Take a trip to the orient with Thai Lemongrass Chicken. One of the most important flavors in Southeast Asian cooking, aromatic lemongrass gives this roast chicken a bright, citrusy flavor with a hint of ginger. Marinate chicken breasts for a few hours or overnight, then roast and serve. Extra chicken makes a great chicken salad.
Lemongrass: An Exotic Grass Used Like an Herb
If you come across lemongrass in the produce department or at an Asian market but did not know what it was, let me encourage you to try it and bring some home. It’s used in soups, stir-fry's, marinades, teas and curries.
Lemongrass is a grass that is used like an herb. It is thin and stiff, kind of spiky, with a scallion-like base. The stalk has layers wrapped around a tight central core. For cooking, use the lower part of the stalk, not the skinny top (if there is one).
How to Buy Lemongrass
Depending on where you buy lemongrass, you may need to start by peeling off a tough layer of the outer grass to get to the paler, softer inside. Some stores do this for you. Some sell it in a more natural state. Buy fresh-looking stalks that are a bit moist, not dried out, yellowed, browned or withered.
Thai Lemongrass Chicken Marinade
For this recipe, I’ve created a quick and easy marinade for the chicken. Combine finely zested lemongrass with ginger, Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce), garlic, shallot, coconut oil and lime juice. I’ve also added the Vietnamese fish sauce, nuoc mam.
If you have never used fish sauce, you will find it in the Asian section of your market and online. If you didn’t grow up with this foundational Asian ingredient, one whif might send you running. It can have a strong fish smell. But don’t let that deter you from using it. It gives great dept of savory flavor to this marinade and does not taste fishy when mixed in.
The brand I buy is Red Boat. It is all natural, does not contain preservatives or MSG, and is first pressed like extra virgin olive oil.
How to Prepare Chicken Breasts
To prepare chicken breasts, trim the side ribs and excess fat, make marinade and combine in a ziploc bag. Marinate over night in the refrigerator if you have time, or at least a few hours. Drain chicken, discard marinade, and roast the chicken.
Zest Versus Chop
Many recipes will tell you to chop lemongrass. It is much easier to use a microplane zester. You get very finely grated lemongrass versus woody chunks. One stalk should give you enough for this recipe, about 3 tablespoons. With the extra stalks, zest finely then freeze. Then it is ready to add to others recipes at a moment’s notice.
More Ideas for Cooking with Lemongrass
- Try adding lemongrass to chicken soup for a fresh, new flavor. Add either the fine zest or try 2″ pieces, crushed first to release the flavor while cooking. Remove pieces before serving.
- Add zest to chicken salad
- Use this marinade for Thai grilled shrimp. Marinate the shrimp 30-45 minutes at room temperature, skewer and grill until done. Serve with rice.
- Add the zest to a ginger stir-fry at the end before serving, along with some chopped fresh cilantro.
- Allow pieces to steep with tea and served either hot or chilled for a refreshing iced tea.
Thai Lemongrass Chicken
- 4 bone-in chicken breasts preferably organic
- 3 tablespoons fine lemongrass zest about 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1 medium shallot chopped fine
- 3 large garlic cloves chopped or zested fine
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium Tamari or coconut aminos for soy-free
- 1 tablespoon agave or use liquid stevia drops
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes if you like heat, optional
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon coconut oil for the pan
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon jarred organic ginger puree or finely zested fresh ginger
- 1 lime juiced
Trim Chicken Breasts
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil. Trim chicken breasts of any little rib bones and any excess fat. For an example of how to prep, see the photo in the post.
- Combine all of the rest of the ingredients (reserving 1 tablespoon oil for the pan) in a bowl or large measuring cup and whisk together. Pour into a zip bag with chicken, squeeze out air and seal. Refrigerate overnight or for 2 hours (as long as you can). Drain and discard marinade. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat a large stainless steel or cast iron fry pan, saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the reserved 2 teaspoons coconut oil to the pan. Sear chicken breasts skin-side down until golden. Turn chicken and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove chicken breasts to the rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until a digital thermometer reaches 160-165 degrees, about 30 minutes depending on your oven.
Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon says
I am always amazed that fish sauce smell so awful, yet tastes so good. Excellent prep pictures and tutorial.