Thai BBQ Chicken (Gai Yang)

Cook Eat WorldAsianThai BBQ Chicken (Gai Yang)
By Published On: March 26th, 2021

Juicy, fragrant chicken with all the flavours of South East Asia, this Thai Gai Yang, is a perfect way to enjoy BBQ chicken. Learn how to create all the magic at home…

Thai BBQ Chicken (Gai Yang)

Grilled chicken never tasted this good! It's no secret that Thai food is a treasure trove of flavour, colour and fragrance, and this simple marinated chicken for the BBQ is no exception. Brimming over with aromatic flavours it's a mystery as to how it has so much flavour.

Marination of a nation

Most countries in the world have their version of marinades. Meats, fish and vegetables across the globe are all benefiting from a flavour enhancement of some kind. Marinades can become the signature flavour for a country, dishes held in such high esteem they become works of art. See some of my favourite marinades from around the world. Marinades are truly a great (and simple) method to inject colour and personality into a dish - all you need is patience.

Time is the friend of any marinade, and you simply need to make some time to ensure you give your dish the best chance of success. and eventually, success comes to those who wait! This Gai Yang, Thai chicken marinade is one with huge potential.

Thai aromatics make the best marinades

Some of the best ingredients to use for marinades are from South East Asia, they make up a complex hit of flavour synonymous with the region. This marinade ticks off all the boxes of salt, sweet, sour and spice. A wonderful and complex marriage of lemongrass, cilantro, turmeric, chilli, shallots, garlic, palm sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce.

All that's needed is to blend these ingredients into a paste - that's it! Old school, you can use a pestle & mortar or if you want the job done quickly you can call on a blender, a food processor or like me, an immersion blender - either way, the aromas you create will transport you directly to Thailand!

Then it's as simple as coating some chicken or whatever meat you're using - this marinade will work magnificently with beef and pork too. If I'm using drumsticks or thighs, I like to make some deep slashes in the meat, this helps the marinade to permeate further, you can also rub some marinade under the skin. Then we slow things down. We cover everything, pop it in the fridge and go about our own business for 24 hours... you can wait, right?

Thai BBQ Chicken (Gai Yang)

The perfect accompaniment to Gai Yang is a spicy, sour Nam Jim Jaew Thai dipping sauce. Quite literally the perfect combination of flavours and a powerful little burst of Thailand with every dip. To learn how this dip is made you can check out my recipe for another great Thai BBQ dish - the AMAZING Crying Tiger Beef with Nam Jim Jaew Dipping Sauce.

Nam Jim Jaew Sauce |

So, now all that's needed is to pop the chicken on a BBQ grill (or under a HOT oven broiler/grill and char it to perfection. The char and smoke from the grill is the last flavour that creates the most authentic Gai Yang flavour profile - what you're left with is an assault on the senses - an exotic marriage of flavour, texture and fragrance - it's MY favourite way to grill chicken - will it be yours?

More delicious grilled meat recipes from around the World

How to make my Thai BBQ Chicken (Gai Yang)

Thai BBQ Chicken (Gai Yang)

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5 from 2 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Recipe by Lee
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Thai
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Marination1 day
Total Time1 day 35 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 475


  • 3 lb Chicken drumsticks (or thighs, left whole)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk (white parts only, thinly sliced)
  • 3 slices galangal
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric (2cm)
  • ¼ cup cilantro (stems & leaves (chopped)
  • ½ cup shallots (peeled & chopped)
  • 3 thai chillies
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil


  • Put all the marinade ingredients (except the chicken!) into a food processor and blend into a paste.
  • Using a sharp knife, make 2-3 deep slashes into each chicken drumstick. This will help the marinade permeate and create better flavour.
    Either in a bowl or a plastic resealable bag mix together the marinade and chicken. Make sure all the chicken gets a good coating. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and refrigerate for as long as you can. 4-5 hours minimum or 24 hours for the tastiest results.
  • Remove from the fridge about 1 hour before you plan to cook. Heat your BBQ grill or a hot oven grill.
    Grill the chicken for about 10-15 minutes, turning regularly - baste the chicken with some of the leftover marinade for added flavour. You want a nice char on the outside - it's all flavour!
  • Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then serve. I like to serve mine with a spicy dipping sauce like nam jim jaew (details and recipe for that below in the notes).


A great dipping sauce for Gai Yang is a Nam Jim Jaew dipping sauce - spicy, sour, sweet and salty... everything you need with a Thai dipping sauce.
Get the Nam Jim Jaew recipe or visit


Calories: 475kcal (24%) | Carbohydrates: 11g (4%) | Protein: 43g (86%) | Fat: 28g (43%) | Saturated Fat: 11g (69%) | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 210mg (70%) | Sodium: 1458mg (63%) | Potassium: 699mg (20%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 5g (6%) | Vitamin A: 202IU (4%) | Vitamin C: 10mg (12%) | Calcium: 52mg (5%) | Iron: 2mg (11%)
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Thai BBQ Chicken (Gai Yang)

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