Honey Chipotle Chicken
Have mercy! Honey Chipotle Chicken is a little sweet, a little smoky, and extremely delicious. Marinate the chicken ahead of time, then grill or cook on the stove-top for an easy yet irresistible meal. Perfect to prep for busy nights or to spice up your BBQ menu (literally!).
Sweet honey and smoky chipotle are a flavor match made in heaven. Combine the two into a beautiful, rich, red-gold BBQ sauce and you have the stuff of mealtime magic.
The effort-to-reward ratio on this recipe is extremely favorable. You’ll blend up a luscious sauce – pause to admire that it’s the color of a southwestern sunset – pour it over some unassuming chicken breasts, and let it do all the work while you move on with your day. When you’re ready to cook, the chicken will tenderized, juicy, and absolutely packed with flavor.
Ingredients & Common Substitutions
As you’ve probably gathered, the secret here is most definitely in the sauce, which is easy to make and doubles as a marinade and glaze. Here’s everything you will need:
- Chicken: I usually make this with boneless, skinless chicken breast. You can easily swap in chicken thighs or drumsticks; simply plan for a longer cooking time.
- Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce: These usually can be found in a small can; look in the Mexican food section in your grocery store. Add more to amp up the spice, or use less — just one chile, or no chiles and just a bit of the sauce — to make the chicken more mild.
- Honey: Any regular honey will work!
- Brown sugar: Light or dark, your choice.
- Dijon mustard: Either a whole-grain or smooth Dijon works beautifully, so use whatever you keep on hand.
- Olive oil: Avocado oil is a good sub.
- Lime juice.
- Garlic: About 10 cloves, peeled and whole – no need to chop!
- Cumin: Everything good has cumin, I swear!
- Kosher salt & fresh-cracked black pepper.
- Optionally, fresh cilantro and lime wedges: To garnish the serving plate.
How To Make It
- Blend all the sauce ingredients together until smooth.
- Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, place in a prep bowl, and pour just enough of the sauce on top to generously cover all pieces. Cover the bowl, transfer to the refrigerator, and let marinate for as little as 2 or as long as 24 hours. The flavors will simply intensify with more time.
- Transfer the remainder of the sauce to a small jar or measuring cup, cover, and store that in the refrigerator, as well, to use later as BBQ sauce.
- When ready to eat, remove the bowl from the fridge, discard the marinade, and cook the chicken over medium-high heat on the grill or in a skillet, brushing on the reserved sauce.
Can I adjust the heat level?
There are two main ways to adjust this recipe to your family’s preferred level of heat.
- Add more or less chipotle chiles to the sauce: to make it more mild, add just one chile, add one chile but scrape out the seeds, or skip the chiles entirely and just add the adobo sauce.
- Adjust the length of time that the chicken marinates — more time in the sauce=more intense spice and smoky flavor.
What’s the easiest way to tell when chicken is cooked?
Chicken is cooked when fully white and opaque throughout — there should be no pink or translucent parts remaining.
Of course you can test this visually by cutting into a piece at its thickest part, but it’s much easier and less messy to use an instant read thermometer. Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, according to the USDA. Using an instant read thermometer to identify this point removes all the guesswork, and significantly reduces the odds of overcooking the chicken, which will make it dry.
This summer we’ve also been loving this wireless grill thermometer, so we don’t need to constantly hover over meats on the grill, either, and still get perfect results every time!
What To Serve With Honey Chipotle Chicken
This definitely has some kick to it, so I like serving it alongside a simple side. Roasted sweet potatoes with honey butter, sweet potato fries, or this lemony herb potato salad are delicious, as is a simple spinach salad with nectarines or these easy vegetarian baked beans.
This chicken is one of my favorite dishes to make for a crowd in the summer, because it’s very easy to prep completely ahead of time and feels kind of special and unique coming off of the grill. Plus it reheats beautifully, so I never mind if we have extra for lunches throughout the week!
If you try this Honey Chipotle Chicken, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Honey Chipotle BBQ Chicken
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1-2 whole chipotle chiles plus 1/4 cup adobo sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 10 garlic cloves peeled and whole
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- juice of 2 limes
- 1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- kosher salt and black pepper
- fresh chopped cilantro optional, for serving
- First, make the sauce: Combine olive oil, chiles, adobo sauce, honey, mustard, brown sugar, garlic, cumin, and lime juice in a blender or food processor. Blend on high speed until smooth.
- Prep the chicken: Place chicken breasts in a large bowl, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, then pour enough of the sauce over the chicken to generously coat each piece. Turn each piece of chicken to ensure it's fully covered. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24. Transfer remaining sauce to a jar or bowl, cover, and store that in the refrigerator, as well.
- Grill: When ready, remove chicken and reserved sauce from the fridge. Discard the sauce in which the chicken was marinating. Preheat your grill to medium-high, and cook chicken for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through, and basting occasionally with the reserved sauce. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve, sprinkled with cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!
- If making this chicken indoors, lightly coat a large grill pan or cast iron skillet with additional olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add the marinated chicken pieces, and cook as directed, turning and basting occasionally.
- Feel free to substitute chicken thighs if you prefer, just adjust the cooking time so that the chicken still reaches a temperature of 165.
- As written, with 1 or 2 whole chipotle chiles plus the adobo sauce, this chicken will definitely have some kick! If you don’t love heat, or are cooking for others who might not love it, suggest scaling back to 1 chipotle and 1-2 tablespoons adobo sauce. You can also cut open the chiles and scoop out the seeds to reduce the heat, though this will take an extra minute or two!
This post was originally published July 19, 2019, and has been updated with new photos and more helpful answers to questions throughout the post text.