Thai Grilled Chicken: Lemongrass Grilled Chicken (ไก่ย่างตะไคร้)

Thai grilled Chicken by
Now that the basics have already been addressed, let’s dive into the first recipe of our Thai Grilled Chicken: The Heroine Upstaged by Her Sidekick series: my mother’s lemongrass grilled chicken. This grilled chicken is not made according to any regional tradition or restaurant (though fans of Sirichai Kai Yang in Bangkok would probably see some resemblance).

The chicken is seasoned with the basic Thai marinade with the Thai aromatic ‘trinity’ at its core. Fresh lemongrass provides additional herbal flavor. It’s a very simple recipe which, according to her notes, Mom had used since 1979.

A few remarks before we begin:
1. Use fresh lemongrass. Slice off the leafy part and the root end. Remove the tough outer layers until you see the smooth, pale inner core. Slice the stalk as thinly as possible, starting from the root end until the purple rings disappear. Throw the rest away (it’s just roughage with not much essential oil) or save it for an infusion soup such as tom yam or tom kha.
2. From my experience, the smaller the chicken, the better the result. A chicken weighing between 2.5-3 pounds is best. A large roaster is not a good choice (doubling the marinade to accommodate a larger chicken does not work very well). If you can’t find a small chicken, use two Cornish game hens, weighing about 1.5 pounds each.
3. To gild the lily (I’ve done that with the grilled chicken you see here), slice up two additional stalks of lemongrass (following the same instructions in #1) and fry it over low heat in 3/4 cup vegetable oil until the lemongrass slices are crispy and golden brown. Strain out and discard the lemongrass. Use the lemongrass-infused oil to brush the chicken while it’s grilling.

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Thai Grilled Chicken: Lemongrass Grilled Chicken (ไก่ย่างตะไคร้)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 4
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, trimmed and slice thinly
  • 5 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons white peppercorns
  • 2 cilantro roots or 2 tablespoons finely-chopped cilantro stems
  • One chicken (weighing 2.5-3 pounds), spatchcocked and halved
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons packed grated palm sugar or 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  1. Make a fine paste out of the sliced lemongrass, garlic, peppercorns, cilantro roots using a mortar or a mini-chopper.
  2. Put the chicken in a large mixing bowl and prick it all over with a fork.
  3. Add the aromatic paste to the chicken along with the remaining ingredients. Rub the seasoning into every nook and cranny of the chicken.
  4. Cover and chill for 3-4 hours.
  5. Grill over low heat for about 30-35 minutes until golden brown and juices run clear.

26 Responses to Thai Grilled Chicken: Lemongrass Grilled Chicken (ไก่ย่างตะไคร้)

  1. Peregrining May 31, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    I now know what I am doing this weekend… Lemongrass Grilled Chicken

  2. Tom May 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    I’m filing these terrific posts away until the day when I live someplace I can grill. Although I suspect a lot of these marinades/rubs would work well on a chicken that was spatchcocked and roasted over high heat, no?

    • Leela May 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

      Tom – Moderate heat (325-350F) over longer period of time is better, IMO.

  3. Michael Malone May 31, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    I’m making this lemongrass infused oil as I type !! Putting in four stalks just to give it some extra umph ! Well check back in when the chicken is done this weekend !

    • Michael Malone May 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      One of the main reasons I really want to try your method of making the oil is because I make my own Nam Prik Pao using the garlic and shallots crisping the same way and it’s to DIE for !!! I use it in almost every dish I make now. Total comfort food !!

  4. Amy May 31, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    OOoooh yeaaaah….dinner tomorrow night! 😀

  5. Dany June 1, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    That looks lovely!
    Can it be marinated the day before?

    • Leela June 2, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      Dany – Yep.

  6. Phil June 2, 2013 at 5:12 am #

    Thanks for the idea of the lemongrass. I marinated two 500 gram baby chickens (Australian corn fed free range) yesterday and cooked them slowly on the weber tonight. Super! We had somtam and rice with them. Looking forward to more grilled chicken recipes.

  7. Neven June 3, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Leela, thanks for the recipe! I made this yesterday and everyone loved it. It’s surprisingly easy. Here’s my final result:

    Next time, I think I’ll do chicken pieces instead of whole birds. My grill is gas, so I can’t get very even heat; the bird got a bit charred over the burners. But no one complained since the flavor was out of this world.

  8. Cheryl June 5, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Tom, do yourself a favor and get a Le Creuset Skinny Grill. I think it’s meant to be used with gas, but it’s round and enamel-coated cast iron, so it works great on a flat-top. I absolutely LOVE mine!! And, I live in Florida where I can grill anytime LOL!

    Cheryl 🙂

  9. Roberto June 5, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Looks good 🙂

  10. ding June 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    no grillmarks. did you use indirect heat, on a covered grill? assuming you pulled it out of the chill and let sit till ambient, is 35 minutes at 350 enough for internal temp to reach 165?

    am doing this on sunday. thanks a lot for this new recipe. i’ve been doing my thai style grilled chicken with red curry paste and calamansi.

  11. Teresa June 23, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    I made this tonight and it was Fantastic! I have a Champion 2000 Juicer that can also be used for masticating. I placed the lemon grass, cilantro roots, peppercorns and garlic in it and it ground them up perfectly, better than the food processor and SO much easier that the mortar and pestle. The chicken I used was one 1/2 breast and 4 lbs of large chicken wings. As I said, the result was fantastic. Is there a particular dipping sauce used for this recipe? I’m so enjoying reading your blog and tryig the dishes..Thanks so much!

  12. Jenny July 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Hi Leela
    I have no white pepper corns can I replace them with ground white pepper

    • Leela July 1, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      Jenny – Definitely!

  13. ginger July 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I make this grilled chicken once a week. I’ve tried several ways…Cornish game hens, small whole chicken…spatchcocked & halved, chicken thighs whole, chicken thighs skin removed & bone in then pounded to even consistency. I’ve even marinated overnight. Fast on the grill, juicy and amazing flavor. Thank you!

  14. Laura July 15, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    That is gorgeous!

  15. Arnaud July 17, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Hi Leela,
    do you grill the chicken in oven or on charcoal grill?

  16. Arnaud July 18, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Leela, disregard my previous message. I found the response on the Blog, now I need to find cilantro roots. It looks like we cannot import them anymore in France.

  17. Arnaud July 21, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    I made it yesterday with Som Tam. It was so good, the real taste of Bangkok street food. Everybody loved it. I got cilantro roots from the garden of a chinese colleague, cilantro roots cannot be imported anymore in France (probably another stupid European regulations). I will bring some back from Thailand in August. Since the roots were small I mixed both roots and stems. The heat was too high so I really recommend to put the grill as high as possible and cook the chicken indirectly as recommended by Leela. I didn’t used the lemongrass infused oil, but next time I will for sure. Thank you for this recipe

  18. Ranjani Raj March 21, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    Looks yummy and inviting…


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