11 Healthy (and Delicious) Chicken Thigh Recipes
Chicken thighs are often maligned by the healthy eating community. We’re regularly encouraged to swap thighs for breasts, with reassurances that the plump cuts of white meat can still be juicy and flavorful when properly cooked. And while it’s true that chicken breasts don’t have to be dry and sad, maybe it’s time to shift the narrative and let chicken thighs into our lives — and onto our plates.
The darker meat found in chicken thighs is actually packed with tons of nutrients — way beyond protein. Chicken thighs contain vitamin E, more iron per 100g than rump steak, and they’re a valuable source of lysine, B vitamins, and unsaturated fats. Moreover, chicken thighs are delicious, and they’re far less fussy to prepare than chicken breasts. Feel free to remove the skin if you prefer, but do leave those bones in when you can — they lend flavor and are easily plucked from tender, cooked meat.
To help you on your chicken thigh journey, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite recipes that prove thighs can be healthy and easy to prepare.
Although this recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, you can absolutely use bone-in, skin-on to maximize flavor. If you ask us, garlicky chicken is pretty inherently delicious and a great weeknight meal. We’d serve these juicy thighs with sautéed green beans or roasted broccoli with a squeeze of lemon over the whole plate.
We love a sheet pan dinner — it’s basically hands-off as soon as prep is finished. Roasting these chicken thighs with Brussels sprouts, onion wedges, and garlic means that your protein is ready at the same time as your vegetables, and everything is all the more flavorful for the time spent together. If you’re not occupied elsewhere while your oven does the heavy lifting, consider stirring up a pot of barley or bulgur to serve alongside for healthy carbohydrates that will soak up all those flavorful pan juices.
We love the sticky, tart-meets-sweet ingredient that is pomegranate molasses. This skillet dish bathes chicken thighs in rich, fruity flavor — which is well-balanced thanks to a dash of balsamic vinegar and a few cloves of garlic. Skip the honey if you’d rather tone down the sweetness, then pair the thighs with an herbaceous grain salad like tabbouleh.
Loads of garlic and shallots — along with a good glug of whatever wine you’ve got open — promise a flavor-packed healthy meal with this braised chicken dish. We’d go ahead and remove the skin if you don’t have time to sear the chicken thighs prior to braising, and don’t be shy about doubling the amount of sautéed mushrooms — they always cook down more than you think!
Chinese five spice powder is a pantry must-have, and these roasted chicken thighs are everything we want when we’re craving something flavorful and comforting. Serve with brown rice and a steamed green of your choice — broccoli, bok choy, snap peas, or cabbage would all work nicely here — and dinner is a done deal.
Though you can definitely use bone-in thighs here, we might actually go ahead and either debone or buy boneless thighs like this cilantro-lime chicken recipe calls for. Sure, they’re easier to eat that way, but we’ve got a big salad in mind for these zesty thighs. After cooking, shred the meat using either two forks or your hands, then incorporate into a salad with queso fresco, red onion, sweet corn, and pickled jalapeños.
This recipe is packed with tangy, acidic delights like olives, tomatoes, and plenty of garlic, which puts it squarely on our will-make-again list. Serve with a farro salad packed with crunchy cucumber and roasted red peppers for a fresh, healthy dinner.
Air fryers and chicken thighs were made for each other. The skin gets super crispy if you choose to leave it on, and if not, you’re sure to have juicy chicken in less time than it takes to preheat your oven and wait for the thighs to roast. Season however you like — lemon pepper, za’atar, paprika, white pepper, and five spice, to offer just a few examples — with just the tiniest bit of olive oil and let the air fryer do its thing. While you wait, why not sautée sliced zucchini with a little garlic and lemon zest?
Gochujang is a delicious fermented Korean chili paste, and this recipe uses it — along with gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) — to create a vibrant marinade. If you don’t have access to an actual grill, use a grill pan on your cooktop, or finish off the thighs in your air fryer or oven. Serve with roasted sweet potatoes and sliced spring onion, and enjoy.
Though you can use a reduced-fat coconut milk with these chicken thighs, using the full-fat stuff lends a richer, more satisfying flavor and texture. We love that this dish incorporates kale for a nutrient boost, and we’d throw in a little diced red onion to complement the fresh ginger and garlic. This recipe doesn’t need much else once it’s finished, but you could totally add a little brown rice or barley on the side.
Yes, stuffing your chicken thighs takes a little extra time and forethought in the kitchen, but we think it’s worth it for this tasty twist on a healthy dish. If you don’t have a firm, melty cheese on hand, ricotta would work nicely with the spinach. For a lighter take, skip the cheese on top and serve the baked thighs with a green salad instead of mashed potatoes or rice.
Good food brings people together. So do good emails.