Grilled BBQ Chicken

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This easy BBQ chicken is absolutely loaded with smoky barbecue flavor.

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

We have a running joke about chicken in my family. Whenever I say we’re having chicken for dinner, my husband says, “Chicken again?” and then rattles off a seemingly endless list of chicken dinners his mother used to make: “Chicken Parm, chicken cutlets, chicken stir-fry, chicken casserole, chicken pot pie” and so on.  The kids jump right on the bandwagon, groaning about all my chicken dinners. What they don’t realize is that this only makes me even more determined to change their minds about chicken. You could almost say I’m on a Chicken Crusade! Luckily, these BBQ chicken breasts always win everybody over. They are absolutely loaded with smoky barbecue flavor. I guarantee clean plates all around. Winner, winner chicken dinner!

What You’ll Need To Make BBQ Chicken

BBQ Chicken Ingredients

For this recipe, you can use chicken tenderloins or boneless skinless chicken breasts. If using chicken breasts, it’s important to pound them to an even 1/2-inch thickness before marinating. This both tenderizes the breasts and ensures they cook evenly. (Pounding is not necessary if using tenderloins, as tenderloins are naturally very tender.)

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a large bowl, combine the oil, garlic, salt, brown sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.

marinade ingredients in bowl

Whisk to combine.

whisked BBQ chicken marinade

Add the chicken to the bowl and toss with tongs until evenly coated. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

marinating BBQ chicken

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates. Grill the chicken, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes.

grilling chicken

Flip the chicken, and then brush with some of the barbecue sauce. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.

chicken on grill with BBQ sauce

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and serve with remaining barbecue sauce alongside.

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Grilled BBQ Chicken

This easy BBQ chicken is absolutely loaded with smoky barbecue flavor.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 25 Minutes, plus at least 6 hours to marinate

Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • 1¾ pounds chicken tenderloins or boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • About 1 cup store-bought barbecue sauce or homemade BBQ sauce

Instructions

For the Chicken

  1. If using boneless skinless chicken breasts, place the chicken breasts one at a time in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag; using a meat mallet, pound the breasts to an even ½-inch thickness. (Skip this step if using tenderloins.)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, garlic, salt, brown sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Place the chicken in the bowl and, using tongs, toss until the chicken is evenly coated with the marinade. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates. Grill the chicken, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the chicken, and then brush with some of the barbecue sauce. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. (Note that tenderloins will cook faster than breasts.)
  4. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and serve with the remaining barbecue sauce alongside.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 386
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Saturated fat: 2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 5 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 45 g
  • Sodium: 513 mg
  • Cholesterol: 145 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Comments

  • Hello, this looks delicious. I’m planning on making it with drums … will 6 hours marinating be enough and will it still be favourful?
    Thanks!

    • — Natacha on August 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure Natacha, 6 hours is enough — hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • This recipe, like all of the recipes from you that I’ve made, was splendid! We used skinless boneless breasts because thats what we had on hand. I was worried they would be dry, but they were incredibly moist and so flavourful. We used Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar BBQ sauce, but I’m looking forward to trying with your homemade sauce. We served with leftover mushroom and beef consomme rice, a kale salad, and diced cucumbers. We’re having leftovers tonight as chicken burgers. Adding this to our menu rotation.

    • — Jennifer on July 5, 2022
    • Reply
  • Great recipe, as always. What do you think about using this to marinate pork blade steaks?

    • — Jim on July 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think it would work nicely (and glad you liked it)!

      • — Jenn on July 3, 2022
      • Reply
  • Great, simple recipe to accompany a summertime salad. Made this one yesterday and fed a crowd by tripling the ingredients. I used tenderloins. I prepared your A Better Macaroni Salad in the morning, along with some deviled eggs, and appreciated the short cook time for the chicken. It freed me up to spend more time with my family. They all enjoyed the meal including my younger, picky son who normally doesn’t eat chicken. He said, “It’s good. I’ll eat it again.” Thanks for sharing this one, Jenn!

    • — Jen R on June 26, 2022
    • Reply
  • Good basic bbq chicken recipe. Will make again.

    • — Dara on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Good morning Jenn! Just wondering if you remove the entire tendon or just the white “nub” from the tenderloin? Thanks! Ally in NJ 🙂

    • — Ally O'Connor on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
    • Just the nub 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 25, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks!! I’m going to make them tomorrow! : ]

        • — Ally O'Connor on June 25, 2022
        • Reply
  • Thank you such reliably awesome recipes! This is another new family favorite. The chicken came out so tender, juicy, and flavorful. It didn’t even really need extra bbq sauce, that’s how good it was. The leftovers were perfect cut up into a green salad.

    • — Stacy C on June 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • Love all your recipes and can’t wait to try this. We like chicken tenderloins better because they’re much more “tender” and I usually remove the tendon before cooking, but I’ve seen you and other chefs not remove it. I also never seem to find that pesky tendon in a whole rotisserie chicken. Does the tendon cook down / off and am I wasting my time removing it?

    • — Sharon on June 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sharon, I snip off the tendon if it’s sticking out of the end of the tenderloin. I’ve never bothered to pull them out. I find that while they don’t necessarily cook off, they don’t really bother me or my family when eating them.

      • — Jenn on June 27, 2022
      • Reply
  • Aside from broiling, would a well heated cast iron grill pan work on top of the stove work too?

    • — Laura on June 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 23, 2022
      • Reply
    • Perfect summer meal with your broccoli salad AND the homemade BBQ sauce. The chicken is crazy good. My husband over- or undercooks everything on the grill—except when it’s your recipe. It’s a mystery… ☺️

      • — Barb on June 26, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    SO GOOD! What an easy and delicious BBQ chicken dinner. I used tenderloins and with that short cook time, I had dinner on the table in just minutes. Another keeper, of course!!
    After I whisked the marinade together, I just used my hands to coat the chicken. Easy. I’m going to double the chicken next time – we both were hoping for leftovers. The smoked paprika and cayenne added such great flavor!
    Thanks for another wonderful recipe!

    • — Sandra on June 12, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi! I was thinking of making these for a party along with your pulled pork. Could you give suggestions on making ahead and possibly freezing and reheating?
    Thanks!
    Kim

    • — Kim Wickert on April 27, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Kim, If you freeze this, I would thaw them in the fridge overnight and then reheat it, covered with foil, in a 325°F-oven until hot. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on April 28, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    What a great recipe! Would this work with pork tenderloin?

    • — Trina W on April 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on April 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • So delicious – going in my regular recipes!

    • — Loz on February 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this for my husband and we shredded it and made BBQ chicken sandwiches. The chicken tasted great with the marinade!

    • — Evadne Rodriguez Henson on January 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • These are so delicious! Followed the recipe as written. My family gobbled then down. Served with corn on the cob and tater tots. They loved it! It’s on rotation!

    • — Rhonda on December 23, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe when entertaining friends at the lake. Perfect as the chicken is prepped in advance! Wonderful flavor and very tender. I served with purchased barbeque sauce for convenience and it was great. Kids would love this too!

    • — Kathy on September 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was great! The marinade was just perfect, really flavorful with a little sweetness. Using tenderloins was a nice shortcut.

    • — Julie on September 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • Thank you for the recipe! The chicken tenderloins came out perfectly and the homemade bbq sauce was an added bonus. Looking forward to the arrival of your new book.

    • — Barbara on August 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can I grill these on skewers?

    • — RC on August 11, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, that should work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 12, 2021
      • Reply
  • A new favorite! I made this for dinner last night and everyone raved about how good it was. I marinated for about 18 hours and it was full of flavor, tender and juicy. Those are not how most grilled chicken breast are described…haha I used Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. Thanks again Jen 🙂

    • — Sharon on July 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe!!!! After it’s been marinated can I freeze it?

    • — Pat seminara on July 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Pat, that’s fine. 🙂

      • — Jenn on July 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Is there a good way to grill the chicken a half hour before and keep it warm and on hold for dinner?

    • — Jamie on July 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jamie, I think you could grill this and then put it on the warm setting in your oven covered with foil until you’re ready to serve it. (I think this would taste good at room temperature too.)

      • — Jenn on July 15, 2021
      • Reply
      • Thanks so much for your prompt reply. We really, really, enjoy your recipes!

        • — Jamie on July 16, 2021
        • Reply
  • Hello Jen,
    What would be a good store bought BBQ sauce you recommend?

    • — Elaine on July 12, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Elaine, I usually buy Sweet Baby Ray’s.

      • — Jenn on July 12, 2021
      • Reply
  • Another winner Jenn! Made exactly as per your instructions. Easy, made with ingredients always on hand, a quick cook, and just excellent results. Everyone loved it! And made your bbq sauce as well. Winner, winner, chicken dinner 😁

    • — Kim on June 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Another stellar recipe from you Jenn!! My husband declared it the absolute best he’s ever had! Made recipe exactly as written and it was perfect!!

    • — Gerilyn on June 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this twice and it is an excellent recipe. It is full of flavor and the chicken was moist and tender. For my taste, it has too much smoked paprika, so the second time I only used 1 Tsp of smoked, and 1 Tsp of regular paprika. Thanks for another great recipe! Pounding out the breasts and the short cooking time work great.

    • — Steve on June 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • This chicken was excellent! nice amount of spice and heat without being too intense. I was bored by BBQ chicken and now am interested to make this again.

    • — Leah Eggen on June 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious! The marinade/rub gives it an extra flavorful boost! The family loved it. Served with corn on cob, grilled garlic bread and tomato, mozzarella, basil and avocado salad. Def a keeper!!

    • — Rhonda on June 18, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    I have no grill, how do you recommend to cook it: oven, pan? For how long?
    Thanks in advance.

    • — Natalie on June 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Natalie, Sure, I’d broil it in your oven. Set your oven rack about 4 inches from the heat source and broil for the same amount of time specified for the grill (flipping once) and put the bbq sauce on after flipping. Hope that helps and that you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Sounds yummy! No grill here — any tips for doing this in the oven or stove top?

    • — Deborah Rudy on June 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Deborah, I’d use the oven and broil it. Set your oven rack about 4 inches from the heat source and broil for the same amount of time specified for the grill (flipping once) and put the bbq sauce on after flipping. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • This sounds yummy! Can I sub boneless, skinless chicken thighs?

    • — Katz on June 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yep 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • I recently made this recipe from your cookbook and it was delicious. If I wanted to make this again with a bit of less smoky flavor– it possible to reduce the amount of smoked paprika or would you suggest substituting some of it with regular paprika?

    • — Debbie on June 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Debbie, Glad you like it! I’d probably just replace some or all of the smoked paprika with regular paprika.

      • — Jenn on June 17, 2021
      • Reply
  • I don’t have a grill so how do you think this would taste baked in oven?
    Any other options?
    Thanks do much!
    Marny

    • — Marny on June 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Marny, I’d broil instead of bake it. Set your oven rack about 4 inches from the heat source and broil for the same amount of time specified for the grill (flipping once) and put the bbq sauce on after flipping. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can this dish be prepared in the oven? If so, what temp and for how long should it cook?

    Thank you.

    June V.

    • — June Venable on June 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, I’d broil it. Set your oven rack about 4 inches from the heat source and broil for the same amount of time specified for the grill (flipping once) and put the bbq sauce on after flipping. Hope that helps and that you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2021
      • Reply

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