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Pan-roasted lemon chicken thighs are super-juicy and so delicious! This easy recipe cooks in one skillet with a garlicky olive-oil and lemon marinade. Serve this as a simple dinner with a side of pasta, potatoes or a salad.
Crisp, browned and tangy chicken thighs cook up in no time in a lemon-rosemary chicken thigh marinade. With chicken this good it’s hard to save any for leftovers!
Cooking chicken thighs
Chicken thighs can be the perfect blank canvas — sort of like a one-meat-fits-all — whether they’re boneless and skinless or juicy bone-in chicken thighs. The dark meat cooks quickly and play well in chicken recipes using ingredients that come out of a well-stocked pantry.
That means you can make a quick weeknight chicken dinner by seasoning chicken thighs with a staggering variety of herbs and fragrant spices, and other staples like canned tomatoes, harissa chickpeas and coconut milk.
They’re a lot like chicken breasts that way, but thighs deliver much more chicken-ness and don’t become dry and boring if you bake them or pan-fry.
Ingredients in lemon chicken thighs
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs: You can also use bone-in chicken thighs. Double the cooking time on top of the stove (see the recipe for more notes.)
- Grated lemon zest
- Fresh lemon juice: Depending on how juicy your lemons are, you’ll need about 2 lemons.
- Fresh herbs: Fresh rosemary freshens up a the classic flavors of lemon chicken. Use any sturdy aromatic herb like oregano, marjoram or fresh thyme.
- Chili: Crushed red pepper adds more pronounced heat, while Maras or Aleppe pepper — a type of Turkish chili pepper — has a medium-warm heat level and a sweet complexity compared to the crushed chili flakes. You can just use one or the other if you like.
- Garlic: You’ll need 1-2 fresh garlic cloves, enough to make about 1 tablespoon grated or finely chopped.
- Extra virgin olive oil
The acid in lemon juice acts as a tenderizer when combined with raw chicken meat. Lemon breaks down muscle tissue and helps it stay moist and tender when it’s cooked.
Whole chicken pieces can safely marinate up to 8 hours before cooking. Any longer than that and the meat will begin to break down and become mushy. A 30-minute marination is ideal for boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
Cooking steps for lemon chicken thighs
- In this chicken thigh recipe, the meat cooks on top of the stove for a few minutes until golden on one side. To finish cooking, slide the pan under a hot broiler to crisp it up.
- The lemony marinade doubles as a savory pan sauce to pour over the meat.
Serving the chicken
- Serve the chicken on a platter with simple side dishes alongside, like sautéed broccoli and some grilled crusty bread to enjoy all those juices!
Pan-Roasted Lemon Chicken Thighs with Rosemary
- 1-2 lemons
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground Aleppo chili pepper , or ½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, to taste
- ½ teaspoon crumbled red chili
- 1-2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons chopped aromatic fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, marjoram or oregano
- 1 ¾ pounds (800 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 6 pieces
- Grate the zest of the whole lemon into a large bowl, then slice it in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl (You should have enough juice to make a ¼ cup. If not, squeeze in half of a second lemon). Slice the remaining ½ lemon into thin half moons, then set them aside.
- Add the salt, olive oil, chili pepper, garlic and herbs to the bowl and whisk together. Put the chicken in the bowl, turning the pieces around to coat in the marinade. At this point you can cook the chicken right away. Otherwise marinate 15-30 minutes or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
- Arrange oven rack six inches from heat source and preheat the broiler.
- Heat a 12-inch cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet large enough to hold the chicken without crowding, over medium-high heat on the stovetop. When the pan is hot, drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the chicken pieces to the pan, reserving the marinade.
- Cook 5-7 minutes, or until the chicken begins to brown. Take the pan off the heat and turn the chicken pieces over. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken, tuck the lemon slices in and around the pan and place under the broiler. Cook until the chicken is firm and golden and lemon slices begin to brown, about 5 more minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and pour the pan juices over. Garnish the dish with fresh herb sprigs, if desired.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Maras or Aleppe pepper is a type of Turkish chili pepper that has a medium-warm heat level and a sweet complexity. You can substitute with about half the amount of crushed red pepper.
- Cook the chicken thighs immediately if you’re in a hurry. Otherwise, marinate 15-30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 8 hours ahead. Lemon juice can make the chicken mushy and stringy with a longer marination.
- If cooking bone-in chicken thighs, brown the chicken skin-side down as directed, then adjust the heat to medium, and turn them over. Continue cooking them on the stovetop an additional 10-12 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (not the bone) reads 145-155F before placing under the broiler to brown the skin and finish cooking (165-175F).