Mom’s barbecue chicken

Over many long California summers, my mom has perfected her tangy chicken marinade with a Chinese twist, and my dad has perfected his grilling technique. No matter how often we have it, barbecue dinner at their house is a huge treat each and every time.


  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (wings work well too)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Crushed red pepper (optional)


  1. Rinse and pat dry chicken (moisture will make the marinade watery). Cut each thigh into 2-3 pieces, trimming any pockets of fat.
  2. Mix sauce ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Add chicken to the sauce a few pieces at a time, and turn pieces to coat each one well. Remove well-coated chicken pieces to a container (a baking dish or ziploc bag work well). Let marinate in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
  4. Chicken is best grilled (heat to 250-300 degrees F), but you can use a broiler as well. If using broiler, cook 8-10 minutes on first side. Watch carefully, as the broiler can go from cooked to burnt very quickly. Cook until chicken is browned and starting to char at edges. Second side will cook more quickly than the first. Let rest for a few minutes and test for doneness before serving.

Serves 6-8.


  • Hoisin sauce is fairly common these days in the Asian section of regular supermarkets. But if you can make it to an Asian market, the Koon Chun brand is darker, thicker and more strongly flavored than what you’d normally find at the supermarket. For the gluten-free, I’ve read that Wok Mei brand is also very good.
  • Feel free to substitute white sugar for brown, or another vinegar for white. These are in such small amounts the substitutions won’t make a big difference.
  • You can omit the crushed red pepper, but a sprinkling gives a bit of interest to the sauce without any real heat. Feel free to use more if you want a real kick.
  • In the past my mom has sometimes added a small squirt (1 teaspoon) of mustard to the mix.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures from 2011 and the update from 2015.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra 12 June 2013 at 3:13 pm

I made these before chemo took over my tastebuds completely 🙁 – I used wings- and they were wonderful! Thanks so much for a fantastic blog with so many lovely stories and yummy recipes! 🙂


cg 15 June 2013 at 10:52 pm

hi sandra – yes, wings are my mom’s favorite for good reason, lots of surface area for all that great flavor. very kind of you to take the time to comment here. sending you strength and good energy for a successful treatment. and hugs.


Janet Miller 21 June 2015 at 9:07 pm

LOVE your mom’s chicken! Thanks so much for this recipe. I really enjoy your blog, and I too live in the CA Bay Area. This will be a regular in our rotation….new Chinese G-ma family favorite:o)


cg 24 June 2015 at 6:22 am

hi janet – woohoo, i am excited you love it too! perfect for our long grilling season in the bay area. =)


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