Thai Grilled Chicken: Gai Yang

February 28, 2023

Gai yang, or Thai grilled chicken, is one of the tastiest chicken dishes you can grill. My dream vacation would involve visiting Thailand (or Laos, where the meal is known as ping gai) and eating this chicken straight from the grill from a street seller. Until then, you can always make your version of this delicious Thai grilled chicken at home.

Locating fresh lemongrass and a high-quality fish sauce are, fortunately, the most challenging parts of making gai yang. These two main ingredients, cilantro and loads of garlic, give this Thai grilled chicken its trademark aromatic flavor that will rise the noses of hungry visitors at any barbeque (when such things are safe, again!). You must try this grilled chicken if you’re on the fence about trying Thai food.

The chicken must marinate for at least 12 hours, so get started the night before. Nam jim jaew, a delicious dipping sauce, is also included in the recipe.

Pairings for this Chicken in other Thai Cuisines!

Thai chicken is delicious with a side of coconut rice or sticky rice. Pad see ew, pad kee mao (drunken noodles), or these straightforward Thai noodles would all pair well with this recipe. In addition, Sarah’s Thai Green Papaya Salad is a delicious accompaniment.


For the Chicken:

  • 1 stalk of lemongrass (base of stalk, cut into small pieces)
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro (stems and leaves, chopped)
  • 2 shallots (chopped)
  • 8 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. of palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 3/4 tsp. of salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of Thai thin soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. of Thai sweet soy sauce (or black soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp. of fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. of turmeric powder (optional)
  • 1 whole chicken (about 5-6 pounds; 2.2-2.6 kg)

For the Dipping Sauce (Nam Jim Jaew):

  • 1 tbsp. of palm sugar(or light brown sugar; 12g)
  • 1 tbsp. of hot water
  • 1 tbsp. of tamarind paste or concentrate
  • 2 tbsp. of fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp. of toasted sticky rice (ground to a powder, optional)
  • 1 tbsp. of cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. of scallions (chopped)
  • 2 tsp. of dried chili flakes (or fresh Thai chili peppers, optional)


Marinating the Chicken:

  1. In a mortar and pestle, crush the lemongrass, cilantro (coriander), shallots, and garlic. It is also possible to use a food processor at this stage.
  2. Incorporate the sugar, salt, black pepper, Thai soy sauce, fish sauce, and turmeric into the oil (if using). Combine thoroughly by stirring.
  3. Just like they do on the streets of Thailand, you can butterfly or spatchcock a chicken before grilling it. Still, I broke up the chicken into smaller pieces to ensure it would cook evenly. Once the meat is done cooking, I can easily remove it from the grill. Apply the marinade mixture to the chicken and rub it in to cover each piece. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator if possible; cover (for at least 12 hours).
  4. In preparation for grilling the next day, take the chicken out of the fridge 1 to 2 hours beforehand.


  1. Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water by stirring it into a small basin. Reserve the sauce while you combine the remaining ingredients.

Cooking the chicken:

  1. Grill the chicken, basting it occasionally with the leftover marinade. Keep the herbs and marinade paste on the chicken; the herbs will caramelize and provide flavor. To ensure the chicken develops a tasty crust, turn it over and baste it frequently.
  2. Baste the chicken with the remaining marinade during the first half of grilling. There must be enough time to simmer the raw chicken marinade properly.
  3. Toss with coconut rice and nam jim jeaw sauce, then pass lime wedges.
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