Smoky Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

Here’s a really fun, delicious meal to kick off grilling season: smoky grilled chicken thighs with cucumber-yogurt sauce
Here’s a really fun, delicious meal to kick off grilling season: smoky grilled chicken thighs with cucumber-yogurt sauce

For the chicken:

  •     1 teaspoon cumin seeds, see notes above
  •     1 teaspoon coriander seeds, see notes above
  •     1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  •     1 to 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (3 to 4)
  •     kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  •     3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
  •     a few tablespoons grapeseed oil

For the Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce:

  •     1 large or 3 small cucumbers (about 8 oz)
  •     1 cup plain Greek yogurt, I like the Fage 5%
  •     1 clove garlic, minced
  •     1.5 tablespoons fresh-squeeze lemon juice (from about 1/2 a lemon)
  •     1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For serving:

  •     naan or pita bread, I like the Stonefire naan brand
  •     lemon wedges
  •     skhug (recipe follow)


  1.     Place a small, dry skillet over medium heat and toast the coriander and cumin seeds until they begin to darken and smell fragrant. Transfer them to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder. Add the smoked paprika and stir to combine.
  2.     Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl or in a large ziplock bag. Season all over with salt (about 1 teaspoon per pound) and pepper to taste. Rub with the minced garlic. Add the spice blend and oil and mix with your hands to evenly coat the chicken in the oil and spices. Place chicken in fridge. Marinate for at least one hour and up to 12. If possible, bring chicken to room temperature before grilling (about an hour or so beforehand.)
  3.     Meanwhile, make the cucumber-yogurt sauce: Grate the cucumber coarsely on a box grater. In a medium bowl, stir the cucumber into the yogurt, along with the garlic, and lemon. Season with the salt, starting with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, adding an additional 1/4 teaspoon if necessary.
  4.     When ready to grill: preheat a gas grill to high or prepare coals for high heat. For charcoal grilling, fill two chimney starters  with coals and let them burn for about 30 minutes. Then, dump the coals into the grill (piling them on one side to allow one half or one third of the grill to be a cooler zone), replace the grate, and let it heat for at least 5 minutes. Scrape the grates.
  5.     When grill is hot, transfer the chicken uncovered to the grates. Grill, without touching, for about 3 minutes. Flip. And grill for another 2 to 3 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165ºF (or a little bit less to account for carryover cooking). Transfer meat to a platter or cutting board to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  6.     While the chicken rests, warm the pita or naan — you can do this right on the grill or in the toaster. Gather all of the remaining condiments: cucumber-yogurt sauce, skhug (if making), and lemon wedges. Cut chicken into smallish (1- to 2-inch) pieces.
  7.     To serve: I liked to smear the cucumber-yogurt sauce on a platter, pile the chicken on top, and drizzle some of the skhug over as well. But you could also serve each component separately, letting the eaters assemble as they wish. I like serving the bread on the side and using it as a vehicle to scoop or to make mini sandwiches, but you could also make larger pita-pocket sandwiches.

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