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Spicy Honey Chicken made with chicken thighs rubbed with a smoky blend of spices and brushed with a sticky sweet honey sauce is one of our favorite dinners during grilling season. Serve it with rice or on top of a bed of arugula dressed with an easy citrus vinaigrette for a delicious meal!
We love grilling season and all the easy meals we can make using a charcoal or gas grill. Some of our other grilling recipes that are popular with readers are Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs, Easy Grilled Shrimp Skewers, and Grilled Flank Steak with Mushrooms!
That one time I tried out for a reality TV cooking show
Back before I started my blog, I was shopping at our local farmer’s market when I got stopped by a talent scout looking for people interested in cooking who might like to try out for a reality tv cooking show. I was with my two girls who were probably 3 and 1 at the time because I know I had Rose strapped to me in the baby carrier. The talent scout was actually super nice and we ended up chatting for a while about the open casting call that would be happening the following week and she was very interested in my backstory of being a former lawyer and mom with young children and she encouraged me to go to the casting call.
I kind of laughed it off, but a couple of days later I got a call from a producer in LA inviting me again to audition and he told me that if I wanted to, they would take me in the first group so I didn’t have to wait in line. After talking it over with Paul, we decided it would be a lark and I might as well give it a shot.
Long story short, I almost immediately decided to make this Spicy Honey Chicken to take with me to the audition. I got up really early on Saturday morning, grilled up my chicken, prepped some mango salsa, and drove in to San Francisco for the casting call.
The line of applicants literally wrapped around the block. It was so intimidating! But I was able to walk right up to the front of the line and sure enough, my name was on a shortlist of previously screened applicants to go through the first round of presenting a dish and being interviewed.
The judges were a couple of producers and some minor celebrity chef (not the big names from the actual show). The feedback I got was that my flavors were “bold” and the chicken was “almost perfectly cooked”. Needless to say, I was one of only a few people in a room of 50 who got a call back to be interviewed the next day.
After making it through that round and numerous subsequent rounds, I found myself flying to LA to be put up in a hoel for a week and cook on a TV set for a final round of auditions. I hung out with other finalists, did more interviews, went through hair and makeup, and sat through a kitchen basics cooking class. It was so fun and such a fascinating experience that really ignited my interest in cooking. I couldn’t believe the talent of the other home cooks I was surrounded by and really geeked out of flavors and cooking techniques.
I got cut in the final round, which was fine by me since I didn’t really want to commit to 8+ weeks away from my family with two young children. But this whole story goes to say that this particular recipe has a special place in my heart and is one that my family loves!
It’s fantastic all on it’s own served with coconut rice, cilantro lime rice, brazilian white rice, or even mexican rice. Or go with a simple arugala salad with citrus cumin vinaigrette and mango salsa, which is how I served it for the judges in my cooking show audition that got rave reviews.
- Chicken: I think chicken thighs with their rich flavor stand up better to the spices and honey glaze in this recipe, although you could certainly make it with chicken breasts or even pork chops, if you prefer. You can use bone-in chicken thighs (what you see in the pictures here) or go the boneless, skinless route.
- Spices: Stick with me here – chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, onion powder, ground coriander, and chipotle chili powder (or smoked paprika) with some kosher salt work together for a deliciously smoky and spicy (but not too spicy) blend that is fantastic with chicken.
- Honey: Golden honey adds a wonderful sweetness that is fantastic with the spices.
- Apple cider vinegar: There’s just enough of this to cut the sweetness of the honey.
How to Make Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs
- Preheat the grill: If you are using a charcoal grill, get the coals going so that the grill is hot when you are ready to start cooking the chicken. If using a gas grill, be sure to preheat that as well and make sure the grill grates are clean.
- Combine spice rub ingredients: Add all of the spices and seasonings to a small bowl and stir to combine.
- Season chicken: Drizzle the chicken with a little olive oil, mostly just to help the spices stick, then evenly sprinkle them with all of the spice blend, making sure to cover both sides.
- Grill: Place the chicken thighs over direct heat (right above the flames on the hot side of the grill). If grilling boneless, skinless chicken thighs, plan on 3-5 minutes per side. For bone-in chicken thighs, it’s going to be more like 5-7 minutes per side. Either way, you are shooting for the chicken to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer . When you flip the chicken the first time, move it over to the other side of the grill where it will finish cooking with indirect heat.
- Brush with honey glaze: Heat the honey in the microwave for a few seconds, then whisk in the apple cider vinegar. Set aside 2-3 tablespoons of the glaze for drizzling over the chicken after it’s done on the grill. Brush the rest of the honey glaze onto the chicken just before it’s done grilling. At this point you need to watch the grill for flare-ups since the honey can burn easily.
Pro Tip: If using a gas grill, preheat the grill to medium-high heat only on one side. If using charcoal, get your coals going, then arrange the briquettes on one side of the grill to create two zones of heat. This is known as direct and indirect grilling and it allows you to sear the chicken initially to get those nice grill marks and crispy skin or exterior, then finish cooking the chicken through without burning it on the outside.
- Let rest before serving: Once the chicken is done, transfer it to a clean plate and drizzle with the reserved honey glaze. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
How to Serve Spicy Honey Chicken
Our favorite way is to serve it over a bed of arugula tossed in a quick homemade citrus vinaigrette with mango salsa or just sliced mango, avocado, and red onion. It’s such a flavorful, incredible dinner and definitely a favorite around here.
This chicken is also fantastic with rice and your favorite veggie. And leftovers are excellent in chicken flautas, quesadillas, enchiladas, and lots more. I HIGHLY recommend doubling the recipe so there are plenty of extras.
- I personally don’t love chicken skin, and since the spice rub and honey glaze are what makes this chicken so good, I usually remove any chicken skin so the seasoning can adhere directly to the meat.
- Don’t brush the meat with the glaze too early. The honey is going to drip and smoke when you brush it onto the chicken so you want to wait to add it until close to the end when the chicken is almost done. But it’s important to do it on the grill so the sugars in the honey can caramelize a bit and combine with the seasonings.
More Great Chicken Recipes
- Yakitori (Japanese Chicken Skewers)
- BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad
- Chicken Flautas
- New Orleans-Style Cajun Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
- The Best Chicken Stroganoff Recipe
- Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos
Spicy Honey Chicken
- 8-10 chicken thighs
- 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 3/4 cup honey
- 3 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat, around 400 to 450 degrees F. Make sure the grill grates are clean.
- Trim excess fat from the chicken, if needed, then pat dry. Drizzle with the olive oil, rubbing it to coat the chicken on both sides.
- In a small bowl or jar, combine all of the spice rub ingredients, stirring to combine. Sprinkle the rub evenly over the chicken pieces on both the front and back sides, rubbing it in with your hands so it is evenly distributed.
- Heat the honey in a small microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for 15 seconds until very runny. Add the vinegar and stir to combine. Set aside 2-3 tablespoons of the honey-vinegar mixture for drizzling over the chicken at the end.
- Grill boneless chicken thighs for 3-5 minutes per side, anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes total, depending on their size, until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer. Bone-in chicken thighs will take a little longer to cook – more like 10-14 minutes total with about 5-7 minutes per side. In the last minute or two of grilling, brush the chicken on both sides with the honey-vinegar glaze. Watch the chicken carefully at this point because the honey will smoke and flare-ups can happen because of the sugar in the glaze.
- Remove from the heat and drizzle with the reserved honey-vinegar glaze, then let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Knowing when meat is done: I highly recommend using a meat thermometer to know when your chicken thighs are done, especially if using bone-in thighs. But the other way to know when it is done is when the juices run clear when you cut into a piece of the chicken after it has rested for about 1 minute off the grill. If the juices are pink, stick the chicken back on the grill for another 2-3 minutes until it is done.
- Honey Citrus Vinaigrette: Our favorite way to serve this is on top of a bed of arugula tossed with a simple honey citrus vinaigrette made with 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup orange juice, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated onion, 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Shake the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid, then pour over arugula and toss to coat. Delicious with sliced mango, avocado, and red onions and the sliced chicken on top.
Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites.