This Korean Honey Sesame Grilled Chicken has a delicious, sweet, sticky glaze with a touch of heat. It’s easy to put together and is a universal crowd pleaser!
I’ve been working on this Korean Honey Sesame Grilled Chicken for the past month. There were a number of renditions, but last week I was finally satisfied and served it at a family get-together.
Goodness! I thought I’d prepared plenty, but it was quickly devoured and there were sad faces when the platter was empty. From the very youngest to the oldest (Scott and me), this chicken was a huge hit! I guess the moral of the story is this: if you’re serving this grilled chicken to guests, learn from me and make more than you think you need!
Two layers of fabulous flavor
The recipe is pretty straight forward. Make a simple rub with sweet paprika, garlic salt, olive oil and a pinch of sugar. Coat the chicken with the rub before grilling. I like to do this a few hours in advance but, sometimes I’ve been in a hurry and even 30 minutes marinating time produced delicious results!
The second layer of incredible flavor comes from the Korean-inspired glaze. Simply combine soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, Korean Gochujang (more about this condiment in the Café Tips below), fresh ginger, sesame oil, garlic and sesame seeds. Stir it all together and bring the mixture to a boil till it’s thick and fragrant.
Fire up the grill and start cooking. When the first side is nicely golden (just 3-4 minutes), flip each thigh and start brushing on the sweet, spicy glaze. You’ll flip the chicken a few more times, layering on the glaze until it takes on a gorgeous, deep mahogany hue.
Because this recipe is made with chicken thighs, you can let the sweet and spicy, Korean-inspired glaze get charred here and there, which adds incredible flavor yet the meat stays tender and juicy. I don’t recommend using chicken breast for this Korean Honey Sesame Grilled Chicken as it’s too lean. By the time it would get nicely charred it would also be (not so nicely) dried out. If you’re a true-blue chicken breast only person (I used to be), I encourage you to give this recipe a try with thighs. I’m pretty sure you’ll be won over!
Options for serving
My favorite way to serve this Korean Honey Sesame Grilled Chicken is in a rice (or noodle) bowl. If there are just a few of us, I like to make the bowls as shown in the picture above, but if there’s a crowd. I just present all the components in bowls or platters on my kitchen island and let everyone make their own.
For the photoshoot (and our lunch that day) I used pickled red onions, freshly sliced cucumbers and lightly steamed fresh corn but feel free to use whatever vegetables are fresh and in season. Snow peas, sugar snap peas, bok choy, lightly steamed broccoli or broccolini are all delicious. These Honey Ginger Charred Carrots would also make a fabulous side. I always like to include some scallions, sliced on a long diagonal, for presentation and that “Korean” look.
If I’m serving the chicken in rice bowls, I like to make a double portion of the glaze and serve it alongside as a sauce to drizzle over everything.
I’ve also served this grilled chicken in a salad with mixed greens or romaine, sliced cucumbers, diced mangos, a light Asian dressing, topped with toasted sliced almonds. Delicious! And leftovers (if you have any), sliced thin, make a wonderful Korean-inspired sandwich, roll up or quesadilla! So many options!
So there you have it… put this Korean Honey Sesame Grilled Chicken on your menu soon. And make plenty! It will be like my candy dishes when the grandchildren arrive. Almost before I can blink, there’s nary a Jelly Belly or Skittle to be found!
Café Tips for making this Korean Honey Sesame Grilled Chicken
- The glaze for this grilled chicken includes hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce is a common Asian condiment and is sometimes called Chinese barbecue sauce. It’s made from mashed soybeans and generally also includes sugar, sesame seeds, vinegar, salt, garlic, chili peppers. I love having hoisin sauce on hand as it can be used to add a delicious, complex layer of flavor to sauces and glazes. You can find hoisin sauce at almost any larger grocery store in the Asian aisle.
- Another ingredient flavor booster in this sauce is Gochujang. “Gochujang (according to Bon Appétit), a fundamental ingredient in Korean cooking, is a thick and spicy-sweet crimson paste made from red chile pepper flakes, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt.” Gochujang has become very popular over the past few years and most mainstay grocery stores now carry it in the Asian aisle.
- I recommend starting with 1½ tablespoons of the Gochujang in this recipe. After the sauce has simmered, taste it. If you like more heat, add extra, a tablespoon at a time. Keep in mind that it won’t taste as spicy when glazed on the chicken.
- Grainy mustard might sound strange in an Asian recipe, but it adds a really nice layer of flavor in addition to some fun texture. You can find grainy mustard at any grocery store with the other mustards. I love the Whole Grain Dijon at Trader Joe’s.
- Be sure to use low sodium soy sauce for this Korean Honey Sesame Grilled Chicken. If you use regular soy sauce, when the glaze is simmered down, it will get too salty.
- Call me a cheat, but I always keep a tube of ginger paste in my refrigerator or freezer. It’s a wonderful fresh ginger convenience item that saves a lot of time and/or a trip to the store for ginger. It will keep well for a week to ten days in the refrigerator and indefinitely in the freezer. When it’s frozen, it only takes 5-10 minutes to thaw enough to squeeze out what I need. (This is not a sponsored post, I just love this stuff so much!) This same company also carries garlic and lemongrass which are really nice to have on hand, as well. These pastes are sold in the produce section of many larger grocery stores including Super Walmarts and Targets.
- As mentioned above, if serving this chicken in rice bowls, I like to double the glaze/sauce to serve on the side. If you double the sauce, it will take a few extra minutes to cook and thicken.
Thought for the day:
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139 9&10
What we’re listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
- 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1½-3 tablespoons Korean Gochujang start with 1½, add more, to taste
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 ½ tablespoon grainy mustard
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds more for garnish, if desired
- 2 pounds trimmed boneless. skinless chicken thighs
Combine olive oil, paprika, garlic salt, and sugar in a medium size bowl. Stir well to combine then add the chicken and turn several times to coat. I like to use my hands to massage the rub into the chicken.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours.
Combine all ingredients in a medium-size sauce pan and stir well. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 -7 minutes, until sauce thickens and is reduced by about one half. (Maintain a steady, medium boil but reduce the heat a bit if the mixture boils up too high.) Taste and if you’d like it a little spicier, add another tablespoon of Gochujang. Repeat to taste. Set aside to cool down.
Heat a grill to high (500-600˚F). Clean and oil the grates.
Place the chicken on the grill; cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side, or until golden brown. Flip to the opposite side and brush the cooked side with some of the glaze. Grill the second side for 3-4 minutes then flip and brush with the glaze. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes more on each side, brushing with the glaze after flipping until the chicken is browned and nicely charred in spots.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Serve any extra sauce with the chicken.
See Café Tips for further instructions and more detailed tips.
See the post for options on how to serve this chicken.
This recipe should serve six, but my family eats it like candy and we probably get 3-4 servings.
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