With the perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy, our grilled Asian chicken skewers are a treat any night of the week. We like to serve it with creamy avocado-cilantro sauce.
Hooray, it’s allergy season! I don’t know about you guys, but I could power a small town with the force of my sneezing alone. I basically look like a teary-eyed, puffy-faced medical emergency this week, to the point where even my beloved dog is giving me side-eye and calling around to find a replacement begging target should I expire before dinnertime.
Be that as it may, I will not let a little thing like debilitating histamine reactions stop me from doing what I’ve been waiting months for. That’s right, grilling! Last night Matt dusted off the old grill, gave the spiders living inside it their eviction notices and warned the neighbors that delicious smells would be wafting their way soon.
And 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.
- For the Chicken:
- 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
- For the sauce:
- 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.