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 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.
Cooking 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.
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.
- 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
- Pat the chicken dry. Pull the thighs open and lay flat in a 9x13-inch baking dish.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, ginger, black pepper, and ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper.
- Pour the coconut milk mixture over the chicken and turn to evenly coat the meat.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to one day.
- When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.