Brown Sugar Chicken
Brown Sugar Chicken has become a favorite weeknight meal at our house with tender, juicy chicken thighs swimming in a sauce that’s sweet, garlicky, and just a little spicy.
I love this recipe! It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s delicious. What more could you want in a weeknight meal.
I’m a big fan of the sweet and savory combination. And does this dish ever deliver. The sweetness of the brown sugar and maple syrup is countered by the smokiness of the paprika, the zesty-ness of the garlic, and a perfect amount of spice from the hot sauce. No, the hot sauce isn’t necessary, but it is delicious – in my opinion. For this dish, I really love the Sriracha. Where other hot sauces use cayenne pepper, Sriracha uses red jalapeño peppers. I feel like these peppers work really well with the brown sugar and maple syrup. If you prefer another hot sauce, by all means use it. And if you just can’t stand hot sauce, leave it out.
How to Make Brown Sugar Chicken
There are six easy steps to this recipe making it an almost brainless dish – which is exactly what I need at the end of some of my days.
I use a pretty hot oven for this recipe, 425˚F. Cooking at a higher temperature ensures that the meat becomes tender and juicy. It also creates a delicious caramelization of the brown sugar.
As with almost all of my meat recipes, I season the meat first and then move on with the other steps of the recipe. This allows the salt to break down some of the structure of the meat which means that the other flavors can be better absorbed into the meat. Once seasoned, place the thighs in an 8×8-inch baking dish. They can be touching but not overlapping. If they are you may need to get a bigger baking dish.
While the thighs are resting and absorbing the seasoning flavors, combine the brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, and hot sauce (if you are using) in a small sauce pan. Cook the ingredients over medium heat until the butter has melted and the brown sugar has been dissolved. You can also use the microwave for this step. After the sauce ingredients have been placed in a microwavable bowl, cover it with a paper towel to help protect from those butter explosions. Cook at 30 second intervals, stirring in between until the butter has just melted and the brown sugar has been dissolved.
Pour the sauce over the thighs. At this point, I like to use a pair of tongs to turn the thighs over and over again so that all of the sides get a good coating of the sauce. End with the top of the thighs facing up – the nice, smooth side.
Pop this in the oven, grab your favorite book and read a chapter or two. Ah, wouldn’t that be wonderful. ;) Do whatever you need to do for the next 30 – 35 minutes.
How Do I Know if the Chicken Thighs are Done?
I start the timer at about 25 minutes and start checking the temperature of the thighs at this point. Food Safety recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165˚F. I use an instant read thermometer to check by inserting it into the thickest part of the thigh. Once the temperature has been reached, allow the dish to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
What to Serve with Brown Sugar Chicken
My favorite side dish to serve with Brown Sugar Chicken is Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes. A splash of the brown sugar sauce over the top of these creamy potatoes sets everything right. Coleslaw or roasted potatoes come in a close second.
More Baked Chicken Recipes
This is one of my favorite weeknight recipes. Here are a couple more of my favorites that will help you get dinner of the table easily and quickly.
Brown Sugar Chicken has become a favorite weeknight meal at our house with tender, juicy chicken thighs swimming in a sauce that’s sweet, garlicky, and just a little spicy. ***NOTE: I have retested and updated this recipe as of 10/31/2020. IF you made it before that, the recipe was slightly different then. Here are the changes I’ve made. The older version called for twice as much smoked paprika. Also, there was no garlic powder before. Instead, it was 3 cloves of garlic, minced, mixed with the brown sugar and butter prior to baking. I prefer the recipe with the newly adjusted amount of paprika, and I find using garlic powder easier than fresh, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in this recipe.
- 2 lbs. chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. Sriracha hot sauce, optional
- Preheat oven to 425˚F.
- Combine the salt, paprika, pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl.
- Sprinkle the seasoning over both sides the chicken thighs.
- Place the thighs in an 8×8” baking dish.
- In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, and Sriracha (if using). Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Alternately, you can place brown sugar and butter in the microwave and cook on high for 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and the brown sugar is dissolved. Cover with a paper towel to reduce the risk of the butter popping and making a mess in your microwave.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken thighs. I like to turn the thighs in the sauce to make sure they are evenly coated ending with the top side up.
- Bake uncovered for 30 – 35 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer reads 165˚F at the thickest part of the meat.
- Allow to rest 5 minutes.