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Spicy Coconut Chicken Thighs

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Easy and quick
Spicy coconut chicken | Something New For Dinner I recently discovered this recipe for Spicy Coconut Chicken in Bon Appetit and loved the simplicity of the recipe as well as the flavors. These days I do most of my own recipe development, and on the rare occasion I use someone else's recipe, I usually modify it significantly. Surprisingly, I have changed very little in this recipe. I do decrease the chili paste and increase the quantity by 50%. It was a little spicy for me and I like to cook once and eat twice. This chicken is great as a leftover the next day and can also be incorporated into a salad or sandwich.

Spicy, But Delicious

As I was preparing this dish I added the marinade to the chicken before tasting it. Afterwards, I tasted a little of the remaining marinade and was shocked at how spicy it was.  It was so spicy that I feared the chicken would be inedible. This was a particular problem because I was planning to serve it to friends who are very vocal about disliking spicy food.

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  At this point it was water under the bridge as the chicken was already in the marinade, so I decided to see the recipe through. I’m so glad I did. Yes, this recipe is spicy, but not mouth-on-fire spicy. It is also succulent, flavorful and delicious. When I served it to my spice-hating friend he kept saying, “I really hate spicy food, but I can’t help myself” as he took second and third helpings.

Modify the Heat

Feel free to make this spicy coconut chicken as written even if you are not a huge fan of spicy food. Alternatively, cut back a little on the sambal oelek. Just don’t reduce the quantity too much or you will also lose the flavor. On the other hand, if you are a big fan of spicy food, there is room to increase the quantity of chili paste. For me, 3 - 4 tablespoons is the right amount. You can always serve additional sambal oelek on the side as a condiment.

Tips for Faster Preparation

  1. Peel the ginger with a spoon. See my post for how to do it.
  2. Use a garlic rock to peel the garlic cloves. Thank you again to the folks at Garlic Rocks for sharing this great tool with me.
  3. Use a food processor or Cuisinart Mini-Prep to mince the ginger and garlic.

Things to Know About the Ingredients

  • Sambal Oelek is a Thai chili paste made by Huey Fong, the same company that made sriracha famous worldwide. I actually prefer sambal oelek over sriracha for its texture and flavor.
  • Coconut milk – Whatever you do, never use lite coconut milk. You can read my post as to why and also learn which coconut milk I prefer to avoid BpA in the lining of the can.
  • Chicken thighs are my favorite part of a chicken. Read my post to find out why thighs are considered the premium cut of the chicken by most of the world.
  • Salt -- I find recipes that call for coconut milk require a fair amount of salt to counter balance the coconut milk. Use kosher salt. I prefer Diamond kosher salt as it is a little airier than Morton's. If you decide to use regular salt cut the quantity in half.

Cooking Lesson

You can always reuse the marinade in a recipe and repurpose it for a sauce to accompany your protein. The key is if it has touched meat, chicken or fish, you must heat it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you must bring it to a boil. At 165 degrees food born bacteria die and you can use the marinade safely.

More of Our Favorite Chicken Thigh Recipes

I hope you give this spicy coconut chicken a try. For more of our chicken thigh recipes check out the links below:   Print

Spicy Grilled Coconut Chicken

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This quick, spicy and succulent grilled chicken will have dinner on the table in 30 minutes. 

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Thai



For the marinade:

  • 4” piece of ginger, peeled and cut into three pieces
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/8 cup coconut milk (not lite)
  • 36 T sambal oelek chili paste, depending on your taste for spicy food
  • Zest of one lime
  • 3/8 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 3 T mild olive oil

For the chicken: 

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 lime cut in wedges or Thai style


For the marinade: 

  1. Put the ginger and garlic in a food processor or Cuisinart Mini Prep. Whirl until finely minced. Transfer to a bowl large enough to hold the chicken thighs. Add coconut milk, chili paste, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar, salt and olive oil. Whisk to mix.

For the chicken:

  1. Add chicken to the bowl of marinade and toss with your hands to thoroughly coat. Allow to marinate 1 to 4 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium. Using your hands wipe off excess marinade from the chicken and grill until done, about 10 minutes total, flipping occasionally. Reserve leftover marinade. 

For the sauce: 

  1. While the chicken is grilling, put the residual marinade in a saucepan and bring to a full boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the sauce is reduced to about one third its original volume, stirring frequently. Sauce will be thick, but still pourable. 

To serve:

Plate the chicken on a large platter, drizzle with sauce and garnish with lime wedges and cilantro leaves. Serve hot or room temperature.


It is critical to bring the sauce to a boil because it was in contact with raw chicken. Boiling the sauce kills any bacteria.


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