Spicy, sweet, tangy, sticky chicken is skewered and cooked on the grill before being served with a creamy avocado sauce, rice, and lime juice.
By Emily Clifton
I gotta tell you, we have made this chicken three times in the last month and it is amaaaaaahhhhzing. The first two times we cooked it inside on a grill pan and set off our smoke alarm about 15 times during the process. You know what? I REGRET NOTHING. It’s that good. It’s spicy and sweet and tangy and sticky in exactly the way you want food on a stick to be.
If you’re not that familiar with Asian sauces and flavors, this is a great recipe to try because it’s extremely simple but also very balanced. It’s spicy but not overly so, tempered by both the brown sugar and the creamy avocado-cilantro sauce. I think we’ll probably try it on shrimp next, using the exact same method. If you use chicken breasts instead of thighs, just be careful not to overcook them because they tend to dry out easily. You could also cook either thighs or breasts whole instead of skewering them, though they will take a little bit longer to cook.
Check out our Asian Pantry Basics to get descriptions of the ingredients listed in this recipe, along with links of brands we recommend.
If you’ve never used it before, do NOT be freaked out by the fish sauce. It’s a staple in many Vietnamese and Thai dishes and adds a wonderful salty depth of flavor. I promise it doesn’t taste fishy at all.
Serve it with rice, sliced limes and Quick Pickled Cucumbers. Get the recipe for the cucumbers here.
- 1½ - 2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1½-inch–2-inch pieces
- ½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
- ½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons hot chili garlic paste (sambal oelek)
- ¼ cup fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc nam)
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced (approx. 2 teaspoons)
- 2 limes, quartered, for garnish
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and de-seeded
- 1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems (about ¾ cup packed)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 1 teaspoon lime zest (about 1 lime)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 16 bamboo skewers soaked in water at least 1 hour
- Prepare grill for medium-high heat.
- For the Avocado-Cilantro Sauce: Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and blitz until smooth. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
- For the Spicy Chicken Skewers: In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, ketchup, garlic and ginger until fully combined. In a separate larger bowl, add the chicken and toss well with ¼ cup of the sauce. Let the chicken marinate for 15 minutes or up to a day. When you’re ready, thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer (I like to use 2 skewers so the chicken is easier to turn on the grill).
- Transfer the rest of the marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half, 7–10 minutes. Set aside.
- Grill the chicken, turning and basting often with reduced marinade, until cooked through, 8–10 minutes.
- Serve with lime wedges and the creamy avocado-cilantro sauce on the side.
I love to cook and learn about food. I was born and raised in New York City and I was exposed to a lot of different food cultures as a kid though I was weirdly picky. I hated mashed potatoes but I loved kim chee. Hated fish, loved escargot. I said I was weird, don’t judge me. My mom is a great cook but I definitely don’t have any “passed down from grandma” types of recipes. Both my grandmothers were horrible cooks. I mean really, truly bad. I give my mom a lot of credit for knowing that string beans are not actually supposed to be gray. In real life I’m a film/TV editor which just might be the most fun job in the world. Occasionally it can be the most annoying job in the world which is why I really appreciate it when I get to take a break and do my other favorite things which is cook, take photographs and write.