Sticky Coconut Chicken Dinner with Paleo & Plant-Based Options


It amazes me how time flies! I found, and first made, this recipe for Sticky Coconut Chicken a decade ago. It was in Cooking Light magazine. I’ve been subscribing to Cooking Light since I was 16 years old, so I was sad when they sent around the final issue last month. They will remain online, of course, but I still wanted to celebrate the end of an era by making this beloved dish again.

Sticky Coconut Chicken Dinner Recipe with Vegan and Plant-Based Sticky Coconut Tofu Option. Gluten-free, soy-free, and paleo options included too!

Sticky Coconut Chicken Dinner with Paleo & Plant-Based Options

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone. I love to include as many options as possible for everyone to enjoy. And this sticky coconut chicken recipe is so easy to adapt!

About the Dietary Options: In the recipe you will see gluten-free, paleo, and soy-free options. These are all very simple swaps that won’t negatively impact the recipe. Above the recipe, you can see my notes for making Sticky Coconut Tofu that is plant-based and optionally vegan. Tofu also marinates and bakes beautifully, and it is a complimentary protein to the flavors of both the marinade and the sticky sauce.

Use Full-Fat Coconut Milk: This is not the time to swap in coconut milk beverage. The fat in the coconut milk helps to keep the meat (or tofu!) tender and rich as it cooks. See my Coconut Milk Guide to understand the different types.

Eat Dairy Free - Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and SweetsCooking Options: The original recipe is for grilling, but I’m not a big barbecue fan. I prefer to bake the chicken. I think it’s easier, and results in chicken that is more tender. But I have included the grilling instructions, and I’ve also included saute instructions for stove top cooking.

Make it a Meal: I usually baste the sticky coconut chicken with most of the sticky marinade, but reserve a little to drizzle over the vegetables. I like it with broccoli, but sauteed bell peppers (and onions!) are also delicious. And I serve it all over rice or cauliflower rice, but quinoa is another great option.

Sticky Coconut Chicken Dinner Recipe with Vegan and Plant-Based Sticky Coconut Tofu Option. Gluten-free, soy-free, and paleo options included too!

Special Diet Notes: Sticky Coconut Chicken Dinner

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, optionally grain-free, nut-free, peanut-free, optionally soy-free, optionally top food allergy-friendly, and optionally paleo.

For a plant-based dish, substitute extra-firm tofu for the chicken. You can use just 16 ounces, or a full 24 ounces. For strictly vegan sticky coconut tofu, use agave nectar in place of the honey in the sauce. The cook times will be about the same.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Sticky Coconut Chicken Dinner
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light. I chose to bake this dish in the oven for ease and tenderness, but I have included saute and grill options. Please note that the Prep time doesn't include marinating. Allow at least 1 hour, or go ahead and prep this meal the night before!
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4 servings
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ¾ cup full-fat coconut milk (you can shake the can!)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger or ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon + ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, divided
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, gluten-free Tamari, or coconut aminos (for soy-free and paleo)
  • 3 green onions, green parts only, sliced, for garnish
  • 3 cups cooked white rice, brown rice, quinoa, or cauliflower "rice," to serve
  • 4 to 6 cups steamed broccoli or other cooked vegetables, to serve
  1. Pat the chicken dry. Pull the thighs open and lay flat in a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, ginger, black pepper, and ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper.
  3. Pour the coconut milk mixture over the chicken and turn to evenly coat the meat.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to one day.
  5. When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Turn and baste the chicken periodically as it bakes. The coconut milk might separate a little as it bakes, but that's okay.
  7. While the chicken is cooking, add the rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and remaining ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk the mixture and bring it to a boil. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture reduces to ⅓ to ½ cup, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. Divide the rice or quinoa between 4 plates. Top with the chicken and drizzle the chili glaze over the chicken or baste it. Sprinkle with the green onions and serve with the vegetables.
Saute Option: Remove the chicken from the marinade and sauté it in a large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Turn the meat as needed and baste it with the marinade until the last 2 minutes of cooking.
Grill Option: Remove the chicken from the marinade and lay it flat on a high heat grill. Grill until cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the chicken as needed and baste as it cooks with the remaining marinade.

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. I am so sad about Cooking Light. I recently read the last issue from cover to cover while sitting in the orthodontist’s waiting room. So many good recipes and ideas! At least they’re staying online.

    I’m bookmarking this recipe!

    • As a good side note, they’re sending everyone to Eating Well, which is a good magazine. Looks like they are focusing efforts on that one, which doesn’t have the “light” focus that seemed to limit them.

  2. Tasty dish. I might try it in the crock-pot next time (so the chicken is more tender), but the flavor is excellent. Only recommendation is to add some onion flakes or chopped onion; it really pulls the flavors together. My husband who really really doesn’t like vinegar or honey almost didn’t try the glaze…but he ended up loving it!

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