Easy Smoky-Sweet Chicken Thighs

My apologies that it has taken me so long to share this recipe for easy smoky-sweet chicken thighs! I started making this chicken last summer as a straightforward way to bring dinner to out-of-town events, like our family reunion in South Haven, or visiting our friends lake house in Traverse City. Not only does this recipe travel well, but the chicken thighs are consistent crowd pleasers. I couldn’t believe how 7-year-olds to 70-year-olds alike loved this chicken, so it has now become a summer staple!

Overhead view of charred chicken thighs.

In the summer, we do lots of long weekend road trips. Whether we are “glamping” or visiting friends, we always bring good food to prepare. I have a few criteria for any dish we bring on the road with us:

  1. Must include summery ingredients.
  2. Must allow for advanced prep-work to minimize effort on site.
  3. If it requires cooking, it must be grill-able.
  4. If it requires refrigeration, it can easily pack in a cooler.

I usually prep the chicken 1-2 days before cooking by rubbing with the spice mixture. Then, my Hubs grills it. Add some corn cobs, broccoli and/or potatoes to the grill, and you have a simple but summery meal. So easy, see!?

Want to pair this with more exciting side dishes? Prepare one of these summery side dishes instead: Corn and Basil Risotto Salad, Pickled Pepper Pearl Couscous or Grilled Peach Salsa.

Another detail I love about this recipe is that it is very pantry-friendly. Just a bunch of common spices found in most home kitchens, this is one of those dinners I can whip up without running to the store. Don’t you love those?

Since the very point of this blog is to serve as my recipe collection and helpful place for sharing my favorite recipes, this post is long overdue! I’m excited that I can now point people right to this post whenever they request the recipe. Now that it’s here, I hope your family loves it as much as we do.

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Overheard shot of charred chicken thighs

Easy Smoky Sweet Chicken Thighs

  • Author: Emily Brooks
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: about 5.33 ounces 1x
  • Category: chicken
  • Method: grill


An easy pantry-friendly spice rub adds tons of flavor to chicken thighs. Cooked on the grill or in cast iron on the stove, the recipe is flexible and flavorful.


  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  1. In small bowl, mix sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, salt and pepper.
  2. Place chicken thighs in gallon zip-top food storage bag, or glass baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and toss or rub to coat chicken evenly.
  3. Pour spice mix over chicken and toss or rub to coat chicken evenly. Seal bag or cover dish and refrigerate chicken for 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  4. Preheat gas grill to high; place chicken on hot grill grates and reduce heat to low. Cook slowly, turning every 4-5 minutes until cooked through, about 20 minutes total.


For a charcoal grill, arrange coals on one side and cook chicken on opposite side for indirect heat.

Chicken can also be cooked in a cast iron skillet on the stove. Preheat skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, reduce heat to medium. Cook chicken 10-14 minutes, turning frequently, until cooked through.

The brown sugar will cause the chicken to char while cooking, which is why I cook it a little more slowly than other chicken dishes. Turning the chicken frequently allows the sugar to brown or char, while preventing it from burning.

Keywords: smoky-sweet chicken thighs, grilled chicken thighs, chicken, easy recipes, easy chicken recipes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.