This Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken recipe is made with the best citrusy lemongrass marinade, and can be grilled, baked or sautéed.
New favorite marinade alert!
We’ve been on a major Vietnamese food kick lately, trying to master some of our favorite dishes here at home (especially since good Vietnamese is hard to find here in Barcelona). And I have to say that our most recent attempt mayyy have even better than the restaurant version that inspired it — lemongrass chicken! Or, if you’re not into chicken, this marinade could just as easily be used to make lemongrass beef, pork, shrimp, scallops, fish, roasted veggies and more.
Basically, this marinade is going to make you want to lemongrass everything. ♡
Fresh lemongrass, with its signature delicate, tangy, lemony, minty, slightly-gingery flavor, is the starring ingredient here and somehow transforms a simple garlic-soy marinade into one that tastes fabulously fresh and light. And once it’s paired with lightly-charred juicy chicken — either grilled, baked or sautéed — I’m telling you, this slightly-sweet, savory, citrusy combo is downright irresistible.
Bonus? I’ve saved us a bunch of chopping with this recipe and in favor of just blitzing the marinade ingredients together in the blender, making this recipe a bit quicker and easier to prepare. And I can vouch that the lemongrass marinade recipe also holds up well in the fridge for a few days if you would like to prep it in advance. (Or do what I do and make a double batch of the marinade, so that you can have it again for dinner later in the week!) Once you do cook up the lemongrass chicken itself, it can be served with everything from rice to rice noodles, salad, veggies and more. And of course, makes for fantastic leftovers itself.
If you’re new to working with lemongrass, don’t worry — it’s a really simple ingredient to use and I will walk you through everything you need to know. So scout out a few stalks the next time you’re at the grocery store, and let’s make some lemongrass chicken together!
Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Ingredients:
Alright, let’s make our shopping list! To make this Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken recipe, you will need…
Chicken: I’ve written the recipe using boneless chicken breasts or thighs. But really, this marinade will work with any cut of chicken (or even pork, beef, shrimp, tofu, etc).
Lime juice: We will use some in our marinade, but I also recommend squeezing some fresh lime juice onto the cooked chicken just before serving.
Fish sauce: Smells stinky when you’re prepping the marinade, I know. But trust me, it’s the ingredient that pulls this marinade together and will taste great in the end. (My two favorite brands are Red Boat and Three Crabs.)
Sweetener: Brown sugar (or white granulated or coconut sugar) is more traditionally used for lemongrass chicken. But I like to use maple syrup as a more natural alternative.
Soy-sauce: I always use low-sodium, but any soy sauce will work.
Oil: Any neutral-flavored oil, such as avocado oil or olive oil, will work.
Garlic: Lotsa fresh garlic!
Shallot: One medium shallot, or half of a small red onion.
Lemongrass: This recipe calls for two large stalks. But if you’re new to working with lemongrass — heads up — we won’t use the entire stalks! Instead, pull off the reedy outer few leaves until you reach the more tender leaves on the inside. Then roughly dice just the white parts of the lemongrass, usually the bottom (white) 1/3 or so of the stalk.
Also, just a note on shopping for lemongrass! It’s pretty widely available now at most grocery stores in the States (it’s usually in the refrigerated produce section). But if your store does not happen to carry it, check and see if they have tubes of fresh lemongrass paste available, which you are welcome to use instead (see notes below). Or if your store does not carry either, you should be able to find fresh lemongrass at your local Asian market.
How To Make Lemongrass Chicken:
To make this lemongrass chicken recipe, simply…
Make the marinade. I like to just toss all of the marinade ingredients into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. But that said, if you would like to make the marinade by hand, you can finely dice the garlic/shallot/lemongrass by and then whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Up to you!
Marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, if you are cooking it on skewers as I have photographed here. Or if using whole breasts or thighs, use a meat mallet to pound the chicken to even thickness. Then toss the chicken with the marinade in a large bowl until evenly coated, and let the chicken rest for about 30 minutes.
Cook. Once the chicken is all marinated and ready to go, grill, bake or sauté the chicken until cooked through. (See more detailed instructions below.) Let the chicken rest for 3-5 minutes afterwards, before serving.
Serve. Then serve it nice and warm, garnished with green onions plus an extra squeeze or two of lime juice. Delicious!
See below for the full detailed recipe!
Want to mix things up with this recipe? Feel free to…
Add ginger: If you have some ginger powder on hand, add 1/2 teaspoon into the marinade for extra flavor.
Make it spicy: If you would like to kick things up a spicy notch, feel free to toss a few slices of Thai red bird chiles or a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes into the marinade.
Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce.
Use a different cut of chicken: As mentioned above, I wrote this recipe using boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs. But this recipe would work well with just about any cut of chicken that you prefer. Also, feel free to leave the chicken breasts or thighs whole (instead of cutting them into bite-sized pieces for kabobs or sautéing) if you prefer.
Use a different protein: Beef, pork, shrimp or tofu would all taste delicious with this marinade too!
2 tablespoons avocado oil (or any neutral-flavored oil)
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
4 small garlic cloves
2 stalks lemongrass, tender white parts only, roughly chopped (see below)
1 medium shallot, peeled and halved (or half of a small red onion)
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, maple syrup, oil, soy sauce, black pepper, garlic, lemongrass and shallot in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.
Combine the chicken and marinade in a large bowl. Toss until the chicken is evenly coated. Cover the bowl and let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. (If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes before using.) Thread the chicken evenly onto the skewers.
Once the grill is hot, place the chicken kabobs evenly on the grill. Cook for 10-14 minutes, turning once halfway through, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through (no longer pink on the inside).
Transfer the kabobs to a clean plate, and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for at least 5-10 minutes.
Then serve warm while the chicken is hot and juicy, sprinkled with an extra squeeze of fresh lime juice (plus some thinly-sliced green onions) if desired. Or, refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
*Lemongrass: To properly cut lemongrass, first pull off the reedy outer few leaves until you reach the more tender leaves on the inside. Then roughly dice just the white parts of the lemongrass, usually the bottom (white) 1/3 or so of the stalk. (If you cannot find fresh lemongrass, you can substitute in 3 or so tablespoons of fresh lemongrass paste.)
*Grill pan or sauté method: If you would like to cook this lemongrass chicken recipe inside on the stovetop, you can cook the skewers in a grill pan over medium-high heat (drizzle a bit of oil on it first) for about 5-6 minutes per side, until the chicken is charred and cooked through. Or you can cook the chicken in a large sauté pan (without the skewers, also drizzling a bit of oil in the pan first) for about 7-10 minutes, stirring and flipping occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.