Grilling, Sunday dinner
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Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos

Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos -

Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos

You need a teacher. I can show you the ways of the Dark Side…of the chicken.

As I’ve said many times, I’m a fan of dark meat chicken…and my kids are fans of tacos. 4 It’s a beautiful spring day, and I want to fire up the grill. When I saw the blowout sale on bone-in chicken thighs at my grocery store, I knew what was for dinner. Smoky, spice, and tender roasted chicken, chopped up and wrapped in tortillas.

Now I could start with boneless, skinless chicken thighs – I do that all the time on weeknights – but that’s more of a grilled chicken taco. I want smoky, tender chicken in this taco, so I start with bone-in thighs, and slow roast them on the grill. 5 The first thing I do is pull the skin off of the thighs – it gets in the way of the spice rub and the smoke, and I don’t like the texture of chopped chicken skin in my taco meat.

The thighs are sprinkled with spice rub, and grilled over indirect medium heat, with a couple of good-sized wood chunks. I let them slow roast in the grill for close to an hour – thighs are hard to overcook, and extra time just makes them more tender. In other words, this is the perfect recipe for a spring day, where you can sit on the deck with a tasty beverage and watch the smoke slowly rise from the grill. 6

Recipe: Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos



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Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos

  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 1x


Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos recipe. Bone-in chicken thighs with a spice rub and some smoke – my favorite way to make chicken tacos.


  • 2 fist sized chunks of smoking wood or 2 cups soaked wood chips (I used pecan wood chips, but any smoking wood will do)
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons fine sea salt)
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon (a pinch) ground cloves


  • Tortillas
  • Salsa
  • Diced onion
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Shredded cheese
  • Thin-sliced jalapeños
  • Cilantro leaves


  1. Rub the chicken thighs: Sprinkle a heavy coat of the rub over the chicken thighs. Gently pat the rub to help it stick, and work it into any natural seams in the meat.
  2. Set the grill up for indirect medium heat: Set your grill up for indirect medium heat, 350°F, with a drip pan in the middle of the grill and the fire on the sides. In my kettle grill, I light a chimney starter 3/4 full of coals; when the coals are lit and covered with gray ash, I pour them in two piles on the sides of the grill, with the drip pan in the middle. (If your grill comes with charcoal baskets, use them – they help keep the charcoal piles together.) Then I put on my grill grate and brush it clean.
  3. Grill the chicken thighs: Add the smoking wood to the coals, put the chicken thighs on the grill over indirect heat (that is, on the grate over the drip pan). Cook the chicken with the lid closed as much as possible until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 185°F, about 50 minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter.
  4. Rest, chop, and serve: Let the chicken rest until it is cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Chop the chicken by carefully cutting the bone out of the middle of each thigh, making sure to get the gristle at both knobs of the bone, then slicing the meat lengthwise into strips, then chopping across the strips to rough dice the chicken. (This doesn’t have to be precise – just aim for small, bite sized pieces.) Pour any juices left in the platter over the chopped chicken, then pass the chicken at the table with the accompaniments and let everyone make their own tacos.
  • Category: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Mexican


Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos -

Just a pinch of ground cloves


Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos -

Sprinkled with spices


Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos -

Chicken thighs over indirect medium heat


Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos -



Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos -

Chopping the chicken thighs


Grill Smoked Chicken Thigh Tacos -




  • The accompaniments are just suggestions – anything you like on tacos is fair game (Lettuce! Sour cream! Sliced radishes! Black olives! Hot sauce!)

What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Filed under: Grilling, Sunday dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. I just want to personally thank you for a wonderful recipe! My husband found your website when I was on bedrest with babies #5&6, twins! He fixes this often for us and its an entire family pleaser.

  2. Brian Thomas says

    Hey Mike,

    I do my chicken thighs a little different. I cook mine low and slow in the smoker. Takes a little longer (about 2 hrs cook time) but it’s worth it. As for smoker temp I shoot for anywhere in the 225-275 degree range. A lot of folks insist that you have to get 225 for low & slow but I don’t. If it settles in at 250, that’s fine.

    I aim for 185 cooking temp also. Nice thing about pulled chicken thighs is that it freezes extremely well. Just vacume seal it, put it in the freezer and it will keep for months. Great to have available after weeknight little league and soccer games.

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