Char Siu Chicken

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Andrea Nguyen’s savory-sweet char siu chicken is both easy to make and hard to resist.

Photo by Aubrie Pick © 2019

This easy char siu chicken recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks of the year, Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors by Andrea Nguyen.

Nguyen writes, “Savory-sweet and garlicky Chinese barbecued pork, called char siu in Cantonese and xá xíu in Vietnamese, is hard to resist. Since the classic porky version requires a good hour (better yet, overnight) to marinate, my weeknight approach is to make it with chicken thighs and grill it for a wonderful old-school flavor…Enjoy char siu chicken for dinner with rice and a quick stir-fried vegetable or a salad. Use leftovers (or make a double batch) for banh mi, a noodle soup, or fried rice.”

My only tweak to the recipe was to increase the quantities and double the sauce because it’s that good.

What You’ll Need To Make Char Siu Chicken

ingredients for char siu chicken

The nice thing about this recipe is that very little prep is required; most of the ingredients come out of bottles and jars. The most time-consuming part of the recipe is trimming the chicken thighs (I find it easiest to use sharp kitchen shears). If you don’t want to use dark meat, go ahead and use chicken tenderloins. Just keep in mind that they’ll cook in half the time and you’ll need slightly less since they don’t need to be trimmed.

How To Make Char Siu Chicken

In a large bowl, stir together the garlic, five-spice powder, honey, hoisin, soy sauce, ketchup, and sesame oil.
whisking the marinade and sauceRemove about half the marinade and set aside for glazing the chicken. Add the chicken to the bowl, coating the pieces well. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate up to 24 hours (return to room temperature before cooking).

tossing the chicken with the marinade

Lightly oil a cast-iron stove-top grill pan and set over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 6 to 10 minutes, turning several times. To test for doneness, pierce the flesh with the tip of a knife; the chicken is cooked when clear juices flow out.

During the last 2 minutes, when the chicken feels firmish, baste with the reserved marinade to freshen flavor and add sheen. (Alternatively, prepare a medium charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium and cook the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes, basting during the last 3 minutes.) Transfer to a platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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Char Siu Chicken

Andrea Nguyen’s savory-sweet char siu chicken is both easy to make and hard to resist.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes, plus at least 30 minutes to marinate the chicken

Ingredients

  • 2.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see note if you prefer white meat)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, put through a press or minced and mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/4 cup honey, preferably amber colored
  • Brimming 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • Scant 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken thighs with paper towels to remove excess moisture, then trim and discard any big fat pads. If the thighs are large or super-uneven in thickness, butterfly each one. Lay the thigh, smooth-side down, on your cutting board. Wielding your knife horizontally, slash the big mound of flesh to create a flap of meat, stopping just shy of cutting all the way through. Fold back the meat flap that you just created. The thigh should now be about 50 percent longer and relatively even in thickness. If the result seems awkwardly large, cut it crosswise into two smaller, square-ish pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the garlic, five-spice powder, honey, hoisin, soy sauce, ketchup, and sesame oil. Remove about half the marinade and set aside for glazing the chicken. Add the chicken to the bowl, coating the pieces well. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate up to 24 hours (return to room temperature before cooking).
  3. Lightly oil a cast-iron stove-top grill pan and set over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 6 to 10 minutes, turning several times. To test for doneness, pierce the flesh with the tip of a knife; the chicken is cooked when clear juices flow out. During the last 2 minutes, when the chicken feels firmish, baste with the reserved marinade to freshen flavor and add sheen. (Alternatively, prepare a medium charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium and cook the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes, basting during the last 3 minutes.) Transfer to a platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
  4. Note: If you'd prefer to use white meat, use 2 pounds of chicken tenderloins. (The reason you'll need slightly less is because they don't need to be trimmed.) Keep in mind that they'll cook in about half the time.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 334
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 19 g
  • Sugar: 16 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 38 g
  • Sodium: 844 mg
  • Cholesterol: 178 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.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This is an amazing recipe for chicken! Question: I’ve got guests coming that are vegetarian/pescaterians, so I was thinking about trying this marinade with wild shrimp 16/20 count and grilling them on the BBQ. Do you think that would work? If not shrimp, do you think it would work with fish and if so what kind?

    PS: Love your website! Bought your book and really like the “tips”, but the constant stream of new recipes keeps me and my family happy.

    • — Lisette Cicconi on August 16, 2019
    • Reply
    • I do think it’d work well with shrimp, but I’d only marinate for 30 minutes. So glad you like the recipes, Lisette!

      • — Jenn on August 16, 2019
      • Reply
  • Could this be used in a slow cooker to make a pulled pork-type dish? Perhaps with a pork tenderloin?

    • — Michael on August 2, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Michael, I don’t have a lot of wisdom to share because I don’t have experience with a slow cooker, so it’s hard to say for sure but I think this would be a great marinade for pork. You may want to consider pork shoulder though as I think you’ll get a more tender finished product. (I’m not a huge fan of pork tenderloin.) Here are some tips on converting recipes to slow cook versions that you may find helpful. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on August 2, 2019
      • Reply
  • Amazingly delicious and sooo easy to make! I actually had all the ingredients in the house already, so only had to buy chicken. Will definitely be making this again!

    • — Michael on August 2, 2019
    • Reply
  • This chicken was so delicious! I used boneless thighs and boneless breasts and they both came out tender and moist. Definitely restaurant quality. Love your recipes, Jenn!

    • — Judy on August 1, 2019
    • Reply
    • Not my favorite. I like the other similar but spicy one you have here with the balsamic and honey at the end.
      I think it might be that 5 spice powder that doesn’t agree with me. It has a very definite taste.

      • — Luanne on August 8, 2019
      • Reply
    • This meal was easy and tasted amazing! I was pleasantly surprised that even my kids loved it and they typically don’t like Chinese food. Thank you for all the quality recipes! You make my life so much easier! I hope you write second cookbook🤞

      • — Amy on August 8, 2019
      • Reply
  • My kids loved it!!!!!!thank you Jenn! Because of your link to this recipe, I went and ordered this book. Great book with lots of notes and clear directions. I love reading cook books and this one will be in use a lot once my family calls for asian dinner.

    • — Edith on July 31, 2019
    • Reply
  • Could I use chicken breasts sliced in half so that they’re thinner?

    • — Veronica on July 30, 2019
    • Reply
    • That should work, Veronica. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 31, 2019
      • Reply
  • I’m excited to make this, but am looking for suggestions of what to serve along side. Thoughts?

    • — Tracy on July 30, 2019
    • Reply
  • Can you use with bone in chicken thighs?

    • — Gail on July 30, 2019
    • Reply
    • Yes, Gail, bone-in thighs should work here. Cooking time will be longer; possibly up to double that of the current cooking time. You may want to lower the heat a bit though so that the skin doesn’t burn before the meat is cooked through. Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on July 30, 2019
      • Reply
  • I made this chicken tonight and my 17 year old son inhaled it. I marinated it for about 24 hours. Thanks for all the great recipes. They show up on my dinner table often!

    • — Lynn on July 29, 2019
    • Reply
  • Made this tonight and it was amazing! Will definitely be making this again.

    • — Anne Bilczuk on July 27, 2019
    • Reply
  • Made this last night on my grill pan. Absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

    • — Tom Genovese on July 27, 2019
    • Reply
  • I would like to make this recipe. What is Chinese 5 spice powder? I don’t ever recall seeing this spice in the grocery store.

    • — Kathy M. on July 26, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Kathy, 5 spice powder is a seasoning mix that generally includes cloves, fennel, cinnamon, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. It can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores. If you’re unable to find it, you can make your own — here’s a recipe. Hope that helps and that you enjoy the chicken if you make it!

      • — Jenn on July 26, 2019
      • Reply
  • I made this recipe this evening using a pork tenderloin cut into chunks. I made kabobs using the marinated pork, onion, mushroom, and zucchini. Served it with fried rice. It’s a do-over for sure!

    • — Diane Decker on July 25, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn- would love to try this with Pork- what cut would you suggest? Also the marinating time please. Many thanks!

    • — Ash on July 25, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Ash, This should work nicely with pork shoulder cut into pieces (and I’d marinate it overnight). I’d love to hear how it turns out with pork!

      • — Jenn on July 25, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi, Jenn. This seems like a great recipe to make while we’re on vacation. We’ll be staying in an Airbnb and I don’t think we’ll have a grill. Do you think I could make it in the oven? Thanks.

    • — Yolanda on July 25, 2019
    • Reply
    • Yes, Yolanda, this can be broiled in the oven. I’d use the cooking guidance from this recipe. Have a great vacation and please LMK how it turns out! 🙂

      • — Jenn on July 25, 2019
      • Reply
      • Thanks, Jenn, the chicken was fantastic! I carelessly bought skin-on, bone-in thighs, but they came out delicious after 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven. This recipe is a keeper!

        • — Yolanda on August 8, 2019
        • Reply
        • Oh, I forgot, you were right about the broiler. I used it at the end to crisp up the skin.

          • — Yolanda on August 8, 2019
          • Reply
  • Hi,
    How about using chicken thighs with bone in and skin on? The cooking time will be how much longer? And, can I omit the ketchup and substitute for something else? Want to avoid the onion it usually contains.

    Thanks!

    • — Emilie on July 25, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Emilie, I’m guessing you’ll need to add about 10 minutes to the cook time, and turn the heat down a bit so the outside doesn’t burn before the inside is cooked. Tomato paste would be a great substitute for the ketchup. Hope that helps.

      • — Jenn on July 25, 2019
      • Reply

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