5 Budget-Friendly Chicken Thigh Recipes to Cook For Dinner

Americans love chicken. As a country, we now eat more chicken than beef, according to Priceonomics, a reversal of a 100-year-long trend. Not only is poultry generally cheaper than beef, but many people see it as a healthier, lower-fat alternative to steak and burgers.

Yet when it comes to buying cuts of chicken, people in the U.S. overwhelmingly reach for breast meat rather than thighs or drumsticks. Health concerns may be behind that choice. Chicken thighs are higher in fat than breasts, but as the Food Network points out, much of it is the good kind of monounsaturated fat. The preference for white meat over dark seems to be more cultural than anything else, Salon reported.

If you’ve been automatically reaching for boneless, skinless breasts at the meat counter, it may be time to rethink your shopping habits. Chicken thighs are cheaper than breasts, often costing about half as much as their white-meat counterparts. Plus, they’re juicier and have a meatier flavor than breasts, which can turn out dry and bland if not cooked properly.

Here are five budget-friendly chicken thigh recipes you can try tonight.

1. Tequila-Mustard-Glazed Chicken Skewers

chicken skewers

Tequila-mustard-glazed chicken skewers | iStock.com

Skip the margaritas and instead grab that bottle of tequila to make these succulent grilled chicken skewers from Food & Wine. This recipe makes 24 skewers and you can prepare and marinate the chicken in advance, making it the perfect party food.

Ingredients:

For marinated chicken

  • ½ cup tequila
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into ½-inch-wide strips

For tequila mustard

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup malt vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • Salt

Directions: In a large bowl, combine the tequila, brown sugar, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt. Add the chicken, toss to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, water, malt vinegar, honey, tequila, lime juice, dry mustard, coriander, cumin, and chili powder. Cook over low heat, whisking, until thickened, 5 minutes; do not boil. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Stir in the lime zest and season with salt. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Soak 24 bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Light a grill. Transfer ½ cup of the mustard to a small bowl. Thread the chicken onto the top third of the skewers; grill over moderate heat, turning, until browned and almost cooked, 8 minutes. Brush the chicken with the reserved ½ cup of mustard and grill until glazed and cooked through. Serve the skewers with the remaining mustard

2. Slow-Cooker Chili Chicken Tacos

tacos

Chili chicken tacos | iStock.com

This recipe for slow-cooker tacos requires minimal prep work. Just throw a few ingredients in the crockpot before you leave for work in the morning and then get ready to enjoy tasty tacos when you come home. Chicken thighs are the ideal meat for this dish from Martha Stewart, since their high fat content keeps them from drying out during the long cooking process.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup prepared tomato salsa, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 hard corn taco shells
  • Cilantro, shredded cheese, lime wedges, and sour cream, for serving (optional)

Directions: In slow cooker, combine chicken, garlic, salsa, chiles, chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cover; cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Transfer chicken to a serving bowl, and shred, using two forks; moisten with cooking juices. Serve in taco shells, with toppings, if desired.

3. Easy Oven-Baked Sesame Chicken Thighs

sesame chicken

Sesame chicken thighs | iStock.com

These oven-baked chicken thighs make for a tasty, healthy alternative to take-out sesame chicken. This recipe from I Am a Food Blog takes only 10 minutes to prepare with ingredients you’re likely to already have in the pantry, including soy sauce, rice vinegar, and honey.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½-inch fresh ginger, minced
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 to 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Sliced green onions

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit.

Place the chicken, skin side up, in an oven-safe baking dish. The meat should fit snugly in the pan.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Pour the marinade on the chicken and make sure that each piece is coated. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Bake until the thighs are browned and cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes, based on size. After 15 to 20 minutes, rotate the baking dish and brush the skin with the sauce in the pan. When crispy and cooked through, remove from the oven, drizzle on the sesame oil and a generous sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with green onions if desired.

4. Jerk-Rubbed Chicken Thighs with Homemade Mango Habanero Hot Sauce

jerk chicken with rice and beans

Jerk-rubbed chicken thighs | iStock.com

If you want to grill chicken, reach for thighs, since the fat content makes it hard to overcook them. The lumpy shape of boneless chicken thighs means that the tasty jerk rub does a better job of adhering to the chicken, while the meaty flavor balances out the spices, according to Fine Cooking. This Caribbean-flavored recipe from Bobby Flay is courtesy of the Food Network.

Ingredients:

For jerk rub

  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne powder
  • 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • Sliced fresh mango
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish

For mango-habanero sauce

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 small Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 habanero, chopped
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • Salt

Directions: Combine all spices in a small bowl. Rub the skin side of the chicken with the rub and let rest for 30 minutes. Heat the grill to medium heat and grill the thighs, skin side down for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn the chicken, close the cover of the grill and move the chicken to the side (or cooler part) of the grill. Continue cooking for 6 to 7 minutes or until completely cooked through. Remove to a platter and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

To make hot sauce, heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, mangoes, habanero, and vinegar and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Place the mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a few tablespoons of warm water or vinegar. Season with salt.

Serve chicken with fresh mango slices and mango-habanero hot sauce. Sprinkle cilantro on top.

5. Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken Thighs

stuffed chicken thighs

Mushroom-stuffed chicken thighs | iStock.com

In this dish, marinated boneless chicken thighs are stuffed with a mixture of mushroom and onion and then baked in an oven until they turn crispy on the outside. If you’re making this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen, consider saving the pan drippings to make a gravy to serve with mashed potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 15 boneless chicken thighs
  • ½ large onion, finely grated
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon of salt-free seasoning, like Mrs. Dash
  • 1 pound mushrooms
  • ½ large onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Directions: In a large bowl, combine thighs, grated onion, mayo, 1 teaspoon salt, and salt-free seasoning. Mix and then put in the fridge to marinate while prepping the mushroom stuffing.

Rinse and pat dry your mushrooms. Slice mushrooms and finely dice ½ onion. Heat a large pan over medium heat, then add 2 tablespoon olive oil. Add in sliced mushrooms and diced onion. Cover and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons flour and whisk everything together. Continue cooking for about 30 seconds until the mushrooms have the consistency of gravy.

Place your marinated chicken thigh, top-side down, on a clean surface. Spread out your chicken thigh and place a heaping tablespoon of mushroom filling into the center. Cover the mushrooms with the sides of your chicken thigh and place (folded side down) into a deep baking pan keeping the mushrooms sealed in the chicken. The thighs should barely touch each other in the pan; you may need to use more than one pan. Once all of the thighs are in the pan, sprinkle a little more salt-free seasoning on top of the chicken.

Cover the pans with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour, then remove the foil, drain off about 75% of the liquid and either keep to make gravy or discard. Then bake uncovered an additional 15 minutes. If you want the tops to be crisp and browned, set the oven to broil and continue to bake another 3 to 5 minutes or until the tops are golden. Brush chicken with a little olive oil and serve.

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