Grilled Chicken Thighs with Spiced Cauliflower Steaks

Learn the secret to grilled chicken thighs that are lightly charred on the outside and moist on the inside.

grilled chicken thighs and grilled cauliflower steaks with fresh cilantro on a black plate
Sabrina Tillman
— Signos
Health & Fitness Writer
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Reviewed by

Sabrina Tillman
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

July 18, 2024
August 10, 2021
— Updated:
June 25, 2021
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Table of Contents

A cherished summer pastime, grilling outdoors adds smokiness and char to food that you can’t get from other cooking methods. Flame-grilled hatch marks make steaks, weepy peaches, portobello mushrooms, and more enticing to the eyes.

Grilling can intimidate some, as exposure to too-hot temperature can make meats bone-dry and too chewy, seafood rubbery, and vegetables ashy. Grilled chicken thighs are made up of darker meat that tends to be moister, but keeping them on the grill for too long can dry them out.

To avoid overcooking grilled food, try these tips:

  1. Preheat the grill for 15 minutes for quicker-cooking foods like vegetables, burgers, and chicken thighs. Preheat the grill for 10 minutes for slower-cooking foods such as ribs or whole chicken.
  2. Every grill, whether it’s gas or charcoal, has spots that burn hotter than others. The middle of the grill provides direct heat and the outer edges tend to run cooler. Move food to cooler spots if you notice the exterior looks nicely charred but the interior hasn’t finished cooking yet. Some grills also have a short rack that sits on top of the main grill where you can keep food warm.
  3. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat to judge readiness. According to the USDA, cooked food should reach the following temperatures:
    -Chicken and other poultry: 165ºF
    -Pork pieces: 145ºF; whole cuts of pork: 145-160ºF
    -Beef, veal, or lamb: 145ºF
    -Ground meats (burgers): 160ºF
  4. Remove meats from the grill when they just reach the cook times suggested above. Some carryover cooking may occur after you remove the food from the grill. Allow meats to rest, tented in foil or covered with a clean kitchen towel, for 10 minutes before slicing. If you cut the meat right after you remove it from the grill, the juices will run out. Resting the meat allows the juices to redistribute and keep the meat moist.

Low-Glycemic Marinade for Juicy Grilled Chicken Thighs

Another tip for flavorful, moist grilled meat and veggies: Marinate before grilling. If you end up leaving the meat or vegetables on the grill a minute or two long, you likely won’t notice any dryness if you take the time to marinate first.

Bathing your meat in a marinade before grilling adds moisture and added flavor. Dress your vegetables in no sugar added salad dressing, vinaigrette, or a simple mix of oil, vinegar or freshly squeezed citrus juice, seasonings, and herbs.

If you go the store-bought route for a marinade, scrutinize labels and avoid any hidden added sugars, soybean or other vegetable oils, and chemicals. More and more keto and low-glycemic sauces—even barbecue sauces—contain Signos nutritionist-approved ingredients, but they do come at a higher cost. 

Make your own marinade at home by experimenting with avocado, olive, or sesame oils combined with different kinds of vinegar, lemon or lime juice, garlic, fresh herbs like basil or mint, and minced fresh hot pepper or rehydrated dried peppers.

We love the Asian-influenced vibe of full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk paired with freshly grated garlic and ginger for a homemade, six-ingredient grilled chicken thighs marinade. 

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Spiced Cauliflower Steaks

Grilled chicken thighs are moist, but overcooking them makes them dry. We marinate the thighs in coconut milk to keep them juicy. Pair with grilled cauliflower steaks prepared simply with olive oil and spices.



  • 4 chicken thighs,  (boneless and skinless)
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk, (full fat, unsweetened)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger, (grated)
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 lime, (juiced)
  • 1 Tbsp. cilantro, (chopped)


  1. Place the chicken thighs, coconut milk, peeled garlic cloves, and grated ginger in a glass container with a lid or a resealable plastic bag. Close the lid or bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight.
  2. Remove the marinated chicken thighs from the refrigerator and and set them on the counter to come to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the grill to high. Spray the grill grates with olive oil (or pour some olive oil on a clean kitchen towel and wipe across the grates before the grill heats up).
  4. Remove the chicken thighs from the coconut milk and drain any excess milk. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
  5. Place on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165ºF. Cover the grilled chicken to keep warm.
  6. Whisk olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, curry powder, and lime juice.
  7. Remove the tough bottom leaves from the cauliflower, taking care not to remove the stem. Place the cauliflower head onto a cutting board and cut off the tough bottom part of the stem, still keeping at least half of the stem intact.
  8. Flip the cauliflower head over so it rests on the stem on the cutting board. Cut each cauliflower vertically through the stem into 2 even "steaks", 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick.
  9. Some florets may fall off while you're cutting the steaks—that's ok! Just set aside and use another time.
  10. Place the 4 steaks on a plate. Brush one side of each steak with the oil mixture.
  11. Place the steaks on a hot grill, oiled side down. Brush the other side with the oil mixture. Grill the steaks for 5 minutes on the first side; turn over with tongs and grill for 5–7 minutes on the other side.
  12. Remove the steaks from the grill, plating 2 steaks per person. Add 2 chicken thighs to each plate. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the chicken and cauliflower steaks and sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

Note: You’ll need to marinate the chicken thighs for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight, in the refrigerator.

grilled chicken thighs with cauliflower steak nutrition label

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About the author

Sabrina has more than 20 years of experience writing, editing, and leading content teams in health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. She is the former managing editor at MyFitnessPal.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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