Main Course

Tender Grilled Chicken Thighs with BEST Marinade

These tender grilled chicken thighs are one of the best grilled chicken meats I have ever had. The meat is really tender and full of flavor. Once grilling season starts, this meat is on repeat at our house!

Though it’s fall already around here, I had to post the recipe for these grilled chicken thighs. Thankfully, fall is pretty long here in our part of Germany and we will probably be grilling into November. It’s also possible to grill this at home on an indoor grill, if it’s already cold where you are.

Grilled chicken thighs served on a platter with bread and potato triangles on the side.

Easy Grilled Chicken Marinade Ingredients and Recipe Variations

The marinade for these grilled chicken thighs is really really easy. Here are the four basic ingredients that you will need:

Onions – plain, white onions work best, but you can also use other varieties. The onions are chopped into big semi-circle pieces and are discarded before grilling. Don’t omit these as they give a lot of flavor.

Tomatoes – Any kind of tomatoes work here. Fresh tomatoes work best. However, you can substitute with plain canned tomatoes if you don’t have any on hand. The flavor might be slightly different.

Salt – plain, normal salt, nothings special.

Black Pepper – freshly ground is the best as it gives most flavor, but store-bought, ground works as well.

Other herbs and seasonings (Optional) – you can add any additional herbs or seasonings or dry rubs that you like. Sometimes I like to add chili flakes for a bit more spice and once in a while I use a store bought herb mixture, which includes things like black pepper, sea salt, green pepper, white pepper, raw sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, chili, etc.

Tender grilled chicken thighs grilled on a grill using charcoal

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of chicken meat should I use with this marinade?

The best chicken meat to use in this recipe are thighs without the bone as it gives the most tender result (skin can be on or off, tastes great both ways). You can also use this marinade on chicken thighs with bone-in, or chicken drumsticks. Chicken wings would be great, too. I haven’t tried this on chicken breast meat as it tends to be dry.

Can I use chicken that has been frozen?

Yes, you can use chicken that has been frozen in this recipe. However, I recommend defrosting the chicken before applying the marinade. Otherwise, the chicken will not be as flavorful since it will release water when defrosting and will dilute the marinade. Make sure you defrost the chicken in the refrigerator and not on the counter before marinating it as it can be exposed to harmful bacteria. (Visit the Barbecue Basics: Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness page from FDA for all the details on safe meat marinating and grilling).

Can I freeze chicken in this marinade?

This depends. If you are starting out with frozen chicken that you then defrost (which, is totally fine for this recipe), then you shouldn’t re-freeze it again with the marinade. However, if you bought fresh chicken meat, then you can add the marinade to the chicken and freeze it directly with the marinade.

How long do you marinate chicken?

I always marinate my meat overnight. If you are short on time, marinate for at least 6 hours, but only if you are not using frozen chicken. You can marinate frozen chicken, but would need to make sure it is fully defrosted before grilling and 6 hours is not enough time for it to defrost and get the flavor of the marinade.

Grilled chicken thighs served and sprinkled with green onion.

Grilled Chicken Thighs Recipe (Step-by-Step)

1. To start off, peel and chop your onions. They need to be cut into half-rings about 1/4 inch wide. Set aside.

Chopped onions on a cutting board

2. Wash the chicken thighs and dry using a paper towel. Place into a large bowl. Add the chopped onions to the bowl.

Add the chopped onions on the top.

3. Using a box grater, grate your tomatoes directly over the onions (you can also do this into a separate bowl if it’s easier for you, I just like to save myself some clean up so I grate directly on the top of the meat 🙃). Add the tomatoes along with all the juice (if grating separately) to the meat and onions.

4. Add the mayonnaise, salt and pepper.

5. Mix everything well, cover with a lid, or clear wrap (I have an awesome glass bowl with a lid that I use for this) and refrigerate overnight or AT LEAST six hours (more is better!).

6. Once you take out the marinated meat the next day, mix it well. Then, take out the chicken and place it onto a separate plate, making sure to remove any onion and tomato pieces. Let it rest for about half an hour or so. Ideally, let the chicken come to room temperature as that will ensure even grilling.

7. Meanwhile, fire up your grill (we have a normal charcoal grill so the amount of time for the grill to be ready will be different for every grill). Grill the chicken for about 6-8 minutes per side or until the thickest part of the meat has an internal reading of 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. Take off the grill and serve.

If you need more detailed instructions on grilling, check out this page from Char Grilled for awesome tips: Your Guide to Grilling Chicken.

What to serve with grilled chicken thighs?

Since meat is so filling, we don’t usually make a lot of side dishes to eat it with. A lot of times we just have vegetables like tomatoes or cucumbers and a baguette that we eat it with. The focal point is really the meat around here! With that said, these grilled chicken thighs really go well with:

Potatoes – any kind (french fries, wedges, mashed or baked triangles like below in the photo).

Salad – A good salad is almost a must. Try this Tomato and Mozarella Salad Plate which is takes almost no time to make and has lots of great flavor. Or this Two-Ingredient Tomato Salad, which is the easiest thing in the world.

Bread – a baguette or some kind of flat bread go very well. Throw it on the grill for a couple of minutes for an extra smoky taste.

Grilled chicken thighs served on a plate.

Lastly, if you make these Tender Grilled Chicken Thighs with BEST Marinade, make sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating here! I’d love to hear back from you and will do my best to answer and respond to every comment. And of course, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram if you make this recipe. I’d love to see the photos of the recipes you have made!

Tender Grilled Chicken Thighs with BEST Marinade

Tender and juicy grilled chicken thighs made with an easy and flavorful marinade.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Marinating Time12 hours
Total Time12 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Russian
Keyword: Chicken Thighs, Grilled Chicken, Grilling, Tomato and Mayonnaise
Servings: 6


  • 3lb 4oz (1,5 kg) Chicken thighs
  • 10.5 oz (300g) Onions (about 3-4 small/medium onions)
  • 9oz (225g) Tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Pepper or to taste
  • Other herbs and spices (optional) to taste


  • Chop onions into semi circles about 1/4 of an inch thick.
  • Wash the chicken thighs, dry using a paper towel and add to a bowl.
  • Add the chopped onions to the bowl. Grate the tomatoes into the bowl. Add the mayonnaise and the spices and mix everything well.
  • Refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight.


  • Once ready, remove meat and let rest and come to room temperature if possible (for even heat distribution when grilling).
  • Preheat grill to about 400° F (200° C).
  • Grill 6-8 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165° F (74° C).
  • Remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes. Serve.
Tender Grilled Chicken Thighs with BEST Marinade

These tender grilled chicken thighs are one of the best grilled chicken meats I have ever had. The meat is really tender and full of flavor. Once grilling season starts, this meat is on repeat at our house!

Type: Main Course

Cuisine: American, Russian

Keywords: Grilled Chicken, Chicken thighs grilled, Chicken thighs

Recipe Yield: 6

Preparation Time: PT12H15M

Cooking Time: PT0H15M

Total Time: PT12H30M

Recipe Ingredients:

  • Chicken thighs
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Other herbs and spices (optional)

Recipe Instructions: Chop onions into semi circles about 1/4 in thick. Wash and dry chicken add to bowl. Add chopped onions to chicken. Grate tomatoes onto chicken. Add salt, pepper, mayonnaise and other herbs and spices (optional). Mix well. Marinate for 12 hours or overnight. Grill on a pre-heated grill for 6-8 minutes per side. Let rest. Serve.

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