Lemongrass chicken is one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes because it’s packed with tangy citrus and savory garlic, and is easily added to rice bowls, noodles dishes, and more.
If you’re new to cooking Vietnamese food, this easy dish is just the introduction you need to nail all of the addicting flavors that this popular cuisine is known for.
And, once you discover how bright and refreshing fresh lemongrass is, and the amazing way it elevates the simplest foods, you’ll want to add it to all of your favorite grilled fish recipes, chicken recipes, seasonal soups, and noodle bowls.
In this recipe, the chicken thighs are marinated in an aromatic blend of sweet, citrusy, salty, and umami flavors overnight. The next day, grill the chicken over a medium-high heat. The chicken cooks quickly over the flames, will turn a beautiful golden brown, and is ready to enjoy in 5 to 7 minutes!
What Is Lemongrass?
Lemongrass is a tropical grass native to countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, and can also be found in Australia. The stalks of the plant are often used as a culinary herb to add citrusy flavors to soups, noodle bowls, fried rice, and even cocktails! Some cultures also use lemongrass to make soothing teas.
How to Make It
- Make the marinade. Combine the oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and salt.
- Marinate the chicken. Combine the chicken with half of marinade and refrigerate for 24 hours. (Note: Reserve the other half of the marinade to make a glaze.)
- Grill the chicken. On a preheated grill, cook the chicken until both sides are golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Check the chicken with an instant-read thermometer to ensure it reaches 165°F.
- Glaze. In the last few minutes of cooking, whisk the reserved glaze with honey and brush it generously over the chicken.
- Rest. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. This will help it to stay juicy and tender when sliced.
- Serve and enjoy!
- Cooking Oil - Whenever you’re working with higher heats (medium-high and above), it's a good idea to use a cooking oil with a high smoke point. Avocado and grapeseed oil both have neutral flavors that will allow the savory flavors in the marinade to shine.
- Soy Sauce or Tamari - For gluten-free Vietnamese grilled chicken, use Tamari. Otherwise, use soy sauce in the marinade.
- Brown Sugar - Adds a touch of sweetness to lemongrass chicken.
- Fish Sauce - Briny, savory, and a little sweet, fish sauce creates layers and layers of flavor in a variety of dishes, from Pad Thai to stir fry.
- Garlic Cloves - Grating the garlic cloves releases all of the garlic’s lovely aromatics.
- Ginger - Use fresh grated ginger or look for the frozen cubes as in the photo below (I get them at Trader Joe's).
- Lemongrass Stalks - Fresh lemongrass is available in neighborhood grocery stores, and Asian markets. Look for stalks that are firm, rather than soft, and have no brown leaves. If fresh lemongrass isn’t available, you can also find lemongrass paste in the refrigerated portion of the produce aisle.
- Kosher Salt - Essential pantry seasoning.
- Chicken Thighs - Chicken thighs give this recipe a nice rich flavor. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts will also work in a pinch.
- Lime - Giving the chicken a little spritz of lime before serving boosts the bright citrus flavors in this dish.
Make Lemongrass Chicken Ahead
The marinade can be made a day or two ahead of time, and refrigerated until you’re ready to use. Try storing the marinade in a mason jar, so you can quickly give it a good shake before using it on the chicken.
- No time to grate the garlic and lemongrass? Just combine all of the marinade ingredients in a blender or use a hand blender to create a smooth paste.
- Marinating the chicken for a full 24 hours will give you the most flavorful chicken. If you’re short on time, even marinating for 4 to 5 hours produces a light garlic and lemongrass flavor.
- Use leftover marinade as a dipping sauce, or drizzle over Vietnamese banh mi.
- Make it spicy - Adding chili oil or red chili flakes adds a little heat to Vietnamese grilled chicken.
- Add more aromatics - Add fresh, grated ginger, chopped basil, or diced shallots to the marinade to create more complex flavors.
No gas grill? No problem! To make lemongrass chicken in the oven, simply bake in a prepared pan at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes. Check that the thickest part of the chicken thighs have reached 165°F before removing from the oven.
This versatile dish can be served with warm bowls of jasmine rice, or any long grain white rice. You could also place it on top of salads, add to rice noodles, or serve alongside roasted vegetables.
Use tofu for a vegetarian lemongrass dish, or try shrimp, fish, pork, or beef. The citrus-garlic marinade works well with most types of protein.
More Asian Inspired Chicken Recipes
- Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry
- Gochujang Chicken Rice Bowls
- Thai Chicken Meatballs in Coconut Curry
- Chicken with Thai Holy Basil
- Instant Pot General Tso's Chicken
- Easy Pad Thai
- Mixing Bowls
- Grill or Sheet Pan
Grilled Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Recipe
- Mixing Bowls
- Grill or Sheet Pan
- ¼ cup cooking oil (any type will work, but I use avocado or grapeseed oil for high heat cooking)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Tamari
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 3 stalks lemongrass, finely grated
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 ½ pounds total)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- lime, sliced into wedges
- To make the marinade / glaze, combine the oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and salt. (Note: if you prefer to skip grating the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass, you can also just combine all of the ingredients in a blender or use a hand blender to blend until smooth.)
- Divide the marinade in half, reserving one half to use as a glaze at the end of cooking.
- In a small baking dish, combine the chicken with half of the marinade, turning to fully coat the chicken on all sides. Marinate the chicken, refrigerated, for 24 hours. (Note: You will get the most flavor if marinated for 24 hours, but even 4 to 5 hours will build flavor if that’s all the time you have.)
- When you’re ready to cook, preheat the grill to medium-high heat and oil the grates.
- To make the glaze, whisk the reserved half of the mariade with honey.
- Grill the chicken on both sides until golden on the outside and no longer pink in the center, 5 to 7 minutes per side. (Use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature. The chicken is done when it registers 165°F.)
- In the last few minutes of cooking, brush the chicken liberally on all sides with the glaze.
- Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
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