best chicken leg/thigh recipes
September 7, 2019 10:28 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite recipes for cooking a bunch of chicken legs or chicken thighs?

Trying to eat more of the cheaper chicken parts, instead of just buying chicken breasts. Our Fred Meyer always seems to have big trays of chicken legs or thighs on sale but I'm not sure what to do with them so I'm looking for ideas! Complication: I'm kind of a meat wimp, and am not crazy about dark meat, fat, or chicken skin. I will probably never get used to chicken skin or really fat meat - it's a texture thing - but my husband will eat both of those. But I want to branch out and find some ways to cook these pieces that I like!

I do not do well with spicy or heavily spiced foods and I hate bell peppers. Everything else is good! We have a reasonably well equipped kitchen and well stocked pantry. Thanks!
posted by skycrashesdown to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Jamie Oliver has an awesome Ligurian chicken recipe that uses a few tomatoes, olives, chicken stock and rosemary. Very tasty and very easy. It’s been on regular rotation in our house for years.
posted by Jubey at 10:41 PM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Do you ever just throw them in a 350F oven? Granted, I luuuuuurve crispy chicken skin, but I *really* like simple roasted thighs. It's my favourite way to have them, just a little salt on the skin and that's it.
posted by kate4914 at 11:28 PM on September 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Chicken thighs are awesome in butter chicken, which you can find a bazillion recipes for that range from grinding your own whole spices all the way to dumping in a jar of premade sauce and everywhere in between. A slow braise is great for thighs because it breaks down the fatty parts more thoroughly and will get you a texture you might find more appealing.
posted by Mizu at 12:01 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Roast thighs with barbecue sauce.
posted by Cranberry at 12:37 AM on September 8, 2019

If you are willing to bone out the thighs or have your butcher do so then the easiest crispy-skinned chicken can be yours.

1) bone out things and trim any excess skin or fat, if you want;
1.5) take a fork or knife and poke the thigh through a few times so that the fat renders nicely;
2) place chicken thigh skin down in heated pan. Skin down is important this gets you crispy skin;
3) drain excess chicken fat, if any from the pan as you are frying;
4) cover pan if you think you got to much spatter going on;
5) flip chicken thigh over to finish cooking on the other side and then put on plate
6) make any sauce you want. I usually do a teriyaki sauce

What you end up with is crispy chicken thighs that can take any delicious sauce, such as teriyaki which is just soy sauce, mirin and a some sugar in the same pan you just have that nice chicken juice, fat and caramelized bits. The sauce options or limitless.

I suggest Parisi's book on sauces but Bittman's has a list of sauces from minimal ingredients available.

Boneless chicken thighs make the most delicious fried chicken, too!
posted by jadepearl at 1:37 AM on September 8, 2019

I made butter chicken for the first time the other day, and it was delicious. I sort of used this recipe, and it was mild and very delicious. I deboned the legs myself, and threw the bones in a bag in the freezer for making stock of, which I will do today.
I sometimes make a simple stew. I just throw chicken legs and thighs in a pot with a bit of olive oil, along with quartered onions, carrot chunks, maybe some other root veg depending on what there is. I brown it all a bit (very little) in the oil, and then add a can of tomatoes and a little water and a sprig of thyme. Let it stew till the meat falls off the bone, add a drained can of chickpeas, and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve with rice or couscous. You'll be surprised at how tasty this is, given the simplicity of preparation. It's healthy, too.
You can also cook a stock from the bones + normal soup veg. When the meat comes off the bones, take them up and pick of the meat and save for later. Put the bones back for 30 minutes more. Then pour the soup through a fine sieve and discard the bones and wasted vegetables. Now you can do several things. You can clear the broth with a raft of egg-white and then serve it with the chicken meat, some julienned vegetables and soup-pasta. Or you can make a thick velouté sauce and pour it over your meat and some steamed peas and/or asparagus. Sometimes I bake this into a pie, because I love pie, and sometimes I just make little squares out of store-bought puff-pastry and serve them with it. It's fine with rice too.
Speaking of rice, you can also use the stock and the meat in a risotto.
posted by mumimor at 2:11 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would make a cassoulet-influenced chicken and bean stew. Especially since the days are getting shorter. Hopefully stewing it will give you less texture problems.

Brown onions, celery, bacon, and the chicken thighs and stick in a dutch oven with chicken stock, a few whole garlic cloves, some thyme, a couple of chopped tomatoes, some tinned beans, maybe some dried porcini for a bit of extra umami. A glug of wine or sherry, if you want. Cook in a low oven until falling off the bone — an hour and a half, maybe? You could also do it on the hob, I just find it easier in the oven.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:26 AM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Honestly, as Kate says, just chuck them in a roasting tray in the oven & enjoy the results! Add herbs / honey glaze / etc etc to taste / for variety.

Chicken Marengo is also both easy & tasty.
posted by pharm at 3:16 AM on September 8, 2019

After reading and commenting on this post, I became really hungry and looked into the fridge. We had a big bunch of rosemary from the roommate's parents' garden. So I googled rosemary chicken and came up with this. The recipe is a whole chicken, but someone in the comments suggests it would be even better with thighs, and I believe them. So that is what we'll be having for dinner tonight. The immediate hunger was handled with a couple of crackers.
posted by mumimor at 3:53 AM on September 8, 2019

I adapted this recipe for use on thighs and legs and it really, really good.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:06 AM on September 8, 2019

Welcome to the dark side, or at least the one that has flavor. Thigh meat especially is great for curries and stews, where breast meat would otherwise dry out.

In terms of stretching your grocery dollar, chicken and dumplings can feed a crowd for cheap, and is great. Potatoes, onions, chunks of chicken, decent spices and coconut milk, and you’ve got a great curry that you can make as mild as you need. Change the spices a touch, and you can make a Thai yellow curry (usually milder than other Thai curries).

If you’ve got a smoker, or a kettle grill with a lid, thighs and legs are absolutely wonderful smoked. As far as a bbq sauce, for a different take, Alabama white sauce is fantastic:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4-1/3 cup cider vinegar
tsp salt
Tsp black pepper
Tsp white pepper
Tsp brown sugar
Tbsp lemon juice
Splash or so of hot sauce
A little bit of cayenne pepper, if you’re okay with it.

Smoke the chicken til it’s cooked through, get the charcoal nice and hot. Dunk the chicken in the white sauce and sear over the hot coals.

This is fantastic eat off the bone, but can be extended into shredded chicken, just like you would for a whole bird, tacos, burritos, over rice, in a sandwich, it’s all wonderful.

As a bonus rice recipe: melt butter in a pan, then add a tap of turmeric and a tbsp of cumin, sauté it in the butter, then add the uncooked rice. Stir the butter and spices through the rice, add a little salt. Use chicken stock instead of water. It’s great, especially if you take the smoked chicken, shred it on top of the rice, then top with a little of the sauce.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:24 AM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, this serious eats recipe for NYC halal cart rice is fantastic, and I used to serve it as one of the options for lunch at my restaurant, and later, frequently made it for staff meals when I worked as a cook elsewhere. It’s basically where I stole the rice recipe I wrote out above, and the yogurt/mayo sauce for this is wonderful.

I tend to add mushrooms, letting them cook while cutting up the seared whole thighs.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:29 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Buttermilk roast chicken, via smittenkitchen. This is delicious and easy and fast, esp. if you do the marinating the day (or morning) before you cook the chicken. Use a mild paprika if you don't want it spicy. I've had good luck with smoked paprika because I don't like it hot either. (One non-economical part of this is struggling to find a use for half a quart of buttermilk you might end up with as a leftover. Not hard, but may take some planning or unscheduled pancakes.)
posted by miles per flower at 5:57 AM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nigella Lawson's Chicken & Pea Traybake is a comforting dish for cooler weather. It takes a while in the oven but there is hardly any prep. We keep a bag of peas and a bag of sliced leeks in the freezer just for this dish.
posted by bcwinters at 6:04 AM on September 8, 2019

Here's a take on Bhatti da Murgh (grilled chicken). There are two levels to this recipe: Level 1 is what I use for a fast marinade that's always killer. Level 2 takes this dish to the next level, a little more work, but well worth it!

Level 1 (basic marinade)
  • Between 4-5 pounds of thighs and/or drumsticks
  • 3 Tbs grated garlic
  • 2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs white vinegar
  • 1.5 teaspoons cayenne (add more or less depending on your tolerance)
  • 1.5 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 0.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 0.5 teaspoon ground clove
  • 0.5 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 0.5 teaspoon ground green cardomom
Mix all of those spices in a large bowl with 1 cup of whole milk yogurt and then marinade the chicken, make sure to get the marinade under the skin if you're keeping it on. The longer the marinade the better (preferably overnight), but the beauty here is that even 20 minutes will do the trick.

Grill and baste with 3-4 tablespoons of melted butter/ghee during cooking. When done, squeeze lime juice all over.

Level 2
So here's the turbocharge. This step would take place after the marinade but *before* the grilling from the last recipe. It's totally worth the 5 minutes it takes to do.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1.5 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Throw all the spices together and using a mortar and pestle, coarsely crack the spices, you're not going for a fine grind here. Coat the chicken with this mixture right before you toss on the grill.

Man, I just made myself hungry...
posted by jeremias at 7:43 AM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I make Taiwanese three cup chicken almost every week. My whole family inhales it. Double the sauce, the better to drench your steamed white rice with.
posted by sestaaak at 7:51 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

this comes together super fast and is great.
posted by ftm at 8:28 AM on September 8, 2019

I generously salt the legs, then add pepper, a sprinkle of whatever dried herb(s) I grab off the shelf. Sometimes I put garlic cloves and lemon zest under the skin. Then I let the legs sit uncovered in the fridge for an hour or so before baking. I put a digital thermometer with a cord in the thickest part of the biggest leg and set it to alert me when the temperature reaches what I want (165 F for food safety). This way I don't have to open the oven and let heat out, or trust my judgement about what cooked chicken looks like.

My chicken leg eating goes like this -
The crispy chicken skins from about 4 legs make a good meat meal for me (so give them to your partner as a treat)

The meaty meat from the legs gets picked off and put into soup or tacos or whatever for the next day. I try to get my partner to pick the meat off the bones because I don't like doing it.

The bones with whatever residual meat get put in a bag in the freezer until there are enough bones to make chicken stock (which I do with carrots, a little bit of celery, onion and herbs like parsley)

If it is cheaper for you to buy whole chickens, I treat them about the same way, sprinkling the skin with stuff I like, and adding butter and lemon zest and garlic cloves under the skin. I put half a small onion in a small chicken and half a large onion in a large chicken. Also half a lemon in either size bird, with some herbs inside as well.

You can ALSO drop your chicken legs in a marinade and then bake. Here is a list of 31 ideas for marinades from buzzfeed. I use this as a jumping off point a lot.
posted by bilabial at 8:38 AM on September 8, 2019

Budget Bytes has a number of chicken recipes, and given that the recipes on the site are oriented towards eating somewhat cheaply, frequently use thighs or legs as the chicken components. Two that I've really enjoyed are Lemon Pepper Chicken with Orzo (uses up 4 thighs per) and Cilantro Lime Drumsticks, for which I usually use boneless/skinless thighs, but you could probably adjust the cooking times and use regular thighs.

I've also made coq au vin with just thighs using Julia Child's recipe, but that's a bit involved.
posted by LionIndex at 8:56 AM on September 8, 2019

I just put them in a casserole dish with olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper and bake them covered for 30 min and then removing the cover and baking for another 10 minutes to crisp the skin.

You can eat them like this, or use the meat in other dishes.
posted by ananci at 8:57 AM on September 8, 2019

I made this chicken with brussels sprouts and coriander yesterday and it was so delicious. I used all legs and skipped the mustard (because I don't like mustard). We couldn't believe how good it tasted.

This chicken with chickpeas was also really good.

In both of the above cases, we found we ran out of the non-chicken thing too quickly, so I'd likely increase those ingredients the next time I make them.

Also, just generally search around for "sheet pan dinner" and you'll get a lot of great ideas. None of the recipes really call for precision, so you can often substitute veggies with similar textures and get something pretty good.
posted by msbrauer at 9:20 AM on September 8, 2019

Last time I made thighs & legs, I mixed yogurt with tikka masala sauce, and grilled it. I threw a few hickory chips on the coals. If that's too spicy for you, try something you like, like lemon pepper, or any mild herbs. Thyme & garlic would be good, with a little lemon juice or zest.

You can also bake them like this, and hit them with the broiler at the end, to crisp the skin up (for your husband, anyway).

I had leftovers, so I cut up the meat and put it into a soup/chowder, with potatoes, carrots, onions, celery & broth, and Old Bay Seasoning. Added a splash of cream at the end, which is optional. It was very tasty, and the smoked meat flavor wasn't too strong, and added a nice flavor to the soup.

I've also poached them, on low, so that the water is just simmering, until done. Then I cool on a large cookie sheet, and cut up the meat and make chicken salad. You have to cut it up into small pieces, to avoid any ropey strands. Sometimes I'll mix dark and white meat together for chicken salad, if I find a whole chicken on sale. You can add dried cranberries and mild curry powder, or celery and salt and pepper, or ranch dressing, whatever you like. Or just make it mild, with mayo & salt and pepper.

Hollow out tomatoes and stuff them with your chicken salad, or put dollops on top of a garden salad. Chicken salad does not last long around here, my husband loves it.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:25 AM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Simplest: marinate thighs in lemon juice for a couple hours and then bake/fry/whatever. Something about the lemon neutralizes the dark meat, since you're not keen on it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:26 AM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had good luck with this super easy garam Masala sheet pan dinner.
posted by vunder at 9:27 AM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Forgot to add:

Sometimes I'll take leftover chicken and cut it up, then saute some mushrooms & make a mushroom cream sauce, and add the chicken to that. I usually also saute a small onion or a shallot and maybe a little bit of garlic. Add some white wine to deglaze, reduce and add cream. For an intense mushroom flavor, soak and chop some dried mushrooms & use a little of the soaking water to make it more mushroom-y.

Then I serve it inside crepes, but you could also serve it over a good quality toasted piece of bread.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:27 AM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Shoyu chicken is what I think of if you want to use a bunch of thighs. When I cook chicken I usually use thighs and I find them much easier than breasts - they get done faster, they don't dry out as fast so you can overcook them a little and they're still ok, they're good roasted with a little rub or in stuff like curry or the crock pot. I use Penzey Mural of Flavors or Sandwich Sprinkle if I roast them on their own.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:14 AM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you've got a grill handy...

What I do often with boneless skinless thighs is cut 'em up, soak the pieces in a marinade for a while, and then string the pieces onto skewers. Yes, we're making yakitori, so once on the grill, brush with a teriyaki glaze and when they're done, enjoy!
posted by Rash at 10:28 AM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love these Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper (which don't necessarily need Aleppo pepper -- see the recipe notes for substitutions). I halve the red pepper flakes when people don't want spice and then they're mild and still delicious. No skin or noticeable fat.

If you like to repurpose leftovers in a different format, this recipe is great for serving in pitas the next day, with chunks of cucumber and tomato, and lots of fresh parsley if you have it. If you're going to do that, here's what to do so you have sauce for the pitas... Make some extra marinade. Right before you add the garlic and lemon slices to the rest of the marinade, remove the extra for the pitas. Add some lemon juice to part for the pitas.
posted by daisyace at 10:38 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Filipino Chicken Adobo

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar

Add that to a pot with
3-4 cloves of chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
Tbsp peppercorn

Stir to combine then add 2-3 lbs chicken thighs. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and let the thighs poach. Start cooking some rice. When the rice is done, the chicken is done.
posted by bl1nk at 11:34 AM on September 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

This chicken paprikash recipe is great and simple to make (I tend to use sour cream instead of heavy cream.) I also like this chicken adobo recipe-I've tried it both with whole chicken pieces and skinless boneless thighs and both were great!
posted by LadyNibbler at 1:14 PM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

This recipe for roast chicken thighs is so good that I ate it every night for dinner for 6 months straight. If you don't eat them all that night, reheat them for 20 minutes on a baking sheet at 400 with the skin side down, and they're almost better the second time.
posted by Fuego at 2:34 PM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rick Bayless' Chicken Veracruzana will change the way you think about tomato stews. My go-to for family events.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 2:47 PM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Martha Stewart has a great recipe for Broiled Spicy Peanut Chicken with Broccolini and it’s both delicious AND fast and easy to make!
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:58 PM on September 8, 2019

Oh, missed that you don’t like spice. You can adjust the sambal oelek in the sauce to taste. Or just leave it out!
posted by Weeping_angel at 3:01 PM on September 8, 2019

I paint them with olive oil, garlic, lemon, and herbs over a grill.
posted by xammerboy at 3:27 PM on September 8, 2019

This recipe was in the latest bon appetit, it was super easy and amazingly delicious!
posted by jrb223 at 5:28 PM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Stuff and roast. You can too that with breast meat too, but as someone who likes dark over light, it works just as well. If they're already deboned, you can use the that as a pocket, otherwise, take out the bone and in doing so, create a pocket. My favorite things are generally cheese and herbs: spinach and goat cheese, brie and rosemary, etc.
posted by Hactar at 10:51 PM on September 8, 2019

This recipe was in the latest bon appetit, it was super easy and amazingly delicious!

can attest to this - our small town grocery didn't have a couple of ingredients like lemongrass and it was still very tasty.

Mix together harissa and honey and use to coat grilled or roasted leg or thighs for the last 10 minutes or so of cooking.

boneless skinless thighs aren't as cheap but make great kabobs. i just marinate in the cheapest italian dressing you can find for about an hour and then thread on skewers and grill. serve with tzatziki, tiger sauce, alabama white sauce - whatever flavors your family likes.
posted by domino at 8:29 AM on September 9, 2019

LadyNibbler's chicken paprikash recipe is similar to my grandmother's (the best IMHO). We too use sour cream. The biggest difference is we boil the chicken in water and then use that as the stock and shred the chicken. I'd leave out the cayenne too. Serve of spaetzle for maximum deliciousness.
posted by kathrynm at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

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