Once, twice, three times a lady…oops, sorry, that was The Commodores, not Gordon Ramsey. But we gotta say, we’re humming a tune over his lemon roasted chicken thighs recipe that draws on twice the lemon as usual along with a little soy sauce and honey. Sorta impressive how simple ingredients conjure complex taste.
Why Our Testers Loved This
Our testers were unanimous in their love for the combination of fresh and preserved lemon used in this recipe, describing the blend of flavors as “complex,” “well-balanced,” and “rich and layered.”
Joanna Burnett joined in with her comment, “The combination of the fresh lemon and preserved lemon gave a really nice bitter lemon flavor balanced by the honey and soy sauce. This is a definite make-again recipe.“
What You’ll Need to Make This
- Bone-in chicken thighs–You can substitute boneless chicken thighs here, but be aware that the cooking time will be less.
- Preserved lemon–These salty citrusy fruits deliver tons of flavor. Be sure to rinse your lemon before chopping, so you don’t have an overly salty dish. Extra preserved lemons are excellent in this couscous and chicken salad or in this creamy yogurt sauce.
- Dark soy sauce–This is darker, a little thicker, and slightly sweeter than regular soy sauce. Don’t be tempted to substitute black soy sauce, as it’s significantly sweeter. You can substitute tamari if you would like your dish to be gluten-free.
How to Make This Recipe
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken, garlic, and thyme in the skillet. Sear on both sides until golden brown. Pour in the vinegar and let it reduce, then drizzle in the soy sauce and honey.
- Add the lemons. Stir in the water, fresh and preserved lemons, and bring to a simmer. Transfer the skillet to the oven.
- Roast the chicken. When the chicken registers an internal temperature of 165°F and the sauce is thickened and reduced, remove it from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and top with the sauce and fresh parsley.
Soy sauce, made from a fermented paste of soybeans, comes in many variations, including light, dark, and sweet versions. For this recipe, dark soy is used for its rich flavor and slightly thicker consistency.
Many brands of dark soy also contain a small amount of molasses, which adds the slightest hint of sweetness. (Black soy sauce, which has a more marked sweetness, is not recommended for this recipe.)
Our testers enjoyed this served with a grain, such as rice, and roasted or steamed cauliflower. If you are looking for a light, healthy meal, try it with a side of cauliflower rice. If you want even more lemony flavor, pair it with lemon mashed potatoes.
The most accurate way to tell if your chicken is cooked through is to use an instant-read meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, but without touching the bone. When it registers 165°F (74°C), the chicken is safe to eat. But I always pull the chicken from the oven at 160°F (71°C), as it will continue to cook.
- For a darker appearance and slightly crispier chicken thighs, you can broil the chicken for the final minute or two of cooking.
- Leftover chicken thighs can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Rewarm in a 350°F oven until heated through.
- This recipe is suitable for a dairy-free diet. To make it gluten-free, use tamari instead of dark soy sauce.
More Great Roast Chicken Thigh Recipes
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If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David
Roasted Lemon Chicken Thighs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 (about 3 lbs) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the flat side of a large knife
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 lemon, preferably organic, very thinly sliced (about 1/16 in |1.5 mm thick)
- 1 store-bought or homemade preserved lemon, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 3 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet with the garlic and thyme. Cook until golden brown all over, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
- Pour the vinegar into the skillet and simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and honey, shaking the skillet to mix the sauce.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the water, fresh lemon, and preserved lemons, and bring to a simmer.
- Place the skillet in the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through, registers an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), and the sauce has reduced to a thick syrup, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the chicken thighs.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley. Spoon the sauce from the skillet over the chicken. Serve immediately.
- Crispy skin–For a darker appearance and slightly crispier chicken thighs, you can broil the chicken for the final minute or two of cooking.
- Storage and reheating–Leftover chicken thighs can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Rewarm in a 350°F oven until heated through.
- Dietary–This recipe is suitable for a dairy-free diet. To make it gluten-free, use tamari instead of dark soy sauce.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Delicious lemony flavor! I love lemon, and this baked lemon chicken thighs recipe did not disappoint. The combination of the fresh lemon and preserved lemon gave a really nice bitter lemon flavor balanced by the honey and soy sauce. This is a definite make-again recipe.
When I bought the chicken, my grocery store didn’t have bone-in, only boneless so I bought 8 boneless and the weight was close to 3 pounds. Adding vinegar to the pan reducing time was just seconds. One tablespoon in a super hot pan is reduced by half almost instantaneously.
After adding the water, the chicken was done after 15 minutes and the sauce was fine but not syrupy. It was delicious as it was but a little thickener would add a nice touch to the sauce. When making again, I will add 1/4 tsp cornstarch, just enough to add a little more body to the sauce.
We had this with steamed rice and roasted broccoli. A bit of sauce on the rice was fabulous and the cooked lemon, both sliced and preserved, was SO yummy!
Love a chicken recipe that comes together so easily yet has a complex flavor and takes humble ingredients to a new place. Of course, any recipe with lemon and chicken gets my attention, and blending the fresh and preserved lemon is delicious, but what makes this so “more-ish” is that the use of the dark soy and honey bring the lemon flavors to a perfect balance. No single note of sweetness or sourness, but a blend that’s interesting and seems more complex than the actual individual elements—a brilliant pairing that gives a lushness to the sauce.
This is not your sheet pan crackling crisp chicken, but it has all the same ease with a bit more developed sauce and with no more time or effort. I made a half recipe and used an enameled cast iron pan with slightly higher sides than a frying pan and two handles, which makes sliding it into the oven from stovetop easy and safe.
I began with the thighs skin side up and gave them 3 to 4 minutes before turning, then gave the skin side a good 4 minutes, turned them back over skin up, and made sure to reduce the heat by the time I was adding the dark soy and honey so I didn’t risk scorching, and jostled everything to make sure the pieces had a coating on all sides (the skin is nicely browned but will not stay shatteringly crisp).
Almost as soon as the sauce starts bubbling, it thickens and you can now slide this into the oven. I checked and ended up giving it about 18 minutes, and each piece was 170 to 178℉ when checked with a Thermapen.
What makes this such a memorable and special treatment is the flavors are so well balanced. That said, I included the flesh of preserved lemon (removing seeds) and so I made sure to not oversalt the meat in the beginning. The end result was just right for us, and there was a nice amount of sauce—much appreciated with rice and a flageolet salad (which also let us have the restraint to stop at one piece per person, tho it was so very tempting to have seconds).
File this under delicious chicken dinner in 45 minutes and a reason to preserve lemons. Did I mention that chicken thighs may be the best dinner miracle ingredient ever?
This chicken was yummy if you love citrus. It was very easy to prep for and took no time to complete. Easy to make as a weeknight meal.
I especially liked the bite when I got a small piece of the preserved lemon. The chicken stayed very moist and the flavors really infused the entire dish. I will try it again using chicken breast.
This roasted lemon chicken thigh recipe makes a very flavorful chicken and a dish that’s easy enough for a weeknight family meal but tasty enough for company. The combination of preserved lemon and fresh lemon provided a wonderful subtle lemon taste for the chicken while the sherry vinegar, dark soy sauce, and runny honey provided complexity. The sauce is wonderful and should be passed alongside the chicken.
Although I served this with just a large salad and it worked well, it would also be terrific over rice or another grain.
Since I am a fan of boneless chicken and I liked the flavors in this recipe, I tried it a second time with skinless, boneless thighs, and it was wonderful. It took a shorter period of time in that I cooked it on each side for 2 minutes and left it in the oven for only 5 minutes. It was juicy and flavorful.
I was hesitant to try this because I’m actually not crazy about lemon. I figured that double lemon would be far too much for me to stand but I was very, very wrong. This chicken is an absolute delight.
It is, of course, rather lemony, but the other strong flavors balance it all out. The dark soy sauce, garlic, and all that honey turn the abundance of lemon into a rich sauce that’s absolutely full of flavor.
This dish is quick to prepare but the taste belies how incredibly easy it is to get it on the table. It didn’t take long for the sauce to reduce, maybe 10 minutes, until it was rich and syrupy.
I served this with roasted green beans and pasta with olive oil and capers. I didn’t add much salt to anything else, as the lemon sauce was salty on its own. The sauce was really, really fantastic on everything. I almost felt like there wasn’t enough because it was so tasty.
My first read of this recipe made me think of honey garlic chicken that we might order at a Chinese restaurant. When I have had honey garlic chicken, it has typically been too sweet, so knowing that there was double lemon in this recipe, I thought this would counteract the too sweetness and make for a tasty dish.
These roasted lemon chicken thighs make a good dinner. The flavors were rich and layered, and most importantly, the final product is not too sweet.
This recipe comes together very easily. I have never used preserved lemon before. It was a good addition to the recipe (and something I will try again in other recipes).
To accompany the Double Lemon Chicken, I made jasmine rice with peas which was a perfect companion.
I suppose that by beginning this review at the finish, this could be considered a backwards entry, but the finish was so much more positive than the start! I often make chicken thighs, and they are a staple in my household. This was delicious.
I happened to have made a batch of preserved lemons early on in the pandemic and so I was eager to try this recipe. It was a great opportunity to use my lemons, which I often incorporate into Middle Eastern dishes. This recipe provided a perfect pairing for the preserved lemons with the thinly sliced fresh lemon.
While slightly more labor-intensive than the “throw on a sheet pan” method, this recipe provided a wonderfully savory and interesting sauce that paired so well with the chicken. Save for the preserved lemons, this recipe calls for pantry-friendly ingredients and would be a treat for both family and guests.
I found the dish to be too “blond” so I put it under the broiler to crisp the skin and improve the visual appearance. I may remove the chicken next time and reduce the sauce slightly to thicken a bit more.
Preserved lemons are an old favorite of mine, dating back to the 1980’s in Salt Lake City where they were impossible to find. I learned to make my own, and kept them stocked in the back of my refrigerator up until about a year ago when I realized all the good local (Seattle-area) grocery stores stock them. So I tossed my jars of preserved lemons (and limes!) to save space and started buying them individually when needed.
Fast forward to the present day when this lemon chicken caught my eye. Perfect for a weeknight dinner after work: simple to prepare, quick to cook, and with flavor that packs a punch.
Side notes on home-preserving lemons:
There are variations on how to preserve lemons; my version, probably cobbled from cookbooks before the internet made recipe searching easy, is simple and only requires two ingredients: lemons and salt.
After washing the lemons, slice from top to near-bottom twice to nearly quarter the lemons but leave them connected at the bottom. Drop a tablespoon or so of coarse kosher salt in each lemon from the top (amount depends on lemon size, but isn’t critical). Stuff the lemons in a clean jar with a wide lid (else they won’t fit). Add enough fresh-squeezed lemon juice to completely submerge the lemons and fill the jar. Put the lid on, shove the jar in the back of your garage refrigerator, and forget about it for at least two months. As far as I know, the lemons will keep indefinitely.
It didn’t take me long to consider preserving limes as another variation. The results are even better than preserved limes. You can preserve them both in the same jar, and since limes are usually smaller you can fill the bottom with lemons and top off with limes when the remaining space is too small for lemons. Use lemon juice or lime juice, or a mix, to fill the jar.
Having tried limes, it was inevitable that I would eventually try preserving kumquats, lemonquats, and limequats. Also keffir limes and Key limes. Also adding bay leaves, other whole spices, and hot peppers.