Two barbecue chicken thighs on white plate.
Dinner,  Recipes

Grilled Barbecue Chicken Thighs Recipe

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Summertime means grilling! One of my favorite things to eat in the summer is Barbecue Chicken. Sometimes I just use store-bought barbecue sauce, but when I have a little more time I like to make my own sauce. The difference is outstanding!

Close up of barbecue chicken thighs on white plate.

My favorite recipe to use is the one below which has a ketchup base with olive oil, vinegar, teriyaki sauce, onions, garlic, and several spices. It has just enough spice to it to make it delicious without burning your tongue. Of course, you can always adjust the spice level to your preference.

Ingredients You Will Need

Ingredients for barbecue chicken on white background.
All ingredients for barbecue chicken except the raw chicken.

Ketchup adds sweetness and a tangy tomato flavor to the sauce.

Beer adds a malty sweetness.

Lemon Juice adds acidity that helps tenderize the chicken and balances the sweetness of other ingredients.

Olive Oil aids in browning the chicken and helps distribute the flavors of the other ingredients.

Onion & Garlic add a strong flavor.

Brown Sugar adds sweetness and helps caramelize.

Teriyaki Sauce provides a savory umami flavor.

Vinegar adds tanginess and acidity to the marinade.

Salt & Pepper enhance the overall flavor.

Dry Mustard adds a subtle bite and pungency.

Herbs (Basil, Thyme, Oregano) add fresh, earthy flavors.

Chili Powder & Cayenne Pepper add smokiness and heat.

Chicken Thighs are known for their dark meat which stays moist and flavorful during cooking.

Why You’ll Love Making Barbecue Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs on cooking on barbecue grill.
Partially cooked chicken thighs.

Grilling is a fun and social activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family.

Chicken thighs are a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, and the other ingredients are common pantry staples.

Chicken thighs are known for being dark meat, which means they have more flavor and stay juicier than chicken breasts when cooked.

This recipe is simple to make. Just toss the ingredients together, throw the chicken on the grill, and baste! Perfect for a weeknight meal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Four chicken thighs cooking on barbecue grill.
Chicken thighs almost finished cooking on grill.

Should I grill the chicken thighs with the skin on or off? You can grill chicken thighs with or without the skin. Skin-on thighs tend to stay juicier, but skin-off cooks faster. If you choose to keep the skin on, make sure to pierce it with a fork in a few places to allow fat to drain.

How can I tell if the chicken thighs are cooked through? The safest way to tell if chicken is cooked through is to use a meat thermometer. The internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh should reach 165°F (74°C).

How long does it take to grill chicken thighs? Chicken thighs typically take 15-20 minutes per side to cook through, depending on their thickness.

Can I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs? Yes, but breasts cook faster and can dry out more easily. Be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Substitutions and Variations

Red basting brush on barbecue chicken on grill.

Beer: Substitute with chicken broth, ginger ale, or even water for a non-alcoholic option.

Vinegar: Experiment with different vinegars like apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar for a slightly different flavor profile.

Cayenne Pepper: Omit for a milder flavor or add more for a stronger kick.

Olive Oil: Substitute avocado oil for olive oil for a higher smoke point.

Spices: You can get creative here! Here are some options to replace or add to the spice mix:

  • Smoky flavors: Smoked paprika, chipotle powder, liquid smoke.
  • Spicy: Cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle flakes.
  • Herbal: Rosemary, parsley, dill.
  • Asian-inspired: Ginger powder, five-spice powder, sesame oil.
  • Mediterranean: Sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers.

What to Serve with Barbecue Chicken Thighs

Two barbecue chicken thighs on white plate next to bowl of red barbecue sauce.

Salads: Salads are always delicious with grilled meat. Coleslaw, macaroni salad, Carrot Raisin Salad, or a Mediterranean salad with feta cheese, olives, and tomatoes would all go great with Barbecue Chicken.

Vegetables: Grilled vegetables are a perfect match for BBQ chicken. Try grilled corn on the cob, sliced bell peppers and onions, or a veggie kabob with zucchini, squash, and cherry tomatoes. You can also go for roasted vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or sweet potatoes.

Starches: Some starchy options to soak up the BBQ sauce include mashed potatoes, potato salad, Foil Packet Potatoes, rice pilaf, or crusty bread.

Cornbread: Cornbread is a classic American BBQ side dish. It’s sweet, moist, and pairs perfectly with BBQ sauce.

Baked beans: Baked beans are a hearty and delicious side dish that goes well with BBQ chicken. You can find them canned or make your own from scratch.

Other Recipes You May Enjoy

If you like my Barbecue Chicken Thighs, you might also like my Grilled Beef Kabobs or my Barbecue Sauce. This recipe for Grilled Sriracha Barbecue Chicken is also delicious.

Final Thoughts

Whether you like your chicken spicy or mild, you will no doubt enjoy this Barbecue Chicken. It is perfect for summer grilling and reminds me of eating chicken in the backyard on warm summer evenings as a child. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you!

Three barbecue chicken thighs on white plate with white bowl of barbecue sauce in background.

Grilled Barbecue Chicken Thighs

Heidi Bruaw
This recipe for Barbecue Chicken Thighs combines a tangy sauce of ketchup, beer, and lemon juice with herbs and spices for a flavorful marinade. Baste the chicken on the grill for juicy, tender thighs with a smoky barbecue glaze.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6


  • 2 Cups Ketchup
  • ½ Cup Beer
  • ¼ Cup Lemon Juice
  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Onion minced
  • 1 Clove Garlic minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Teriyaki Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard dry
  • 1 teaspoon Basil crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon Thyme crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon Oregano crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon Chili Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 6 Chicken Thighs bone-in with skin


  • In a 2-quart saucepan (or larger) stir together all the ingredients except the chicken.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Place the chicken on the grill and let it cook for a few minutes before basting with the sauce.
  • Turn and baste frequently, including under the skin.
  • Cook until internal temperature reaches 165℉ in the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Use the extra barbecue sauce for dipping.
Keyword Barbecue Chicken
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