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Gai Yang Recipe (Thai Grilled Marinated Chicken)

gai yang recipe

Thai grilled chicken, also known as “Gai Yang” in Thai, is a flavorful and aromatic dish that is popular throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia. Traditionally, this dish is cooked over hot charcoal or wood fire, which imparts a smoky flavor to the chicken. The chicken is usually marinated in a mixture of fish sauce, garlic, coriander root, and other spices before grilling.

In this Gai Yang recipe, we’ll show you how to make Thai grilled chicken in the oven or air fryer using bone-in chicken thighs. This method is a great alternative to the traditional grilling method, especially if you don’t have access to a grill or outdoor space. The chicken is marinated in a flavorful mixture of fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and lemongrass, then roasted in the oven or air fryer until golden brown and crispy.

The Origins of Gai Yang

The Origins of Gai Yang can be traced back to the vibrant streets of Thailand, where locals gather around sizzling grills, eagerly devouring tender and flavorful grilled chicken. This popular dish has become a staple in Thai cuisine, loved by both locals and visitors alike.

Legend has it that Gai Yang originated from the northeastern region of Thailand, known as Isaan (also known as Isan). It was believed to have been influenced by the ancient Lao tradition of grilling meats over an open flame. Over time, this simple cooking technique spread throughout the country and became synonymous with Thai street food culture.

Traditionally, Gai Yang is made using a marinade consisting of garlic, cilantro roots, black pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and palm sugar. The chicken is then marinated for several hours to infuse it with all these delicious flavors before being grilled to perfection.

The result is juicy and succulent chicken with a slightly smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with fragrant jasmine rice or sticky rice. It’s often served alongside a spicy dipping sauce made from bird’s eye chili peppers, lime juice, fish sauce, and garlic.

Today, Gai Yang can be found not only on the bustling streets of Thailand but also in Thai restaurants around the world. Its popularity continues to grow as people fall in love with its tantalizing taste and rich cultural heritage.

Essential Ingredients for a Gai Yang Recipe

One of the key components to creating this delicious dish is ensuring you have the necessary ingredients on hand. To make authentic Gai Yang, Thai grilled chicken, you’ll need a few essential ingredients that bring out the unique flavors and aromas.

First and foremost, you’ll need bone-in chicken pieces such as thighs or drumsticks. These cuts of meat are perfect for grilling as they remain juicy and tender throughout the cooking process.

Next, you’ll need a marinade made from a combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, lemongrass, and lime juice. This flavorful mixture infuses the chicken with its distinctive Thai taste. Additionally, it’s important to include palm sugar in your marinade to add a touch of sweetness that balances out the savory flavors.

To achieve that smoky grilled taste, be sure to have charcoal briquettes ready for your grill along with some pandan leaves or banana leaves for added aroma.

Lastly, don’t forget garnishes like fresh cilantro and lime wedges to enhance the presentation and provide an extra burst of citrus flavor.

Marinating Techniques for Maximum Flavor

To maximize the flavor of this Gai Yang recipe, you’ll want to start by combining the fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, lemongrass, and lime juice in a bowl.

This combination of ingredients creates a delicious marinade that’ll infuse your chicken with incredible taste. Once you’ve mixed all the ingredients together, place your chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over them. Make sure that each piece is well-coated before sealing the bag and placing it in the refrigerator.

Marinating your chicken for at least two hours or overnight will allow the flavors to fully penetrate the meat. The longer you marinate, the more flavorful your gai yang will be. During this time, turn the bag occasionally to ensure even distribution of flavors.

When you’re ready to grill your chicken, remove it from the marinade and let any excess drip off. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grates to prevent sticking. Place your marinated chicken on the grill and cook for about 10-12 minutes per side or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).

Once cooked, let it rest for a few minutes before serving to allow juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Serve with sticky rice and a side of spicy dipping sauce for a truly authentic Thai grilled chicken experience.

Grilling Tips for Perfectly Cooked Chicken

Make sure your grill is preheated to medium-high heat. This will ensure that the chicken cooks evenly and gets those beautiful grill marks.

Next, brush the grill grates with oil to prevent sticking. Now it’s time to place the marinated chicken on the hot grill. Start by searing it for a few minutes on each side to lock in the juices. Then, reduce the heat and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C).

To avoid dryness, baste the chicken with marinade or sauce throughout the cooking process. Remember to use tongs or a spatula instead of piercing it with a fork, as this will help retain its moisture.

Once cooked, let it rest for a few minutes before slicing into it – this will allow all those delicious flavors to settle back into the meat.

Variations of Gai Yang Recipes Across Thailand

Immerse yourself in the diverse flavors of Thailand as you explore the various regional takes on this beloved grilled poultry dish. From north to south, Thailand offers a multitude of variations of Gai Yang that’ll tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.

In the northern region of Thailand, Gai Yang is known for its bold and robust flavors. Here, the chicken’s marinated in a mixture of lemongrass, garlic, and soy sauce before being grilled over an open flame. The result is a smoky and succulent chicken with a hint of tanginess that pairs perfectly with sticky rice.

Head down to the central region, and you’ll find a slightly different take on Gai Yang. Here, the emphasis is on simplicity and freshness. The chicken’s marinated in a mixture of fish sauce, cilantro, and lime juice before being grilled to perfection. The result is a light and zesty chicken that bursts with flavor.

In southern Thailand, Gai Yang takes on a spicy twist. Chili peppers are added to the marinade, giving the chicken a fiery kick that’ll awaken your senses. Paired with cool cucumber salad or sweet chili dipping sauce, this version of Gai Yang isn’t for the faint-hearted.

No matter which region you find yourself in Thailand, one thing remains constant – the love for Gai Yang. So go ahead and indulge in these regional variations as you embark on a culinary adventure through Thailand’s vibrant food culture.

Serving Suggestions and Accompaniments

Enhance your dining experience by exploring the array of delectable side dishes and condiments that perfectly complement this flavorful Gai Yang recipe from Thailand. When it comes to serving Gai Yang, there are plenty of options to choose from that’ll take your taste buds on a journey.

One classic accompaniment is sticky rice, which adds a comforting texture and helps balance out the intense flavors of the grilled chicken. You can also serve Gai Yang with a refreshing papaya salad, known as Som Tum, which provides a spicy and tangy contrast to the smoky flavors of the chicken.

For those who prefer something lighter, a simple cucumber salad can provide a cool and crisp bite that complements the richness of the grilled chicken. Another popular option is to pair Gai Yang with steamed vegetables such as broccoli or bok choy for a healthier twist. The vibrant colors and fresh flavors of these vegetables make for an eye-catching presentation.

When it comes to condiments, don’t forget about dipping sauces! A traditional Thai sweet chili sauce or nam jim jaew (a spicy dipping sauce made with roasted chili flakes) are both excellent choices that add an extra layer of flavor. So go ahead and experiment with different combinations to find your perfect match – whether you prefer something spicy, tangy, or refreshing – there’s no shortage of options when it comes to serving suggestions and accompaniments for Gai Yang!

Exploring Street Food Culture in Thailand

Stepping onto the bustling streets of Thailand, you’ll quickly discover a vibrant and diverse street food culture that tantalizes your taste buds with an array of mouthwatering flavors.

Thailand is renowned for its street food scene, where vendors set up stalls along the roadsides, offering an endless variety of delicious dishes. As you wander through the bustling markets and crowded alleys, the aroma of sizzling meats and fragrant spices fills the air.

When it comes to exploring street food in Thailand, there are countless options to choose from. From savory noodle soups like boat noodles and pad Thai, to crispy spring rolls and flavorful curry dishes, each bite is a culinary adventure waiting to be savored.

However, one dish that stands out among locals and tourists alike is gai yang or Thai grilled chicken.

Gai yang is a popular street food dish made by marinating chicken in a flavorful mixture of lemongrass, garlic, coriander roots, fish sauce, and soy sauce before grilling it over charcoal until perfectly charred and juicy. The result is tender meat with a smoky flavor that pairs wonderfully with sticky rice or som tam (green papaya salad).

Whether enjoyed as a quick snack on-the-go or as part of a leisurely meal at one of the many outdoor dining areas known as ‘food courts,’ exploring street food culture in Thailand will undoubtedly leave you wanting more.

roasted fish in the cooker

Authentic Marinated Thai Grilled Chicken Recipe

While this recipe is not cooked over charcoal, it still delivers the authentic flavors of Thai grilled chicken thanks to the flavorful marinade and high heat cooking. The chicken is juicy, tender, and full of flavor, making it a perfect dish for a weeknight dinner or a weekend barbecue.
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Thai
Servings 4
Calories 250 kcal


  • 1 Mixing bowl to mix together the marinade ingredients
  • 1 Large plastic bag to marinate the chicken
  • 1 Baking sheet to bake the chicken in the oven
  • 1 Tongs to flip the chicken while baking
  • 1 Air fryer to cook the chicken
  • 1 Knife and cutting board to chop the cilantro and green onion
  • 1 set Measuring spoons to measure the ingredients accurately
  • kitchen timer to keep track of the cooking time


  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onion


  • Preheat your oven or air fryer to 375°F (190°C).
  • In a bowl, mix together fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, vegetable oil, minced garlic, minced ginger, chopped cilantro, and chopped green onion.
  • Place chicken thighs in a large plastic bag, and pour the marinade over the chicken. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the chicken.
  • Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours in the fridge.
  • Remove the chicken from the bag and place on a baking sheet (if using an oven), or in the air fryer basket (if using an air fryer).
  • Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is golden brown and crispy.
  • If using an air fryer, cook for 20-25 minutes at 375°F (190°C) or until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is golden brown and crispy.
  • Serve with rice, sticky rice or green salad
Keyword chicken, Thai food

Nam Jim Jaew Recipe (Thai Dipping Sauce)

Gai Yang is often served with a spicy and tangy dipping sauce called “Nam Jim Jaew.” Here is our absolute favorite recipe for Nam Jim Jaew dipping sauce.

nam jaew sauce

Nam Jim Jaew (Thai Dipping Sauce)

Cook Time 15 minutes


  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp roasted chili powder
  • 1 tbsp toasted rice powder
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2-3 bird's eye chilies, finely chopped (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish


  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, roasted chili powder, toasted rice powder, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add in the minced garlic, chopped shallot, and bird's eye chilies (if using). Mix well.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. You can add more lime juice for extra acidity, more sugar for sweetness, or more chili powder for spiciness.
  • Transfer the dipping sauce to a small serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro.
  • Serve the Nam Jim Jaew sauce alongside grilled or roasted meat, such as Thai grilled chicken, as a dipping sauce.


To make the roasted chili powder, toast dried whole red chilies in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant and lightly charred, then grind them into a powder using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. To make the toasted rice powder, toast uncooked sticky rice in a dry pan until lightly browned, then grind it into a powder using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
Keyword Sauce

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use boneless chicken instead of bone-in chicken thighs?

Yes, you can use boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts instead of bone-in chicken thighs. Just adjust the cooking time accordingly as boneless chicken will cook faster.

Can I use a grill instead of an oven or air fryer?

Yes, you can use a grill instead of an oven or air fryer. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and grill the chicken for about 6-7 minutes per side or until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is golden brown and crispy.

How long should I marinate the chicken?

You should marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours in the fridge. The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful and tender it will become.

Can I make the marinade in advance?

Yes, you can make the marinade in advance and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. Just be sure to whisk it together before using to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Can I use other herbs instead of cilantro?

Yes, you can use other herbs such as basil, mint, or parsley if you prefer or if cilantro is not available.

Can I double the recipe for a larger batch?

Yes, you can double or triple the recipe for a larger batch, but make sure to use a larger mixing bowl and baking sheet or air fryer basket to accommodate the additional chicken.

Can I serve the Thai grilled chicken with other sides or sauces?

Yes, you can serve the chicken with steamed rice, vegetables, or a dipping sauce such as sweet chili sauce or peanut sauce.

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My name is Mint. I am a Thai girl who loves to cook and share my Thai food with everyone! Learn more about me here.

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