If you’re looking for an easy, delicious dinner, boneless, skinless chicken thighs are your best friend. They cook up in minutes, can be flavored a million different ways and are perfect for the oven, stovetop or grill. For this dish, we took inspiration from one of America’s favorite bar snacks: Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dip.
Marinated in a zingy mix of Greek yogurt, hot sauce, garlic and lemon, these cook up tender and juicy. The grill also gives them that perfect bit of char on the edges (though when it gets cold, we’re going to bake them in the oven because there’s just no way we’re going several months without eating this deliciousness). As well as the marinade, they get brushed with more buffalo sauce once they’re done grilling (a lip-smacking mix of hot sauce, butter and honey). We serve it with a cool, crunchy slaw tossed with a tangy dressing and blue cheese crumbles. It’s a dish that’s packed with flavor, but it’s also healthy and light enough for a summer get together.
If dark meat is not your thing, this buffalo chicken recipe works just as well with breasts – though breasts are more prone to overcooking so check them often. You could also use bone-in pieces, though you’ll want to add between 5 and 10 minutes to the cooking time, depending on the size of the pieces.
Yogurt: the king of marinades
We love yogurt-based marinades for chicken because, like buttermilk, the lactic acid in yogurt is a tenderizer. While vinegar or lemon-based marinades can toughen proteins and turn them rubbery if left too long, yogurt is much more gentle and can be left for a full day without any risk of compromising the texture.
That means you can actually freeze the chicken in the marinade, making it even easier for quick weeknight cooking. To do this, toss the chicken in the marinade, divide it up into 2 or 3 smaller sealable bags or airtight, freezer-safe containers (the smaller containers keep the defrosting time shorter). Freeze the chicken for up to 2 weeks. When ready to use, move the bags to the refrigerator and let them thaw overnight, then proceed with the recipe as written.
WHAT IS “BUFFALO SAUCE”?
Buffalo sauce is combination of a vinegar-based hot sauce (traditionally Franks Red Hot) mixed with melted butter (the ratio varies, depending on how mild and creamy you like your sauce). The butter tempers the heat, as does the little bit of honey we like to add. The result is a moderately spicy, rich sauce that is traditionally slathered on crispy chicken wings, but is also great on so much more.
Make the Marinade
The marinade is simple: mix together the yogurt, hot sauce, oil, lemon juice, garlic, honey, salt and pepper. You can do this in a bowl or a sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and toss it really well to make sure each piece is thoroughly coated. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and transfer it to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight.
Make the Buffalo Sauce
Add the hot sauce, honey and butter to a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer, stirring until the butter is melted. Note: we don’t add a lot of butter so if you like a milder sauce, stir in another tablespoon or two of butter until the flavor is to your liking. Turn off the heat and set it aside. It can be made up to 2 days ahead and reheated, if desired.
Make the Blue Cheese Slaw
Or is it bleu cheese? Whatever. This isn’t the place for super fancy, $40/pound cheese. An inexpensive bold Danish blue, or even a package of pre-crumbled would be absolutely fine here. You may not need to add all the dressing, depending how much cabbage ends up in your bowl.
To make the dressing, stir together the mayonnaise, buttermilk (or sour cream), vinegar, salt and pepper to combine.
Add the cabbages and onion to a bowl and stir in 3/4 of the dressing. Toss until everything is coated. Stir in more dressing, if needed. Add the blue cheese and toss gently, trying not to break up the cheese crumbles too much. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Grill the Chicken
Set up a gas or charcoal grill for indirect grilling (high heat on one side, low on the other). Clean and oil the grates. Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing any excess to drip back in the bowl. Some marinade clinging to the chicken is fine. Discard the marinade. Placing the chicken on the hot side of the grill, cook until brown and charred in spots, around 5 minutes. Flip and grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer (chicken should read around 165ºF in the thickest part). If the chicken is getting too charred, move it over to the cooler side of the grill and continue cooking. Transfer the chicken to a platter and spoon or brush over the reserved Buffalo Sauce. Let the buffalo chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve the buffalo chicken thighs with extra sauce on the side, along with some chopped chives and a lemon wedge for squeezing.
Grilled Buffalo Chicken Thighs with Blue Cheese Slaw
For the Chicken Marinade:
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup
hot sauce (recommended: Frank’s Red Hot)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 large garlic cloves minced or grated
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
For the Buffalo Sauce:
- 6 tablespoons
hot sauce (recommended: Frank’s Red Hot)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, (or more, as desired)
- 2 tablespoons minced chives or scallion greens
- 1 lemon sliced, for squeezing
- In a large bowl or resealable plastic bag, mix the yogurt with the hot sauce, oil, lemon juice, garlic, honey, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and turn to ensure each piece is thoroughly coated. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight.
- To make the Buffalo Sauce, add the hot sauce, honey and butter to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Set up a gas or charcoal grill for indirect grilling (high heat on one side, low on the other). Clean and oil the grates. Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing any excess to drip back in the bowl; discard the marinade. Place the chicken on the hot side of the grill and cook until brown and charred in spots, about 5 to 7 minutes, flip and grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer (chicken should read around 165ºF in the thickest part). If chicken is getting brown too quickly, move it over to the cooler side of the grill. Transfer the chicken to a platter and spoon or brush over the Buffalo Sauce. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Scatter over the chives, add some lemon for squeezing, and serve with Blue Cheese Slaw (recipe below).
Blue Cheese Slaw
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup buttermilk or use sour cream
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 medium green cabbage cored, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1/2 small red cabbage cored, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1/2 small red onion halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into thin slices
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
- In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, buttermilk (or sour cream), vinegar, salt and pepper until well combined.
- Add the cabbages and onions to a large bowl and toss to combine. Stir in 3/4 of the dressing and toss until coated. Add more dressing, if needed. Add the blue cheese and toss gently, trying not to break up the cheese crumbles too much. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.