Grilled Polynesian Chicken
You know how just about everyone has their special “go-to recipe”? Well, Grilled Polynesian Chicken is mine (thanks to my oldest brother, who is half Samoan)! It not only satisfies a wide range of palates, but is very likely to become one of those dishes everyone will ask you to make at those family gatherings and cookouts. You have fair warning!
So, the flavor… Where do I start? This recipe provides the perfect balance between being robust and tangy, all with a hint of caramelized goodness to round it out. The ingredient list of light soy sauce, fresh lemons, limes, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, and green onion simply creates MAGIC when allowed time proper to marinate and is charred up by the grill. Doubtful? Bust out your lemon and lime squeezers and give it a try!
Taste test & set some aside for dipping sauce, prior to adding the chicken.
As they say, patience is a virtue!
Allow it to marinate for at least 3 hours.
End Product: Grilled Polynesian Chicken
The combination of the scrumptious charred bits and aroma of this chicken gets me every time!
In conclusion, this Polynesian marinade makes ‘teriyaki’ pale in comparison. Actually, when people ask me what it tastes like, I ask if they like teriyaki and when they say “yes” is when I know they’ll LOVE Polynesian chicken! It pretty much can be described as teriyaki’s smarter, less annoying, (and quite frankly, more attractive) cousin. Maybe I’m not so fond of teriyaki chicken because of how Americanized it is. I don’t know about you, but it is rare that I’ve tried any teriyaki chicken dish that didn’t taste syrupy and just “o.k” due to the overload of sugar and/or low quality soy sauce. So, if you ever find yourself in the grocery store about to buy some pre-made teriyaki sauce, please reconsider, and give the version you would actually “… bring home to mom.” a shot. The pinch of extra effort required will be worth it!
|Prep Time||10 mins|
|Cook Time||10-14 mins|
|Passive Time||3-5 hours (marinating minimum)|
servings (at 2 pieces each)
- 2.5 pounds (or about 8-12 pieces) boneless skinless chicken thighs I personally prefer bone-in when grilling
- 2 cups low sodium soy sauce
- 3/4 cup lemons juice, fresh squeezed About 6 medium or 4 large lemons. Add an additional lemon for garnish, if desired.
- 1/2 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed About 6 small or 5 medium limes. Makes just over a 1/2 cup. Add an additional lime for garnish, if desired.
- 1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced or grated I like to mince, then squeeze through garlic press to extract extra flavor. Add pressed remains to marinade.
- 3-4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled & minced
- 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/3 - 1/2 cup brown sugar is best. Any variety, but I prefer dark brown sugar.
- 6 stalks green onion, diced Set aside a stalk or two for garnish
- 1 teaspoon black pepper or crushed red pepper Optional
- Whisk together soy sauce, lemon & lime juice, brown sugar, grated ginger, minced garlic, green onion (remember to save some for garnish), and black pepper (if desired) into a large container and mix well.
- Before adding chicken, taste test it & set some aside! I normally put a 1/2 cup in a separate container to be used for dipping sauce or drizzled over rice. Tips: If it seems too salty, add a little more brown sugar until it tastes balanced to your liking. If too sweet, try adding more citrus or soy sauce. Just remember that if you're using it as a marinade, you want the flavor to be robust!
- Trim away any visible fat. This is not only for cutting unnecessary fat, but also helps reduce flare-ups while grilling.
- Add chicken to the marinade. Ensure that all pieces are fully opened up and covered by the marinade, to make sure that all of that goodness will evenly absorb into each piece. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours minimum, yet 8 (+) hours is best. It is worth the wait, I promise you!
- When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium-high (350° to 400°), and add chicken and cover lid. Cook on each side for about 5-7 minutes per side or until done. Tips: Depending on your grill, you may need to reduce the heat to medium, to make sure the marinade does not burn. The internal temperature of the thickest portion of the thigh should hold at least 165 degrees for 15 seconds.
- Garnish with fresh green onion and even some fresh lemon and lime wedges, if desired. Excellent served with jasmine or sticky rice, some veggies and especially with great company!
I choose to make this recipe with chicken thighs over breasts, because thighs have so much more flavor and tenderness, with not much more fat. And obviously, you don't have to use this sauce only for marinating chicken! It is also great when used to dip different meats, globs of sticky-rice, and even grilled veggies into. You can use it for meatless recipes, too! Try drizzling it over your favorite Buddha bowl.
When I speak of 'quality soy sauce', I'm really just hating on that Kikkoman stuff (sorry, I just can't). One brand I love the taste of is made by Shoyu. I get their Low Sodium Soy Sauce.
I'd love to start incorporating some of those 'better for you' soy sauces, like Bragg's Liquid Amino's , but haven't experimented with those yet.
Photo Share Update!
GORGEOUS pictures below from Adventures of a Pilot Wife, who made this recipe with her hubby and shared the end results with me! So glad they loved it as much as I do. #ThatPresentationThough!
On that note, if you ever try out any of my recipes, please share with me. I'd love to see!