These roasted lemon chicken thighs are made by pan-searing bone-in thighs until golden, then roasting them in a fresh and preserved lemon sauce with soy, garlic, and thyme.
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 roast lemon 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.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Roast 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* (See * below)
- 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.
*A Note About Dark Soy Sauce And How To Make This Recipe Gluten-FreeSoy sauce 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.) For a gluten-free rendition of this dish, simply substitute an equal amount of tamari (check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain wheat or any other grain) and a pinch of brown sugar, if desired.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Delicious lemony flavor! I love lemon and this 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 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 sheetpan 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 roast lemon chicken thighs 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. This roast lemon chicken thighs makes 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.
My usual preparation of thighs/chicken pieces involves a sheet pan, various vegetables depending upon what is in the fridge, and then the appropriate seasonings, all depending upon the slant aimed for on that particular day. More thighs than we need are always put in the oven because the leftovers are happily anticipated for lunches, soup, or just plain old snacking. 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 the 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. The only problem: the local food cooperative where I get our groceries told me they no longer stock preserved lemons. The formerly high-end grocery store chain now owned by a company that used to advertise itself as the world’s largest bookstore asked me if “preserved lemons” meant “lemon juice.” I gave up the search after striking out at a third grocery store with high-end ambitions. Then, back home, I found a jar of preserved lemons in the back of a pantry shelf. Their provenance is questionable and the flavor was muted, but I was in business. On to the testing.
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.
Originally published January 11, 2021