This recipe for juicy, savory baked chicken thighs has just 6 ingredients (and that’s including salt and pepper!), and a 5-minute prep time. While the chicken bakes, cook up some rice and steam some green beans, broccoli, or other vegetables, and you’ll have a healthy dinner for the whole family on the table in under 30 minutes…
A few words on chicken thighs
If the type of chicken you cook most often is a boneless, skinless chicken breast, it’s time to give thighs a try. They’re just what they sound like—the upper leg of a chicken. (For comparison, a chicken drumstick is the bottom part of the chicken’s leg.) When you see a package at the store labeled “chicken legs,” it simply means the thigh and drumstick are still attached. The thigh and drumstick are often referred to as the “dark meat” of a chicken, as compared with the “white meat” of the breast.
Chicken thighs are less expensive than chicken breasts, making them a good choice for families on a budget. While both chicken breasts and chicken thighs are a good source of protein, breasts have slightly more protein per ounce, and thighs have more fat. Because chicken breasts are a leaner cut, they tend to dry out more easily in oven preparations, while the extra fat in thighs keeps them moist and tender. If your plan is to bake chicken, we recommend thighs or drumsticks.
At the grocery store or in a butcher’s case, you’ll typically find three types of chicken thighs, from cheapest to most expensive: 1) bone-in, skin on; 2) bone-in, skin removed; and 3) boneless and skinless. Boneless and skinless thighs are great for stews, soups, and chilis, where bones and skin would get in the way. But for baked chicken thighs, we recommend buying bone-in, skin-on. The skin insulates the meat and keeps it from drying out in the oven, and bakes up to a delicious crunch, almost like a little chicken potato chip.
Because chickens vary in size, chicken thighs do as well. One large thigh or two smaller thighs is a good rule of thumb for portion size. We recommend large thighs for this recipe, but if only small ones are available, just decrease the cooking time by 5–10 minutes.
Unless you’re on a low- to no-sodium diet, it’s important to season your chicken with salt. It can make the difference between a bland, boring dish and a succulent, savory one. Before seasoning chicken, pat it dry with paper towels, making sure to get the skin especially dry. (This will ensure you get delectably crispy skin! Wet skin will steam and stay flabby in the oven.)
If you don’t have the garlic powder the recipe calls for, onion powder is a good substitute. Once you’ve mastered this recipe (and it’s easy to master), you can play around with different dried herbs and spices to make your own mixture to top chicken. Stir them together in a small bowl Southwestern chicken: cumin, chili powder, oregano, paprika, salt, and black pepper Italian chicken: oregano, parsley, basil, thyme, salt, and black pepper Jamaican jerk chicken: thyme, rosemary, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper Barbecue-spiced chicken: brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper
Stir your preferred mixture of herbs and spices together in a small bowl. Next, add olive oil or another oil (canola, vegetable); the oil helps the spice mixture spread evenly over the chicken, adds to the overall flavor of the final dish, and leads to delightfully crispy chicken skin. You can substitute a pat of butter for the oil if you prefer butter’s flavor. Or, if you’re on a low-calorie diet or want a lower-fat meal, you can skip the oil or butter and just use the spice mixture.
Easy cooking and easy cleanup
Lining your baking sheet with aluminum foil and spraying it with cooking spray is a good trick to keep the chicken from sticking. Plus, it’ll make cleanup a cinch—when your chicken is cooked, you can ball up the foil and throw it away, and you shouldn’t need to wash your sheet pan. Here’s a tip: fold the aluminum foil up around its edges to form a little tray that will enclose any chicken juices that run off in the oven. Pour those over your finished dish for extra deliciousness.
A high temperature of 425 degrees F will ensure the chicken skin gets extra crispy. You always want to bake chicken thighs skin-side up.
Use the 20-minute cook time the recipe states as a guideline only. Since ovens can vary in temperature, it’s always good to have another method to check for doneness. One simple way is to use a meat thermometer; prick the chicken with the thermometer at its thickest part, right in the middle of the thigh. Make sure you don’t touch the chicken bones with the thermometer, as this could throw off the reading. 165 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature the FDA recommends for fully cooked chicken.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can check for doneness by piercing the chicken with a sharp knife. If the juices run clear, not pink, the chicken is likely cooked through.
Chicken thighs are my new favorite meal
If this tender, moist chicken recipe is a revelation to you, Yummly has many other recipes for oven-baked chicken thighs, as well as other chicken thigh recipes you’ll love. The next time you cook chicken, how about Honey Soy Chicken Thighs, Creamy Smothered Chicken Thighs, or One-Skillet Sweet ‘n’ Salty Chicken Thighs? There are chicken thigh recipes for every meal plan as well: try Sweet Korean Paleo Chicken Thighs, or gluten-free, keto-friendly Keto Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms. It’s chicken for dinner tonight!
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- cooking spray
- 4 chicken thighs
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, and spray with cooking spray.
- Mix together the salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic powder in a medium mixing bowl.
|Calories470Calories from Fat320|
|% DAILY VALUE|
|Calories from Fat320|
|% DAILY VALUE|
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.