. The marinade permeates the chicken to make it succulent and delicious.
Prep Time6 minutes
Cook Time8 minutes
Marinating time30 minutes
Total Time44 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Servings: 2 -3


  • 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.


Recipe Notes

  1. 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:
    • Worcestershire (note this has anchovies in it). Use only 1 -1 1/2 teaspoons. 
    • Soy sauce (but it won't have the same depth of taste).
    • Recipe for Vegan Fish Sauce from Food52.
    • Recipe for Vegetarian Fish Sauce using mushrooms by Cook's Illustrated. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Nutrition values are estimates based on chicken thighs (about 1/2 lb per person). Chicken breasts would have less calories and fat. 


Calories: 429kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 215mg | Sodium: 1569mg | Potassium: 594mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 129IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?We'd love you to rate it above under 'rate this recipe' or in the comment section below. Thanks!

The marinade for this chicken is loosely adapted from recipes by Serious Eats and Food & Wine. 



4.84 from 103 votes (81 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 4 stars
    This was really delicious! So much flavor. Both my husband and I loved it. Leftovers were great sliced on top of salad

  2. 3 stars
    Your mixed marinade is much greener than the list of ingredients show. You have missed out something in the list which looks like chopped green onions. Can you comment ?

    1. Hi Jude, The green you are seeing in the picture of the marinade is cilantro. It’s the last ingredient listed under ‘Vietnamese Chicken Marinade’ in the ingredient list. Hope that helps.

  3. 5 stars
    This is super easy and delicious! I pre cut the chicken breast into small pieces and threw it in the marinade with thighs and drums. After one day I used the breast meat in a stir fry – Yum! The rest I left in the marinade for two days. I grilled it for 25 mins – it was so moist and delicious!

  4. 5 stars
    Made this a few times and loved it.
    Was wondering if I can keep the chicken marinated longer than over night? Like if I marinated it 3 days ahead and vacuum sealed it, would it be too long?

    1. Hi Lubna. 3 days is much too long. The acid in the lime juice will turn the chicken mushy. I would say 24 hours is the max. Even 6 hours is plenty. Hope that helps.

  5. 5 stars
    This has been my “Go To” Asian chicken recipe ever since I discovered it here! I always have the ingredients on hand so that makes it even easier. Thank you for sharing !!

    1. Hi Maddy, I don’t use an air fryer, but I looked it up and you can preheat to 350F, put the boneless thighs in for 10 minutes, flip them over and cook another 10-12 minutes to 160F. Let them rest a bit and they should rise to 165F. Hope that helps.

  6. 5 stars
    One of the best chicken marinades I’ve ever used.
    This recipe definitely finds it’s way to the top of my “go-to” list.

  7. 5 stars
    My kids made it for us and I loved it I am making it for company tomorrow . I am hoping for leftovers this time.

    1. Great to hear! Good idea about leftovers. Delicious cold too. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.