Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce


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These Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce come together quickly and are loaded with fresh, vibrant FABULOUS flavor! The delicious sauce is used for basting and as a finishing sauce.

This Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce recipe has been my go-to this spring for entertaining as well as for as easy weeknight meals. Both the chicken and the sauce can be prepped ahead. Just before dinner, it’s easy to fire up the grill and warm the sauce for a super simple dinner party or fabulous evening meal.

A double dose of flavor!

The chicken in this Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce recipe gets rubbed before grilling with a combination of brown sugar, ground coriander, garlic salt, oregano, sweet paprika, chili powder, onion powder, black pepper and a splash of olive oil to keep the meat nice and moist. This throw-it-all-in-a-bowl-rub makes plain-Jane chicken thighs burst with fabulous flavor.

But we’re not finished yet! The crowning glory is a brush of the delicious coconut chili lime sauce that’s also used as a drizzling sauce for serving. The coconut sauce comes together quickly on the stovetop. It starts with a splash of olive oil and a pat of butter heated until the butter is golden and bubbly. Next comes brown sugar, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and tomato paste. These fragrant ingredients continue to cook for 5 minutes until the color is deepened and the ingredients are beginning to caramelize.

All that’s left is to add a can of coconut milk, whisk everything together and simmer for another 5 minutes to concentrate the flavor and reduce the sauce to a beautiful creamy consistency. This is the kind of delicious sauce you’ll want to eat like soup!

Do I have to use chicken thighs for this recipe?

I was pretty sure that I would get asked this question so I thought I’d go ahead and answer it right in the post.

The answer to this question is yes and no. Let me explain…

If you want deliciously golden, slightly charred chicken with tasty little bits that family and friends will fight over then definitely use chicken thighs.

I know, I know, some of you are just “chicken breast people”. I know that because I was in that category for a zillion years. Chicken breasts just come in a really nice little “package”, they’re smooth and perfectly shaped with nothing to trim. Plus they’re lean and super healthy.

The thighs, not as much. Well, at least the part about coming in a nice little “package”.When you purchase thighs, they look fairly decent but when you open the package and unfold them… oh my! Such weird shapes, fat that needs to be trimmed and little appendages hanging out here there and everywhere. 😂  Not nearly as pretty as their chicken breast siblings.

I was a tried and true chicken breast fan but a few years ago, I ventured out into the world of chicken thighs and was shocked once I started using them more regularly. I learned that chicken thighs are a wonderful combination of light and dark meat. Not as dark and “gamey” as drumsticks but so much moister than chicken breasts and able to withstand enough heat to char and caramelize them on the grill (or in a grill pan).

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs are both a good source of lean protein with thighs having an extra 40 calories per 3 ounce serving. Yes, chicken thighs do have higher fat level but the same 3 ounce portion has only 2 grams more saturated fat (the bad kind) than the same amount of chicken breast.

So, back to the big question… if you’re okay (in this recipe) with pale golden meat and no char (or nicely charred exteriors but dry inside), then go with the breasts. Don’t get me wrong, we love chicken breasts and use them in lots of recipes. But they just won’t stand up to the grill heat that creates the beautiful deep golden exterior with bits of char that you want for these Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce.

How to serve these Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce

There are lots of options for serving this delicious chicken:

  • It’s wonderful  paired with rice and crunchy cucumbers. Sometimes I serve the cukes on their own but if I have a few extra minutes, I combine them in a bowl with a splash of rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt, pepper and a drizzle of sesame oil… so good!

  • Slice the chicken thin and serve on baguettes, drizzled with the sauce and topped with lots of fresh herbs, pickled red onions or carrots, sliced cucumbers and jalapenos for a delicious take on Bahn Mi.
  • If you want to go light and lean, pair these Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce with a veggie stir fry. Simply heat a splash of sesame oil in a large non-stick pan or wok over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant. Throw in peapods, slivers of white or red onion, asparagus, sliced zucchini, bell peppers… whatever you love or have hanging out in your fridge. Most veggies only need a minute or two in the pan and they’re ready to serve. (If I’m using carrots in my stirfry, I precook them for 5 minutes in a pot of boiling water, then drain and rinse with cold water.) I like to add a splash of sweet chili sauce while stir-frying.
  • This past weekend we invited friends for dinner. Scott grilled, sliced, then layered the chicken on a serving plater before the guests arrived. Five minutes before dinner, I simply re-warmed the chicken in the microwave on a low power setting while the sauce was heated on the stovetop. I served the chicken and sauce on our kitchen island, adding bowls of stir-fried carrots and white onion, ramen noodles, chopped peanuts and bowlsful of fresh herbs. Everyone was able to create bowls to their taste.
  • We have also enjoyed these Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce served with ramen noodles and this Thai Chopped Watermelon Salad (recipe coming up!). It makes a beautiful, fresh presentation that will “wow” everyone who tries it!


  • Make pizza! Last night, I made a pizza with leftover Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce. I used the sauce as a base and topped it with mozzarella cheese then strips of chicken and thin slices of red onion. I also drained a small can of mushrooms, sautéd them in a pat of butter until golden then added a splash of soy sauce, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of garlic salt. I continue to cook them till all the liquid had evaporated. The mushrooms went on the pizza before baking and a shower of chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, basil and mint) was the finishing touch after baking. SO delicious! (I discovered these Brooklyn Bred premade pizza crusts recently at a local grocery store. They’re thin and crisp and make an easy meal on a busy day.)

Have a get-together coming up? Want to make a fabulous dinner for family or friends? Put these Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce on the menu! You’ll have happy campers all around the table!

Café Tips for making these Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce

  • Chicken thighs usually come 6-8 in a package but they’re generally folded under to create little mounds of chicken. You’ll want to unfold them into a flat piece before adding the rub.
  • Trim any large pieces of fat from the thighs. It’s fine to have small bits as they will melt on the grill and baste the thighs as they cook.
  • Every grill is different so the times for grilling are approximate. You want to get some bits of char but you don’t want the thighs burned. Watch them carefully and turn frequently, especially after brushing them with the Coconut Chili Lime Sauce.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients in the chicken rub. They’re mostly common spice cabinet ingredients but blend together for fabulous flavor.
  • These Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce make great leftovers. They can be warmed on low heat in a pan or on 20% power in the microwave.
  • This recipe calls for finely grated ginger and lemongrass. Ginger is easy to find but can be a tedious job to grate. Lemongrass can be more difficult to find. I love to keep tubes of both ginger paste and lemongrass paste in my refrigerator or freezer. These tubes can be found at many larger grocery stores in the produce area. They taste fresh, save a lot of time and make preparing dishes like this, super easy!
  • To prep in advance:
    • The rub can be made a week or two ahead. Store in an airtight container.
    • The sauce can be made 12-24 hours in advance. Allow to cool for 20-25 minutes then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Rewarm on the stovetop over low heat or in the microwave at 50% power.
    • The chicken can be seasoned with the rub up to 24 hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator.


Thought for the day:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there, Your hand will guide me,
    Your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7-10

What we’re listening to for inspiration:

He Will Hold Me Fast


If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce

These Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce come together quickly and are loaded with fresh, vibrant FABULOUS flavor! The delicious sauce is used for basting and as a finishing sauce.

Author: Chris Scheuer

Prep Time:
30 mins

Cook Time:
30 mins

Total Time:
1 hr

Servings: 6

Calories: 422 kcal


For the rub:

  • 1 ½
    brown sugar
  • 2
    ground coriander
  • 2
    garlic salt
  • 1
    sweet paprika
  • 2
    dried oregano
  • ½
    chili powder
  • ½
    onion powder
  • ½
    ground black pepper
  • 2
    extra virgin olive oil

For the chicken:

  • 2
    boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For the coconut chili lime sauce:

  • 1
    extra virgin olive oil
  • 1
  • 4
    medium cloves garlic
    finely minced
  • 2
    finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2
    brown sugar
  • 1 ½
    tomato paste
  • 1
    finely grated fresh lemongrass
    or lemongrass paste
  • 13.5
    coconut milk
    1 can
  • ½-1
    chili garlic sauce
    start with ½
  • ¼
    kosher salt
  • 1-2
    fresh lime juice
    start with 1

For grilling:

  • ½
    Coconut Chili Lime Sauce
    from above recipe


For the rub:

  1. Combine the brown sugar, coriander, garlic salt, paprika, oregano, chili powder, onion powder and pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix everything well. Add the olive oil and stir until combined.

  2. Trim any excess fat from the thighs and lay them out onto a flat work surface (I like to do this on a large sheet of parchment paper spread out on my kitchen counter.) Divide the rub between the thighs and rub it into both sides with your hands, making sure to get the rub into all the little cracks and crevices on the undersides of the thighs. Refrigerate the thighs for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

For the Coconut Chili Lime Sauce:

  1. In a medium-size saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is bubbling a bit. Add the garlic, ginger, brown sugar, tomato paste and lemongrass. Bring the mixture to a simmer then reduce the heat a bit to maintain a low simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

  2. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside till ready to serve. (If making in advance, allow the sauce to cool for 20-25 minutes then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce can be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave.)

  3. Just before grilling, remove ½ cup of the sauce to a cup or bowl for grilling. Reserve the remainder for serving with the chicken.

For grilling:

  1. Grill chicken over a medium-hot grill, turning occasionally until golden on both sides. Once golden brown, use a brush and begin basting the chicken with the coconut chili lime sauce, turning the thighs every 1-2 minutes and brushing with more sauce until the thighs are deep golden brown and have some nice charred spots. You may have a small amount of the basting sauce leftover but try to use as much as you can. Remove the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board and tent it with foil for 10 minutes before slicing. (I like to slice the thighs about a half-inch thick on a bit of an angle for a pretty presentation.) Serve drizzled with sauce. Serve any extra sauce at the table.

Recipe Notes

See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.

If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn’t have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.

Calories 422kcal

Fat 29g

Saturated fat 16g

Trans fat 1g

Polyunsaturated fat 2g

Monounsaturated fat 8g

Cholesterol 149mg

Sodium 1088mg

Potassium 595mg

Carbohydrates 11g

Fiber 1g

Sugar 7g

Protein 31g

Vitamin A 384%

Vitamin C 3%

Calcium 51%

Iron 4%

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Coconut Chili Lime Sauce


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