Baked Thai lemongrass chicken wings with honey is a spin-off of the extremely popular Thai Gai Yang grilled chicken recipe. Instead of using a whole chicken, this recipe calls for chicken wings and drumsticks marinated in Thai sauces, honey, herbs, and spices. They are then oven-baked, making it a dish that can be enjoyed all year long.
What is Gai Yang?
Gai Yang means “chicken” (Gai), “grilled” (Yang). A whole chicken is typically used for this recipe, but my recipe uses chicken wings, marinated in garlic, lemongrass, shallot, cilantro stems, turmeric, white pepper, and a sauce made by combining fish sauce, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. This is such a fun dish to add to the football tailgating food in the fall! This recipe also uses honey instead of sugar, making it so much easier to be healthy and still enjoy the tasty wings.
Why this recipe works?
- This recipe uses honey rather than sugar, making it a healthier option than the standard Gai Yang recipe
- This recipe uses wings and drumsticks because they cook faster than a whole chicken
- Instead of grilling, this dish bakes the wings in an oven, making it a faster and easier option to put together and cook all year long.
- This Thai dish is NOT spicy, at all. The cooked wings alone are seasoned to perfection without the spicy chili dipping sauce. So, this is the one dish you can enjoy without worrying about the spiciness if eating spicy is not your thing.
- The marinating sauce is super easy to make. Just combine all the ingredients in a small food processor, pour it over the wings in a Ziplock bag, marinade and that’s it before baking!
What goes into this recipe
- Chicken wings: Use wings and drumsticks combined for this recipe to complete the wings experience.
- Lemongrass: Fresh lemongrass is used for marinating. Use only the bottom 4-5 inches of the stalk and chopped into small rounds.
- Honey: Using honey instead of sugar is a much healthier option.
- White pepper: White pepper is used for this recipe, but you can substitute black pepper.
- Turmeric powder is used to season the wings and naturally color the wings for an appetizing golden tinge on the skin.
- Sauces: The sauces used for this recipe are fish sauce, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, oyster sauce, and rice wine vinegar. See the picture for a reference and the exact brands I used.
- Sweet soy sauce: I used the sweet soy sauce for this recipe for the little sweet taste and the caramelized color in the chicken. You can substitute molasses if you can’t find the sweet soy sauce at the Asian market.
- Rice wine vinegar: You can substitute lime juice or apple cider vinegar if you don’t have rice wine vinegar.
Below is a picture of the sauces I used for my recipe. I highly recommend these brands as most of them are Thai brands. Visit your local Asian market to find these sauces. Feel free to print out or screenshot this image to use as a reference when you go shopping.
How to make this recipe?
To make the perfect Thai lemongrass chicken wings with honey, you'll need a few ingredients to put it all together:
- Wash the chicken wings and drumsticks, pat dry with paper towels, and place the chicken in a gallon zip lock bag.
- Chop, peel and measure out all the ingredients then put everything in a small food processor.
- Blend until the sauce is smooth and creamy. You will have some chunks of herbs in the marinating sauce. It’s ok, leave it, they will give the extra crunch when finished baking.
- Pour the marinating sauce into the zip lock bag with the chicken wings, close the bag and gently shake the bag until the meat is evenly coated. Lay the bag flat on a plate and marinate in the refrigerator for 1-5 hours. Flip the bag upside down once or twice during this marinating time to get the sauce on both sides of the wings.
- Move the chicken from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before baking.
- Turn the oven to 420 degrees. Place aluminum foil over a baking sheet, then place a baking rack on top of the foil for easy clean-up. Some of the sauce will drip during baking and may burn a little, it's normal. Just discard the foil when you are done cooking. Place the chicken pieces on the baking rack. Use some of the leftover marinating sauce in the ziplock bag and with a spoon or a cooking brush, lather the wings before baking. This will add extra tenderness and flavors to the meat.
- Bake the wings for 20 minutes, carefully remove the rack out of the oven, brush the remaining sauce from the ziplock bag on the wings. (Be very careful with the heat on the baking pan and rack.) Do this to both sides of the wings, and return to baking another 20 minutes. Check with an instant-read thermometer to read at 165 degrees to make sure the chicken is completely cooked. Add another 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your wings and drumsticks, if necessary to be sure the meat is thoroughly cooked.
- Turn the oven off, remove the rack from the oven and let the meat cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Thai sweet chili sauce and a side of sticky rice. (The Thai dipping sauce recipe for the wings is below.)
Faq's and Expert tips
- Depending on the size of your wings and drumsticks, you can add additional 5-15 minutes of cooking time to your meat. Use an instant-read thermometer and make sure the meat reads at least 165 degrees for doneness.
- Don’t throw away the marinating sauce, use a cooking brush to lather the wings with the sauce on both sides at the 20-minute cooking mark. To help with easy cleanup, line the baking sheet with aluminum foil then place a wire rack over the pan.
- Some of the sauce dripping will burn in the oven, it's fine, don't panic. (: Keep a close eye on your oven and just remove & discard your foil after you're done cooking.
- If your wings are looking dry, use a spraying oil to go over both sides of the meat after the meat is baked for 20 minutes.
- Use gloves and aprons when working with this recipe. The turmeric will stain your fingers and will not easily come off of your clothes or kitchen towels.
- If some of the wingtips and the chicken skin are burned, use a knife or scissor to cut off the burnt part before serving.
How to make a quick spicy chili dip for the wings:
- Add 1-2 Tbsp of chili flakes to a sauce bowl.
- Add 1.5 Tbsp fish sauce
- Add 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- Add 1.5 Tbsp honey or sugar
- Add 2-3 Tbsp water
Mix all the ingredients together and adjust as needed with more sweetness, salty or lime juice. Add more water if you need to dilute the flavor a little. Enjoy!
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