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Chicken Thighs, Again? Budget Friendly Easy Asian Inspired Sweet & Tangy Skillet Meal Recipe

Updated on February 8, 2013
Takeout is expensive.  You can pretend this came out of those cute paper boxes, while keeping your cash in your wallet. There's nothing more budget friendly than chicken and rice. It's all in the sauce to make it special.
Takeout is expensive. You can pretend this came out of those cute paper boxes, while keeping your cash in your wallet. There's nothing more budget friendly than chicken and rice. It's all in the sauce to make it special.

Did you find a great sale on chicken thighs?

Chicken is a staple around my house, as it's budget friendly and versatile.

To make this dish even more budget friendly, I started with those large packages of chicken leg quarters that are often on sale for well under a dollar per pound. I cut them up into drumsticks and then use the trimmed thighs in this delicious Asian inspired meal. When my family is hankering for some takeout from the local Chinese place, this does the trick to quell those cravings.

Let's Get Cooking!

You can increase or decrease this recipe to suit the size of your family.

I used 9 chicken thighs here, and made enough sauce for the chicken plus enough to have a generous amount to go with the cooked white rice I'll be serving it with.

I got out my large skillet to make this batch. I use this thing constantly, even when I'm not planning on filling it to the brim - better a skillet to big than one that's too small that your contents may splatter all over and make it difficult to stir

Turn on your burner and put 2 Tbs of Olive oil in the pan.

Once the oil hot, add your chicken thighs. You can use bone-in ones, just remove the skin. I used about 2 pounds for this batch.

You don't want to brown your chicken, just begin cooking it. Keep your heat low-medium and cook for 10 minutes on each side.

Gently cook your chicken on both sides.  You don't want to overly brown it at this point, it will finish cooking in the sauce later.
Gently cook your chicken on both sides. You don't want to overly brown it at this point, it will finish cooking in the sauce later.

Now the sauce! Honest, this stuff is good.

While your chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce by combining the following in a bowl and then mixing well:

2/3 cup warm water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup ketchup

2 Tablespoons white vinegar

1 Tablespoon minced garlic - I use the jarred kind that i already minced and ready to go, but you can use 6-8 cloves of fresh minced garlic if you like

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder


A note on spices: Yes, if you don't already have a well stocked pantry, it can get expensive to buy every spice you may need for a recipe all at once if you're starting out with no spices in your kitchen at all. The beauty of spices is that you're only using a small amount for each meal you prepare, so the additional cost per meal really is small. Spices aren't a splurge item, they're a basic necessity that not only makes your food taste amazing, many provide additional benefits to your diet.

Our sauce, all mixed and ready to go in the skillet.
Our sauce, all mixed and ready to go in the skillet.

Yes, you can cook rice. Here's some tips.

I have had so many people tell me they simply can not cook rice, no way, no how. Don't waste your money on minute/instant rice, that stuff is for people who like to waste their money. Rice is good and rice is cheap, so take the time to learn how to cook it.


Here's how I do it.

Use a measuring cup. You will use 2 cups of cold water to each 1 cup of rice. This will feed 3-5 people depending on the size of their appetite.

Measure your water and rice and put it into a pan with a close fitting lid.

To keep it from bubbling over on you, add 1/2 tablespoon of butter. This will also help to keep your rice from getting too sticky.

Add some salt to raise the boiling point of the water, here I used a scant 1/4 teaspoon.

Give it a little stir.

Now, put put on your tight fitting lid and bring it to a full boil. This is the important part: JUST AS SOON AS IT BOILS, give it one quick stir, immediately put the tight fitting lid back on and turn off the burner. Don't be tempted to lift that lid. Just leave it alone. All the water should be absorbed in about 25 minutes. When you're ready to serve, just fluff it up a bit with a fork.

Start preparing your rice.
Start preparing your rice.

When your chicken has cooked on both sides, it's time to add the sauce.

Pour your sauce over your chicken and let it simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes. Be sure you don't have your heat too high, or you'll end up with a sauce that may reduce too much and scorch. Simmering produces small and gentle bubbles that break just under the surface. If your pan is splattering at all, turn that heat down.

Stir and flip your chicken pieces a few times as it simmers.

Add your sauce and simmer a half hour turning and stirring occasionally.
Add your sauce and simmer a half hour turning and stirring occasionally.

We're almost done, just need to thicken the sauce.

If you did it right, your sauce will still be a bit thin. It should have reduced in volume, but to get it to really coat to your chicken, we'll want to thicken it up a bit.

Combine 1/4 cup of cold water with 1 Tablespoon of corn starch. If you don't use cold water, the corn starch won't fully dissolve and you'll have lumps, so be sure to use cold water. Stir until smooth, then add to your skillet. Turn the heat up a bit, and stir constantly, working it in well until your sauce bubbles for a full minute.

Use water and corn starch to thicken your sauce.  If it becomes too thick, you can add a little additional water to get the consistency of your sauce just right.
Use water and corn starch to thicken your sauce. If it becomes too thick, you can add a little additional water to get the consistency of your sauce just right.

Set the table, dinner is ready!

To serve, put your rice on a serving dish and arrange the chicken on top. Use a spoon to get out the sauce remaining in the pan and simply spoon it on top of the chicken, letting the extra run off on top of your rice.

Chicken over Rice that's worthy of a takeout box.
Chicken over Rice that's worthy of a takeout box.

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      Sherlyn 2 years ago

      It was dark when I woke. This is a ray of sunnsihe.

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