Crispy Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs
These Crispy Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs are out of this world delicious yet simple. Thanks to a quick lemon chicken marinade, whether you roast, bake, pan-fry, or air fry, these lemon chicken thighs always turn out crispy, juicy, and lemony-delicious! With 3 ingredients only, they make the best easy chicken recipe for dinner!
Sometimes the simplest ingredients make the most flavorful meals and today’s Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs are one of those dishes. Just look at that golden crispy skin with charred lemon…I can’t believe how good this dish turns out every single time with so few ingredients – chicken, lemon, and thyme.
Bone-in or Boneless Chicken Thighs?
In short, boneless chicken thighs BUT ideally with skin-on. Before you turn your head wondering why not use bone-in chicken thighs that already come with the skin, let me explain.
- We want to make the chicken thighs in even thickness so that they are cooked evenly and quickly.
- Ideally, the chicken tastes the best with skin-on. When the fat is rendered in a hot skillet, charred with lemon and thyme, it makes the best lemon chicken sauce.
You can, of course, make the lemon thyme chicken with skinless and boneless chicken thighs and I have instructions for that but I want you to experience the best so if you are willing to set a little time aside during meal prep, below are some tips on how to remove the chicken thigh bones.
How to remove the chicken thigh bones
1. Use a small but sharp paring knife, with one hand holding the knife and the other hand holding the bone, carefully make a small incision cut along the chicken thigh bone.
2. Slowly and carefully cut along the bone to separate the leg bone and the meat. Pull the bone in upward and frontward directions a few times to help separate the meat and the bone.
3. Do shallow criss-cross cut over the thicker parts of the chicken thigh (i.e. the thick muscles). Carefully not to cut it too deep or the meat will separate from the skin.
4. The shallow criss-cross cut will break-up the thick muscle tendon and allow the chicken to soak up the marinate evenly. The chicken will brown evenly in a skillet or an oven.
Why use deboned chicken thighs with skin-on
In short, the chicken will be the most tasty. You get the crisp shattering skin and the juicy thighs. It’s the best thing in the world! Also, the chicken is seasoned and cooked evenly. Every bite is full of flavor not just the outside.
My air fried lemon chicken bites, Chicken thighs with collard green wraps, and Honey Sriracha Chicken all use deboned chicken. 🙂
Simple Lemon Chicken Marinade with Thyme
The chicken thighs burst with flavor thanks to a quick lemon chicken marinade. If you are making this dish the same day, simply marinate the chicken with lemon juice and a few sprigs of fresh thyme for 15 minutes.
If preparing it for meal prep, I recommend that you store the marinated chicken in a large freezer friendly bag, squeeze out the air and store it flat in the freezer. Defrost a night before with a tray underneath.
I do not recommend marinating the chicken over 24 hours in the fridge because the lemon flavor will turn too sour.
Bake/Roast, Pan-Fry, or Air Fry Chicken Thighs (Pros & Cons)
I have made this lemon thyme chicken recipe numerous times with oven, stovetop, and air-fryer. I will share my thoughts here.
For the best crispy chicken thighs, pan-fried over a stovetop is the best. The direct heat from a hot stove really helps crisp up the skin fast. This method also renders the most fat that you can use it to make lemon thyme chicken sauce. However, it does create quite a mess because of the splatter so I recommend using a splatter guard.
Oven and air-fryer methods both create less mess in the kitchen and prevent oil splatter. It also frees up your hands so you can move on to do something else. However, both methods give you the least amount of chicken fat and juice, collected in the baking tray. I have a workaround method listed in the recipe card.
Air fried chicken thighs produce crisper texture than the oven method, however, if you are making this lemon thyme chicken dish in the winter, the oven method will warm up your house nicely.
Lemon Thyme Sauce for Chicken (low carb, flourless)
Just before serving, we make a quick lemon thyme sauce with the chicken fat, lemon slices, and a few sprigs of thyme. As the lemon and thyme warms up in the oil and juice, they make the best low carb lemon thyme sauce for chicken. No need to use flour!
How long to bake boneless chicken thighs
For boneless chicken thighs with skin-on, bake at 425F for 20 minutes then turn high broil for 3 minutes. For boneless and skinless chicken thighs, bake at 425F for 20 minutes then turn high broil for 1-2 minutes.
What to serve with Lemon Thyme Chicken?
- Easy 2-ingredient Sautéed Cabbage
- Chinese Broccoli with Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
- Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry with Garlic Sauce
- Broccoli noodle salad (gluten-free)
- Easy Bok Choy Salad
- Steamed Bok Choy Dim Sum
- Chinese Sautéed Cabbage
- Instant Pot Cabbage Soup
More Paleo Chicken Recipes
- Chinese Chicken Cabbage Salad
- Japanese Roasted Lemon Chicken
- Turmeric Chicken Thighs
- Instant Pot Butter Chicken
- Healthy Chicken and Broccoli
- More easy paleo dinner recipes
- Paleo Asian soup recipes
Whether you roast, air-fry, or pan-fry, this lemon thyme chicken thighs recipe is truly a timeless dish for healthy living that will never go out of style and will always be your family’s’ favorite. The lemon chicken marinade is super simple yet versatile. In the recipe instructions below, I show you how to adjust the quantity for a quick 15-minute marinate or for freezer meal prep. Just remember, you can use skinless and boneless chicken thighs if you are in a hurry. You can also use my preferred method – boneless chicken thighs with skin on – which will land you the most crispy and satisfying bite!
Please note that I do not count oil, salt, pepper, or stock as part of the ingredients because they are basic pantry essentials. The goal is to keep the list minimum and I hope to inspire you to make delicious meals at home.:)
Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs (Paleo, Whole30, Keto)
- 1.75 lbs chicken thighs (about 4 pieces), boneless and skin-on preferred, see notes
- Coarse sea salt, sprinkle
- Ground black pepper, sprinkle
- One whole lemon, see notes
- 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil, or more
- 1/4 cup Chicken stock, if use oven or airfryer method
Lemon Thyme Chicken Prep:
- Debone the chicken thighs. Season both sides with salt and pepper. If you aren't sure how to debone, check out this story. If making this dish right away, marinate the chicken, skin side up, with half of one whole lemon juice and 2-3 sprigs of thyme for 15 minutes.
Pan-fry, Roast, or Ari-fry:
- If using stovetop: In a large well-heated skillet, add 1 tbsp oil. Lightly drip off the marinade, be careful the splatter. Place the chicken skin side down. Pan fry over medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes. Use a splatter guard.
- Cook the flip side (now skin side up) for about 4 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. If using skinless chicken thighs, reduce the cook time by 1 minute less per side.
- If using oven: Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place a baking rack on top. Lightly spray or brush oil over the rack. Place the chicken skin side up on the rack and bake for 20 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and the meat is cooked through. Then, set the oven to high broil and broil for 3 minutes to give a nice golden color. If using skinless chicken thighs, broil on high broil for only 1 to 2 minutes.
- If using air-fryer: Spray or brush oil over the basket rack, place the chicken skin side down. Air fry at 400F for 10 minutes then flip to air fry the second side (now skin side up) for 10 additional minutes at the same temperature. The chicken should be cooked through.
Lemon Thyme Chicken Juice:
- For stovetop: With chicken in the skillet and while the skillet is still hot, add 4 slices of lemon and the rest of thyme to the skillet. Lower the heat to medium and cover with a lid to steam for 30 seconds. The lemon should be slightly charred and there should be a few tablespoons of pan juices that’s just enough to drizzle over the chicken. Serve them over a large serving tray with charred lemon and drizzle the pan juices over. Serve hot.
- For oven and air fryer: Once the chicken thighs are out of the oven/fryer, set the chicken aside over a large serving tray, cover to keep warm. Collect as much juice and oil as you can from the bottom of the baking tray/basket. Add it to a skillet and warm it over medium heat with 4 lemon slices and the rest of the thyme. You may need to add a bit more chicken stock or olive oil if not enough chicken juice. The lemon should be slightly charred and there should be a few tablespoons of pan juices that’s just enough to drizzle over the chicken. Serve hot.
- If in a hurry, use skinless and boneless chicken thighs. If use skin-on chicken thighs with leg bone, please scroll up to the post to see step-by-step photos and instructions on how to remove the bone or check out this story.
- If marinating the chicken for meal prep, use a little more than a quarter of one whole lemon juice and store them in a large freezer friendly bag with thyme, squeeze out the air and store it flat in the freezer. Defrost a night before with a tray underneath.
- I do not recommend marinating the chicken over 24 hours in the fridge because the lemon flavor will turn too sour.
- The nutritional label is calculated with skin-on and boneless chicken thighs for 2 pieces quantity.