Grilled Lemongrass Ginger Chicken Recipe

by Dorothy Reinhold on July 23, 2010

Print This Post Print This Post Grilled Lemongrass Ginger Chicken on Shockingly Delicious

Look no further if you want to resuscitate your moribund weekly grilled chicken dinner. You have found the answer here. After they taste this, your family will certainly NOT be saying, “Oh. Chicken again?”

The aromatics in here are amazing – lemongrass! ginger! garlic! hot pepper! fish sauce! soy sauce! Wait…back up there…fish sauce? Most definitely yes. Don’t be afraid of it; this is one of the keys to authentic Vietnamese flavor. When you open the bottle and sniff…uh, whoa…aquarium! Not to worry. Your finished dish won’t taste fishy at all. It will be scary good, and so it is worth getting to know fish sauce for that reason alone.

A recipe handed down from a first-generation Vietnamese-American mother to her daughter, this is one tasty gift. Kim at is the lucky daughter who has been eating this her whole life. You can see her version here; she makes it with a whole bird, but I wanted to get two dinners out of it, so I made it with a boatload of my favorite chicken piece – skin-on, bone-in thighs.

In this case, a boatload = 8 meaty thighs, so I tweaked her marinade recipe to accommodate. In tweaking, I also simplified the preparation for my needs, while keeping true to her original. This is one flavor-packed dish! Even though it has a pepper in it, it is not overly spicy. My kids gobbled it up.

The flavors in here may be complex, but this chicken is a simple pleasure. Thank you Kim and Kim’s mom!

Grilled Lemongrass Ginger Chicken

Mix up the marinade in a measuring cup (easy to pour from)

Grilled Lemongrass Ginger Chicken

Put chicken and marinade in zipper-top plastic bag. A little gross looking, but flavor payoff later

Grilled Lemongrass Ginger Chicken

Zip bag closed, massage mixture, marinate in refrig for a day or two

Grilled Lemongrass Ginger Chicken

This is best eaten if marinated for at least a day, so get it into the refrigerator a day before you want to cook it. It can marinate for two days if needed.

2 stalks lemongrass
2-inch piece fresh ginger (about 3 tablespoons finely minced)
5 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, finely minced
4 tablespoon palm sugar (or use brown sugar)
3 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
8 meaty chicken thighs, with skin on and bone in (about 3 1/2 pounds)

If you haven’t used lemongrass before, this is what you do for this recipe: Peel outer layer of lemongrass. Cut off top third of stalk, then cut off root end of stalk; discard. Thinly slice rest of stalk crosswise, and then finely mince it. It should smell lemony!

Peel and finely mince the ginger and garlic. Finely minced the pepper (if you like a milder flavor, begin by slicing pepper in half and removing seeds before mincing). I have done all this mincing of ginger, garlic and pepper by hand, or the short way in my mini food processor. Suit yourself.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together lemongrass, ginger, garlic, pepper, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, oil and rice vinegar.

Trim any big globs of fat off chicken (leaving skin on), and place chicken in large zipper-top plastic bag. Pour marinade into the bag and massage the chicken and the marinade together with your fingers. Zip the top, squeezing air out, and marinate in refrigerator for at least 1-2 days.

When ready to cook, heat grill, remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and grill chicken over low heat for about 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Source: Adapted from  

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael December 7, 2018 at 10:12 am

I used this as a marinade for my Thanksgiving turkey. Best turkey ever! I have also smoked chicken or turkey after marinading for over the top favor and juiciness.


Dorothy Reinhold December 10, 2018 at 6:44 am

WOW is that ever a good idea! I had forgotten about this recipe…must resurrect it onto the menu this week!


Debra Mae July 2, 2018 at 6:41 am

This recipe is amazing!! Try it tonight and you and your family will be happy!


Leigh May 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Do you think it would work with oyster sauce in place of fish sauce. I always have oyster sauce on hand. Hate to buy fish sauce and have the rest sit in the fridge.


Dorothy Reinhold May 6, 2015 at 2:06 pm

I don’t see why not! Give it a try!


Tammy December 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

If it was done in the oven, what temperature would you use and for how long? Can you tell me which fish “fish sauce” is made from? Thank you.


Dorothy December 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Oh, I’d bake it like any chicken, at 350F for 45 minutes or so (less if you use boneless breasts). I found this Wikipedia link that discusses what sorts of fish are used in fish sauce. Hope that helps!


mary May 10, 2013 at 11:51 am

hi Tammy, the fish sauce is made from anchovies.


CB September 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I love this recipe! Let me feature it sometime?

Here’s a tip, that seems counter to the whole taste concept of marinating, but it works.

After marinating – wipe the surface of the meat dry. That’s right, get all the marinade off. You marinated it to infuse flavor into the meat – now wipe of the excess and either make more or boil the reserve to make it safe for glazing the meat at the end of the cook. The reason for placing dry meat on the grill is pretty basic: Dry = Sear/Brown Wet = Steam/Gray.

Either use fresh marinade that you’ve reduced a bit or boil and make sure the marinade you used is safe for using as a sauce (Frankly I’m in the ‘make new’ camp, it’s certainly a toss up as far as work and clearly the safest choice.) Grill the meat to brown or “sear mark” the surface – remove to a section of the grill that is indirect from heat and allow to finish. During the final 5+ minutes, glaze and place over direct heat for just a minute or so to ‘set’ the sugars in the glaze without burning them.


jdawg July 29, 2011 at 1:08 pm

why not just make double the amount of marinade right away and save half?


Dorothy July 30, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Sure, you can double the marinade and save half if you like. What are you planning for the rest of the marinade?


Surfer Girl August 6, 2010 at 11:52 am

Made this last night for dinner and all I can say is DE-LISH! I have to admit I was worried about the Serrano pepper but it wasn’t spicy at all – in fact I may leave the seeds in next time to warm it up. I diced extra ginger and garlic and used it for a veggie stir fry as a side dish. Thanks for the suggestion to make 8 pieces – now I’ve got dinner already planned for tonight: yummy leftovers. 🙂


Dorothy August 6, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Lori, so glad you liked this! I agree about the pepper…not hot. Peppers vary widely, though, so another serrano might be hotter. But yes, leave seeds in next time and see. I am a big believer in cooking plenty and having leftovers for another night. Another thing you could do with these leftovers is make Thai chicken pizza.


Lentil Breakdown July 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I loved the line about the aquarium. I am one of those people who are afraid of fish sauce.


Dorothy July 29, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Oh yeah, fish sauce is STANKY! But funnily enough, your finished dish does NOT reek of dead fish. Somehow, it just doesn’t! Fish sauce adds umami. Go for it, Adair.


Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro July 26, 2010 at 10:33 pm


Thank you so much for taking a chance on our family recipe. So glad you enjoyed it, so glad to see you last week, and so glad to share our “news” with you!

It’s good to know that chicken thighs work just as well. In fact, I’m gonna go link my recipe post to yours so folks can see your adaptation. 🙂

Thanks so much for the nod!



marla {family fresh cooking} July 26, 2010 at 7:09 am

I bet this chicken was fragrant and delicious! I often add fish sauce to my savories for that extra kick!


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