Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken packs in big flavors thanks to the easy marinade and tangy, charred scallion Nuoc Cham Sauce. Fragrant lemongrass and zesty lime juice coat the chicken with a delicious glaze that’s perfect served with a side of rice.
This Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken has all of the flavors going on thanks to an easy marinade. Marinating boneless chicken thighs in a mix of lemongrass, garlic, lime, soy, fish sauce and sugar, and serving it next to an amazing nuoc cham gives this dish layers of intricate and authentic Vietnamese flavors.
I love this meal because it’s quick, casual, and unexpected.
Once the marinating process is complete, this dish comes together quick. Like, really quick. You’ll be eating in about 15 minutes, which makes this lemongrass chicken perfect for hectic weeknight dinners. But it’s also one of my favorite recipes for entertaining, since the majority of the work can be done ahead of time.
I just love all those flavors in the chicken marinade, especially once they’ve had a chance to cook down a bit. The flavors become a bit more pronounced and the umami quality of the sauce can’t be beat.
This dish is best served next to a tangy nước chấm dipping sauce. It’s a sweet chili sauce made with lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and Thai chili. The tangy flavor is delicious, so be sure not to skip it!
Nuoc Cham Ingredients
- Lime Juice – Adds a delicious tang. Adjust with more or less to taste.
- Fish Sauce – Gives that delicious, salty umami flavor. It smells quite potent out of the bottle, but when combined with the other ingredients, it’s pure magic! Look for it in the asian foods section of grocery stores. This is my favorite brand. If you prefer not to use it, you can substitute with soy sauce.
- Sugar – For that balance of sweet & salty. Superfine sugar is best because it will dissolve quickly, but regular works too! Or try switching things up with brown sugar or use palm sugar or coconut sugar for a more traditional flavor.
- Garlic – I like to grate the cloves on a microplane, so that it incorporates nicely into the sauce.
- Thai Chili – Use more or less depending on how spicy you like it. If you can’t find Thai chilis, you can substitute jalapeno or serrano peppers.
- Charred Scallions – I like to char some scallions on the grill or under the broiler, then add them to the sauce. This step is optional, but it adds a great smoky flavor.
How to Make Nuoc Cham
It’s easy to make homemade nuoc cham! Just add all of the sauce ingredients to a bowl and whisk until fully combined. Then, transfer the finished sauce to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 weeks. If desired, before serving, stir in some charred green onions.
Lemongrass Chicken Marinade Ingredients
- Lemongrass – Fresh lemongrass stalks can often be found in near the packaged fresh herbs in the produce section. If you’re unable to find it, you may be able to find tubes of lemongrass paste in the same section in the grocery store. Use about a tablespoon of the lemongrass paste as a substitute.
- Lime Juice – Adds a great tang and helps tenderize the meat.
- Vegetable Oil – This helps keep the chicken from sticking to the grill. Substitute with another neutral oil like avocado oil, canola oil or safflower oil.
- Fish Sauce – Adds that great umami flavor. If you prefer not to use it, simply use more soy sauce in its place. My preferred fish sauce brand is Red Boat.
- Soy Sauce – Or substitute coconut aminos or tamari.
- Sugar – Adds sweetness to the sauce and caramelizes beautifully on the grill.
- Garlic – Because every great meal needs a little garlic…
- Black Pepper
How Do You Prepare and Cook Lemongrass?
When cooking with fresh lemongrass, you only want to use the tender part of the bulb section. To cut lemongrass, first remove the knobby end of the stalk and cut it in half lengthwise. Remove the tough outer leaves and find the inner tender flesh (it should pierce easily with your fingernail). Then, finely chop that tender white part of the lemongrass.
How to Make Lemongrass Chicken Thighs
Place the chicken thighs in a ziploc bag with the marinade ingredients – garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, oil, cumin, paprika, oregano, and black pepper. Let it marinate for 8 to 24 hours.
Can I Grill the Chicken?
Grill the lemongrass chicken on an oiled grill grate over medium-high heat. Flip it once and continue cooking until the chicken is done. You can also make it using a grill pan.
Can I Broil the Chicken?
Sure can! If you prefer to broil the chicken, set the oven rack about 3-4 inches away from the heating element. Broil the chicken for 7-10 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Can I Make it in the Air Fryer?
Yes! Place chicken in a single layer in the air fryer and cook at 360-degrees for 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Tips and Variations
- If you aren’t sure if the chicken thighs are cooked, use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature. Boneless chicken thighs are fully cooked when their internal temperature reads 165ºF.
- If you’d like less spice, you can leave out the Thai chili, or substitute a seeded, diced jalapeno in its place.
- If you really like spice, you can add more Thai chilis, or try adding in a minced habanero pepper.
- You can make this recipe with chicken breasts, legs, wings, or any cut of chicken you prefer.
- You can also make chicken skewers. Simply cut the chicken into cubes and marinate it. Then, thread it onto wooden skewers and grill.
- You can also make lemongrass beef by substituting the chicken with thinly sliced beef that you marinate and thread onto skewers.
What Goes Well with Lemongrass Chicken?
- Rice Noodles or Vermicelli Noodles – Arrange the chicken on top of noodles and top with fresh herbs to make a vermicelli bowl.
- Jasmine Rice, Brown Rice, White Rice – I love making my rice in the rice cooker. I have this one and I get happy every time it plays the cute little chime.
- Thai Cucumber Salad
- Din Tai Fung Cucumber Salad
- MORE —> Sides for BBQ Chicken
More Quick & Easy Chicken Recipes:
- Chicken Gyro Bowls with Quinoa
- Chicken Marsala with Mustard & Mascarpone
- Easy Chicken Piccata
- Sesame Chicken Noodle Bowls
- Curry Chicken Skewers with Lime
- Chicken Parmesan Skillet
Wine Pairings for Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
- An unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Gris aged in steel barrels will enhance the lemongrass, cilantro, and spicy flavors that permeate this dish.
- MORE —> the 8 BEST Chicken Wine Pairings.
Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds chicken thighs (boneless skinless)
- 3 scallions (grilled or broiled – optional)
- 1 stalk lemongrass (white part only, finely chopped***)
- 4 cloves garlic (grated or minced)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
- Mint, Cilantro, Rice, Noodles, etc.
Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce:
- 3 Tablespoons lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
- 2 cloves garlic (grated or minced)
- 1 Thai chili (finely chopped (or to taste))
- In a bowl, whisk together the lemongrass, garlic, pepper, oil, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar.
- Put chicken in a large ziploc bag and add marinade. Place in refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours.
Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce:
- In a small bowl, combine the Nuoc Cham ingredients and mix well to dissolve the sugar. Adjust to taste with additional lime juice, chilis, sugar, etc. Set aside for at least 20 minutes. Or, store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat (around 350-degrees). Remove chicken from marinade and shake off any extra marinade. Place on the grill grates. Let chicken cook for 5-6 minutes with the grill cover closed to maintain the heat. Use tongs to flip the chicken thighs. Cook for an additional 5-6 minutes. Use a digital thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- While the chicken is grilling, I like to throw a few green onions onto the grill. Once they are charred, thinly slice them and add them to the Nuoc Cham sauce.
- Set the oven rack to the top position, about 3-4 inches away from the element, and preheat the broiler on high for 5 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the chicken on top.
- Broil the chicken for 7-10 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- While the chicken is broiling, I like to char a few green onions as well. Add them to the baking sheet with the chicken during the final few minutes of cook time. Once they are charred, thinly slice them and add them to the Nuoc Cham sauce.
OR Air Fry:
- Preheat air fryer to 360-degrees.
- Arrange chicken in a single layer and air fry for 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.