Chicken Thigh Marinade Recipe – baked chicken thighs made with the BEST pineapple chicken thigh marinade is one of the easiest ways to make incredibly flavorful chicken that tastes just like a Hawaiian getaway!
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The sweet and savory combination of flavors is made from a simple marinade made with pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, and garlic. The secret ingredient of sesame oil just takes it over the top!
There are some chicken thigh recipes that don’t require any long marinating time, but this isn’t one of them. I highly recommend marinating the thighs overnight to get maximum flavor. Once they’re done marinating it’s simply a matter of throwing them in the oven! How easy is that?!
The sugars from the pineapple juice and brown sugar caramelize giving the outer skin a beautiful crispy coating. The insides remain juicy and succulent because we’re using bone-in chicken, and the dark meat and marinade combined give it so much extra flavor.
It’s one you can serve with a variety of different sides. White or brown rice, a simple side salad, mashed potatoes, grilled pineapple or veggies are all great choices. You can’t go wrong no matter what, because this finger licking chicken thigh marinade is always a hit.
- Chicken Thighs: I use bone-in and skin on chicken thighs, about 2 lbs worth. You can use boneless if you prefer, however you’ll need to cook them for about 5 minutes less.
- Pineapple Juice: Delicious pineapple juice from a can is what I use. You can also use the juice from canned pineapple chunks and reserve the chunks for the sauce later on.
- Fresh Ginger & Garlic: Adds a delicious zippy pungent element that always pairs well with soy sauce and sesame oil. They always help to brighten up flavors.
- Soy Sauce: This gives the marinade that dark color, a bit of salty umami flavor, and a beautiful balance to the sweetness in this chicken thigh marinade.
- Sesame Oil: Adds an earthy, nutty, warm flavor to the marinade. It’s a common flavor in many Asian-inspired marinades and sauces and pairs well with sweet, savory, and spicy flavors.
- Light Brown Sugar: Gives extra sweetness, color, and caramelization to the marinade and glaze.
- Salt & Pepper: To taste.
- Green Onion: Sliced for a pop of color!
Step 1: Trim any excess fat off the thighs and pat them dry with paper towels. I know you’re adding it to a liquid marinade anyway, but any excess moisture will dilute the yummy flavors and we don’t want that!
Step 2: In a mixing bowl, combine pineapple juice, fresh ginger, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, sugar, and salt and pepper. Mix to combine then remove ½ cup to reserve it for the sauce.
Step 3: Add chicken thighs to the bowl and toss to coat, making sure all the pieces are covered in the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap then transfer it to the fridge to marinate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Step 4: When you are ready to cook the thighs, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use a baking dish or cast iron skillet and place the chicken thighs in a single layer skin side down. Do not overcrowd the dish.
Step 5: Bake for 20 minutes and then flip the pieces over. Pour the reserved sauce overtop and bake for another 15 minutes until they are cooked through. Broil on high for 5 minutes to finish them off with beautiful dark crispy skin.
Garnish with green onions and enjoy with your favorite sides. Sprinkle sesame seeds over top if green onions aren’t your thing.
Tips for Making Pineapple Marinade for Chicken Thighs
- If you’re using boneless chicken thighs, remember they take less time to cook. Start with 5 minutes less cooking time and go from there.
- You can also use chicken breasts if you prefer, however because it’s leaner meat it’s easier to overcook and dry out. Keep an eye on them as well, and cook for less time.
- Since you reserved the marinade before adding the raw meat, it’s fine to use it again. After you’ve added more before broiling, you can use whatever is left to drizzle it on top before you serve it.
- Add a little sriracha or red pepper flakes for spice.
- Grill it in summer for those beautiful char marks!
- Use some pineapple chunks for extra flavor on the side. You can grill pineapple slices too. Or make a pineapple salsa!
How do I know when my chicken is cooked through?
The best way to tell is by using a digital thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh and it should read 165 degrees F when it’s done. The juices should run clear as well.
Can I make the sauce a bit thicker?
Sure you can. Once the chicken has been marinated, you can add a bit of ketchup to it before baking it.
How long does it take to marinade chicken thighs?
If you have the time, I recommend the full 6 hours or even overnight, but if you are short on time, 1-2 hours is fine and it will still be delicious!
What to Serve with chicken?
The Best Baked Pineapple Chicken Thigh Marinade
- cast iron or baking sheet
- In a mixing bowl combine pineapple juice, 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce, 3-5 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt + black pepper, to taste. Mix with a spoon. Reserve 1/2 cup for sauce. Add chicken thighs, cover and marinade overnight or at least 6 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Place chicken thighs skin side down on a baking dish or cast iron skillet, bake for 20 minutes. Flip on the other side and pour 1/2 reserved sauce over the chicken thighs, rechurn back to the oven bake for 15 more minutes or until chicken thighs are cooked. Broil on high for 5 minutes.
- Garnish with sliced green onion. Enjoy!
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