Grilled balsamic chicken is an easy yet flavorful recipe with only six ingredients! The balsamic marinade makes the most tangy, sweet, and flavorful chicken thighs you've ever tasted!
Note: this post was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2021 with improved photos and instructions.
If you want to branch out from burgers and hot dogs this summer while keeping things simple, try this easy recipe for grilled balsamic chicken! The marinade has only four basic ingredients: balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and olive oil. While the balsamic marinade is simple, it gives the chicken such a bright pop of tangy and sweet flavor that really complements the smoky flavor added by the grill.
This recipe uses boneless skinless chicken thighs, which cook quickly but stay more tender and juicy on the grill compared to chicken breasts (even when slightly overcooked!). This makes this grilled chicken recipe perfect for novice and experienced grillers alike.
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- Balsamic vinegar: since this is one of the predominant flavors in the marinade, it's best to use a balsamic vinegar that you find particularly delicious and flavorful!
- Olive oil: I used extra-virgin olive oil in the marinade. But, you could also use light olive oil if that's what you have on hand.
- Salt: I often cook with kosher salt, but for marinades I like to use fine-grain salt because it dissolves better in the marinade.
Step by step photos
1. First, trim off any excess fat from the chicken thighs.
2. Then, add the chicken to a gallon zip top bag, along with the marinade ingredients.
3. Close up the bag, removing as much air as you can from the bag before sealing. Massage the marinade ingredients around with the chicken; this helps to combine the marinade and ensure every surface of the chicken is covered.
Place the bag in the fridge and marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours.
4. When you're ready to cook, pre-heat the grill to medium-high heat (about 400 - 450 degrees F). I prefer using a grill surface thermometer to test the temperature, it is more accurate than using the thermometer that comes attached to the grill lid. I discuss more about checking the grill temperature in the Tips and tricks section below.
When the grill is pre-heated, remove the chicken from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels.
6. Oil the grill grates with a neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola oil.
7. Place the chicken pieces on the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Cook with the lid up and avoid moving the pieces around too much to get a nice sear on the chicken!
8. Then, flip the pieces and continue to cook for another 5 - 6 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken at the thickest part has reached at least 165 degrees.
Tips and tricks
- When bringing your grill up to the proper temperature, I recommend using a grill surface thermometer (a thermometer that clips onto the grill grates). Using the thermometer that is attached to the lid can lead to inaccurate results since it's not positioned right near the cooking surface.
- Even with the grill up to the proper temperature, you may experience hotter and cooler spots at different areas of the grill as I did. If this happens to you, you can rotate the pieces half-way through cooking to even things out.
- I also like to start checking the internal temperature of the chicken pieces using an instant read thermometer a few minutes after flipping them. That's because some pieces will likely cook faster than others due to size or position on the grill. So, you can remove the pieces one at a time as they come up to temp.
- Don't forget to let the chicken pieces rest for about 5 minutes before digging in; this helps the chicken to retain all its delicious juices when you cut into it!
As I mentioned in the Step by step photos section, you can choose to marinate this chicken anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours, depending on how much time you have.
I've made this recipe several times, marinating it for 30 minutes, 2 hours, and 8 hours. Marinating for 8 hours gives the most robust, full flavor, so if you have the time I definitely recommend going for the full 8 hours. But, if you don't that's ok, just use what time you do have. The chicken will still taste great!
One suggestion: if you choose to go with a shorter marinade time, I found the chicken benefits from a light sprinkling of salt before grilling; if going the full 8 hours, this is not necessary.
Even though I love boneless chicken thighs for their juiciness and flavor, you could substitute boneless skinless chicken breasts easily in this recipe.
If your chicken breasts are large, I would cut them in half horizontally or pound them out slightly before marinating so they don't burn on the grill before the inside is finished. And, depending on size, you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly.
If you don't have an outdoor grill, you could easily use a grill pan on the stove, set to medium-high heat. In fact, that's the first way I made this recipe and it turned out delicious! The grill pan I have is this one from Lodge (affiliate link), it's cast iron so you can get it nice and hot, perfect for good grill marks! Alternatively, you could also cook the chicken in a cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat.
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Chicken thighs are marinated in a simple balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil marinade. This chicken is deliciously tangy, slightly sweet, tender and juicy!
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 8 pieces)
- ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fine-grain salt
- 3 tablespoons honey
- neutral oil (vegetable, canola, etc.) to coat the grill
1. Trim any excess fat off the chicken thighs.
2. Place chicken thighs, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey and salt inside a gallon zip top bag (see note 1). Remove air from the bag and seal. Massage the bag well to incorporate the marinade ingredients and ensure all surfaces of the chicken are coated. Place in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to 8 hours (see notes 2 - 3).
3. When you are about ready to cook, preheat the grill to medium-high heat (400 - 450 degrees F) for at least ten minutes. While the grill is heating, remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and pat both sides dry with paper towels. Right before grilling, wipe the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in neutral oil (hold the paper towel using long tongs).
4. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 5 minutes, leaving the grill lid open. Flip the chicken and grill with the lid open for another 5 - 6 minutes, or until the temperature of each thigh (taken at the thickest part) reaches 165 degrees F.
6. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes and serve.
- If you don't want to use a zip top bag, place the vinegar, olive oil, honey and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the chicken and stir to evenly coat the chicken in the marinade. Cover the bowl with tin foil or plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate.
- The chicken will be delicious marinated at 30 minutes, but the get the boldest flavor, marinate for the full 8 hours.
- Although the marinade has salt in it, when marinating for shorter periods of time (between 30 minutes to 2 hours), to my tastes, the chicken benefitted from a light sprinkling of salt before grilling.
- For better temperature accuracy, measure the temperature of the grill using a grill surface thermometer (a thermometer that is designed to clip onto the grill grates) rather than using the thermometer on the lid.
Keywords: grilled chicken thighs, balsamic marinated chicken thighs, balsamic chicken, grilled balsamic chicken