One of my favorite midweek meals takes minutes to prepare; sometimes, things just have to be that simple. You can also use chicken wings or pork ribs, but the cooking times will vary.–Uyen Luu

A metal sheet pan filled with lemon ginger chicken legs and thighs with shallots and lemon slices.

Lemon Ginger Chicken

5 / 5 votes
Sultry ginger, tangy lemon, hot chiles and sticky honey are a great combo and you should have a supply of them in the kitchen to turn simple chicken into something rather special for those lazy, cozy evenings.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisineVietnamese
Servings4 servings
Calories680 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time7 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients 

For the lemon ginger chicken

  • 1 tablespoon chile (hot pepper) flakes (optional)
  • 1 inch (2.5 cm) piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos
  • 2 pounds 4 ounces skin-on chicken thighs* and drumsticks
  • 2 (12 oz) red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lemon, zested then sliced into rings, preferably organic
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz / 14 g) butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey

For the wilted greens

  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz / 14 g) butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Selection of greens, like kale, broccoli, and fine green beans, thinly sliced
  • Water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Dried chile flakes or chili oil
  • Steamed rice, for serving

Instructions 

Make the lemon ginger chicken

  • In a small bowl, mix together the dried chiles, if using, the ginger, and the soy sauce.
  • Place the chicken pieces in a re-sealable bag or container, pour in the marinade, and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Dump the chicken pieces and marinade into a large roasting pan and arrange in a single layer with 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of space between each piece of chicken. Add the onion quarters, then arrange the lemon slices in between the pieces of chicken.
  • Roast, basting halfway through, until the chicken starts to brown and become tender, about 35 minutes.
  • Spoon any juices from the roasting pan into a small saucepan, then return the chicken to the oven.
  • Set the saucepan over medium-low heat and add the butter, honey, and lemon zest. Bring to a gentle boil and let bubble until the sauce has reduced by a third, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and pour the honey sauce evenly over the chicken. Return to the oven and cook until the chicken is cooked through, with an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), and the skin is caramelized, 5 to 10 minutes. It’s ok if the internal temperature is significantly higher at this point. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Prepare the wilted greens

  • In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm the butter and oil. Toss in the shallot and cook until just beginning to color, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring to keep it from burning. Toss in the sliced vegetables and a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables, stirring constantly, until just tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Serve the chicken with an option of more dried chiles or chile oil, steamed rice, and vegetables.

Notes

*Do chicken thighs take longer to cook?

In a recipe like this, if you decided to sub in chicken breasts (which we don’t suggest because it’s all about that juicy dark meat and crispy skin here) you’d have to shorten your cooking time, even though breasts are bigger—sometimes a lot bigger. Chicken thighs and drumsticks have a higher fat content (which is why some people prefer the breast) and are denser so they cook more slowly than breasts. However, breasts are prone to drying out because of the lack of fat. Bone-in thighs take a little longer but you’ll be rewarded with more flavor and juiciness.

Adapted From

Vietnamese

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 servingCalories: 680 kcalCarbohydrates: 15 gProtein: 50 gFat: 47 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 18 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 207 mgSodium: 1066 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 10 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Uyen Luu. Photo © 2021 Uyen Luu. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I’m not sure which I liked more…the lemon ginger chicken or the veggies for serving that are part of the recipe, but it probably doesn’t matter because together they make a delicious meal.

I used slightly less chicken than called for to serve 2 people so a 9×13 inch pan was enough to allow for space in between pieces, but a larger pan might have been necessary to comfortably fit the full amount.

My veggie combo for serving consisted of kale and green beans and those combined with the shallot and garlic were memorably delicious.

The shallots added sweet notes to contrast with the kale and beans and made for an incredibly comforting component of the meal alongside the rice and chicken. Make sure to include a serving spoon with the chicken to scoop up the sauce to boost the flavor of the chicken and the rice.

This lemon ginger chicken will definitely be on repeat in the house. The combination of chile, lemon, ginger, and honey is perfection, hitting every tastebud. The skin is crispy, onions are soft and sweet, and the lemons are perfectly charred. Also, super-easy, making it a great choice for weekdays or company.

This almost hands-free recipe for lemon ginger chicken is great for weeknights. After an afternoon of meal prepping for the rest of the week, the ease of this recipe was so nice. We love spicy food so I used the whole tablespoon of chile flake when preparing this.

I did baste at the halfway mark and again with the glaze and cooked an additional 10 mins. I removed it from the oven and tented it with foil to rest for 20 minutes. By this time the glaze in the pan thickened even more and made for a great sauce to top the chicken and jasmine rice.

Not one person tried to be healthy and remove the skin before eating. It was wonderfully crisp and sticky at the same time. I used thin green beans as my side. After adding the beans, I cranked the heat to high and ended up with beautifully blistered beans just like our favorite Asian restaurant serves.

I really like how the ginger and lemon come through in the sauce. The lone piece of leftover chicken got deboned and layered over the rice with the sauce, beans on the side. I call dibs for lunch as I think these flavors will be even better tomorrow.

Excellent midweek meal. This lemon ginger chicken was sooo moist, tender, and flavorful thanks to the combination of heat from the chiles and the sticky sweet honey. This dish came together very easily and was a great alternative to grilling on a rainy, early summer afternoon. There were no leftovers.

I served this with some steamed jasmine rice and fresh broccoli. Everything was perfectly balanced and there was no need to add any additional soy sauce or flavorings. It was perfect as is. I will be making this again and again since I love chicken thighs and legs.

This lemon ginger chicken is a really delicious meal, and considering the results, it’s a very easy one (my two favorite things!) I used chicken breasts for this, as that is what I had, and I was a little worried that it wouldn’t come out well with breasts, but it is quite lovely. That said, it would be even better with skin-on dark meat.

I used kale, green beans, and thin-sliced carrots for the vegetables, and they’re perfect: very simple, but they complement the chicken marvelously. As I was cooking, I thought maybe I should have started the carrots first and added the kale a bit later, but everything was cooked and quite tasty and the sauce from the chicken was just right with everything on my plate.

I can definitely see this as an easy company dinner, or even as a weeknight meal if I got home early or had done a little prep beforehand. It took me one hour to make the marinade, chicken, veg, and rice, which I consider a very decent time for a complete (veg-starch-protein) meal. For company, I’d definitely think about serving Shauna Sever’s coconut popsicles for a fun dessert… my mind has definitely been on frozen treats since it’s gotten hot here!

This recipe for lemon ginger chicken has all the ease of a tray-bake but goes the extra distance in flavor and flexibility. Adjust the heat for your audience, or play with a new type of pepper (I had a batch of Facing Heaven crushed red chile flakes from The Mala Market which I was eager to try, and they delivered a lovely medium level heat), and roasted red onions take on a beautiful silky texture when roasted as nice wedges. I could even increase the ginger and be very happy.

The honey adds just a touch of sweetness and roasted lemons always are a great combination with roast chicken.

For vegetables, I liked the shallot and garlic starter—I added chopped lacinato kale and the tender tops of fava bean plants from our garden, so we had a nice contrast to the chicken and rice. At the table, I also offered chile crunch to satisfy any extra heat cravings.

For 4 adult servings, this recipe works great to use thigh and drumstick pieces that are still connected and we gently reheated the chicken the next day with additional green vegetables, a leftover batch of roast chicken is always appreciated, never more so than on a weeknight. This all fits perfectly in a deep roasting pan, with room for the onions and lemon slices in between the chicken. The resulting pan sauce was beautifully balanced and I noticed the next day that it all had jelled–like good chicken sauces with the promise of another delicious meal.

Over rice, this is pretty hard to beat, though I did play with gingery roast potatoes on day two and those were lovely as well. Winner winner…

This piquant and slightly spicy lemon ginger chicken has the bones (!) to be a terrific variation on the weeknight chicken bake, especially with its all-in-one side dishes, but I’ll be making it with a few small adjustments next time.

While the ginger-lemon-honey-chile flavors were a lovely combination, I was wishing for a bit more brightness from the lemon, so I’d happily double up to 2 lemons for the slices that tuck in between the chicken. I also wouldn’t slice them paper-thin (which I did) as they risk burning; 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thick at a minimum would be better.

The red onions I used were rather large, so quartering them wasn’t enough to get wedges that would be small enough to brown at the same rate as the chicken. It would be much better to cut in 1” wedges so that they caramelize as shown in the recipe photo. Next time I make this I’ll be reducing the chicken juices+honey+chile+butter more than I did, maybe even reducing to 1/2 the original quantity so that the finished chicken is dark and sticky and caramelized for more flavor.

I’ll also be frying the shallots and then setting them aside to sprinkle on the finished vegetables at serving time, rather than risk having them burn while the veggie cooked for another 5-6 minutes. I might try making this recipe even more simple than it already is by using some purchased Hot Honey in place of the separate ingredients.

We definitely enjoyed the dish, and with the steamed rice and green beans built into the process, there was little more needed to round out the meal than a quick mango-spiked coleslaw with a rice vinegar dressing. With a cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc on a hot, sultry night, this was just the right thing!




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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2 Comments

  1. Just FYI, there are no lemons mentioned in your recipe ingredients. I know it is assumed as the dish is called “Lemon Ginger Chicken,” but it should also include lemon somewhere in the ingredients. That being said, I can’t wait to try it. Will probably substitute cioppino onions or whole shallots for the red onion. How do you think this would be with Meyer Lemons?

    1. Stephen, there is a whole lemon called for in the recipe ingredients, but if you want to substitute a Meyer lemon, I think that would work fine. The flavor is slightly different, but I think it would marry well with the other flavors in the dish. Do let us know how it turns out.