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How To Make Chipotle Chicken Thighs

white platter full of chipotle chicken thighs, limes, and jalapeños

Chicken thighs have to be one of the least expensive meals you can make. If you’ve ever wondered how to make chipotle chicken thighs that are even better than you can get at a fast casual place, this is it!

Of course I love chicken thighs, as evident by the number of recipes I’ve done on this blog. But this one just “hits different” as they say.

These chipotle chicken thighs have just the right amount of heat, balanced well with the citrus from the lime. Aside from the amazing flavor, these are also great for meal prep, leftovers, etc.

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What Is A Chipotle Pepper?

Playing a starring role in this grilled chipotle chicken thighs recipe is of course the chipotle pepper. But what is this pepper that infuses meat with such a delicious smoky flavor?

A chipotle pepper is essentially a smoked jalapeño. It starts its life as a humble green jalapeño, but it’s left on the plant till it turns a vibrant red color.

Once harvested, it’s smoked and dried, and becomes a chipotle pepper with a transformation that turns up the flavor dial to eleven.

wooden board with chipotle peppers

With that transformation comes the wrinkled, dark brown appearance along with the peppers distinctive smoky flavor profile.

Chipotle peppers are a staple in Mexican cuisine, prized for their unique combination of heat and smokiness. They’re often used in marinades, rubs, and sauces to add depth and complexity to dishes.

grilled chicken on a platter

Can I Use Chicken Breasts Instead?

Absolutely! Chicken breasts can be a worthy stand-in for chicken thighs in this grilled chipotle chicken thighs recipe.

While thighs are known for their juicy tenderness and ability to soak up flavors, chicken breasts bring their own perks to the table.

Chicken breast is leaner, and cooks faster than thighs, making it a convenient option for those who prefer white meat or are watching their calorie intake.

However, they tend to be less forgiving on the grill, and they can dry out quickly if you’re not careful.

To ensure juicy, flavorful grilled chipotle chicken breasts:

  • Butterfly the breasts so they are thinner and cook faster.
  • Leave them in the chicken marinade overnight to help infuse them with the smoky, spicy goodness of chipotle peppers.
  • Keep a close eye on them while grilling along with the help of a reliable quick read meat thermometer to monitor internal temperature.
chicken breast being butterflied

Uses For Chipotle Chicken Thighs

These thighs are amazing on their own, served with nothing but some cilantro lime rice and some black beans. That said, they also go great in:

Burrito Bowl – Toss the chipotle chicken thighs in a bowl along with your favorite burrito ingredients. it’s a can’t miss.

Pasta – Chopping this chicken up and tossing it with some pasta quick, easy, and delicious!

Salad– Add the chicken thighs to just about any salad is a great way to get some protein into all the fresh veggies you can eat.

Pizza – One of my favorite ways to use this chicken is as a pizza topping. Smaller pieces are better for a pizza topping, but it’s amazing.

plate of chipotle chicken thighs

Can These Be Made Without a Grill?

While grilling adds that irresistible grilled flavor, you can still whip up delicious chipotle chicken thighs without a grill. Here are a few super simple alternatives:

Grill Pan: A grill pan is similar to having a grill on your stovetop. Heat it up over medium-high heat, brush it with oil to prevent sticking, then cook your marinated chicken thighs for about 6-8 minutes per side, or until they reach your desired internal temperature.

Stainless Steel / Cast Iron Pan: Heat the pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add a tablespoon of avocado oil, cover the pans surface and let it heat till it just barely starts to smoke. Place your chicken thighs in the pan for roughly 5-6 minutes per side until they’re cooked through.

Air Fryer: For a healthier twist, pop your marinated chicken thighs into the air fryer at 375°F for about 18 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they’re golden brown and cooked through.

No grill, no problem! With these alternatives, you’ll still get that delicious chipotle kick in every bite of your chicken thighs.

How To Make Grilled Chipotle Chicken Thighs

Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 12 mins | Serves: 6-8

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tbsp cilantro, minced

Marinade
1 7 oz can, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
¾ cup avocado oil
Juice from one lime
5 cloves garlic 
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano

Step 1: Add all marinade ingredients into a food processor or blender, and pulse till smooth.

chipotle marinade in a food processor

Step 2: Add the chicken breasts to a zip top bag, and pour the marinade over the top of the chicken, reserving ⅓ cup. Remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it. Massage the marinade into the meat ensuring it’s completely covered. Place chicken and reserve marinade in the refrigerator for at least six hours, longer is better.

Step 3: Light your grill and set it up for two-zone cooking. Place the chicken on the grill over direct heat and sear on both sides till a dark char is formed, about 3-4 minutes per side. Then, move the chicken to indirect heat, and glaze with remaining marinade. Close the grills lid and allow chicken to finish cooking.

Step 4: Remove chicken when internal temperature reaches 180°F as indicated with a reliable instant read thermometer.  

chicken thighs cooking over fire on a grill

Step 5: Garnish with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to serve. 

platter of grilled chipotle chicken thighs

How To Make Chipotle Chicken Thighs

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tbsp cilantro finely chopped

Marinade

  • 1 7 oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • ¾ cup avocado oil
  • juice from one lime
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Instructions

  • Add all marinade ingredients into a food processor or blender, and pulse till smooth.
  • Add the chicken breasts to a zip top bag, and pour the marinade over the top of the chicken, reserving ⅓ cup. Remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it. Massage the marinade into the meat ensuring it’s completely covered. Place chicken and reserve marinade in the refrigerator for at least six hours, longer is better.
  • Light your grill and set it up for two-zone cooking. Place the chicken on the grill over direct heat and sear on both sides till a dark char is formed, about 3-4 minutes per side. Then, move the chicken to indirect heat, and glaze with remaining marinade. Close the grills lid and allow chicken to finish cooking.
  • Remove chicken when internal temperature reaches 180°F as indicated with a reliable instant read thermometer.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to serve.

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2 thoughts on “How To Make Chipotle Chicken Thighs”

  1. The absolute best chipotle chicken I’ve ever had! This is now the most requested meal in my family.

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