Summer is in full swing and grills everywhere are getting a workout. Sausages, burgers, and steaks are in high demand right now and it’s not hard to see why. These BBQ staples are near dear to so many people’s hearts. I myself have been flipping more than my fair share of burgers. But I realized the other day that chicken hadn’t graced my grill all that much this year. So I whipped up these Ginger Chicken Thigh Sandwiches to atone for my pitmaster faux pas. This is such a wonderful and effortless recipe and you don’t need much more than a cast-iron griddle or a tiny charcoal grill to pull it off. So whether you’re in a public park or your own backyard, you can totally pull these sammies off.
And just like that half of July is gone. Every year when we reach July 15th I am sobered by how quickly time passes. I mean, summertime passes. I don’t recall February zipping on by. While this thought used to depress me, I’ve been trying to treat it as motivation these past few years. An incentive to take that trip to the lake now, to plan that picnic, to fire up the grill on a regular Tuesday. To tick as many summer-friendly foods off my bucket list as possible. And what summer bucket list would be complete without BBQ chicken.
Granted today’s Ginger Chicken Thigh Sandwiches are not exactly what one thinks of when they think of BBQ chicken. But hey, it’s chicken, it’s grilled, and it’s Smokey and sweet. It hits all the vital benchmarks. So what are you looking at here? Well, this sandwich features chicken thighs marinated in soy sauce, mirin, honey, garlic, and a whole whack of ginger. The chicken is then snuggled into a potato bun slathered with ponzu mayo and topped with gochugaru spiked pickled onions and cucumbers and leafy green lettuce. Oh! And there’s avocado in there as well because avocado is life.
The best thing about these Ginger Chicken Thigh Sandwiches is they’re basically three recipes stacked on top of each other. You have the chicken, the pickles, and the mayo. And each would be more totally at home in another context. In salad mode? Invite the chicken along. Craving a club sandwich? The ponzu mayo will take it over the top. And the pickles? Well, where are pickles not welcome?
So let’s start with the chicken. As I mentioned the boneless, skinless chicken thighs are marinated in a cocktail of soy sauce, mirin, honey, garlic, and ginger. A LOT of ginger. What can I say? This sandwich comes by its name honestly. You can leave the chicken for a minimum of 3 hours. But I left mine overnight and I think the chicken was better for it.
Once the chicken has luxuriated, drain it and reserve the marinade. Pour the reserved marinade into a skillet and bring it to a boil. Congratulations! You have eliminated all the gross raw chicken gunk and now you have a tasty glaze to brush onto your freshly grilled thighs. You don’t have to do this but honestly, it’s such a simple but very delicious flourish that I think it’s totally worth it. Plus, you can feel good about all the ginger and soy sauce you aren’t wasting.
Now, let’s talk pickles. These also take a little time but conveniently they take as much time as the chicken takes to marinate. And as with the chicken, the pickles are better if you let them go overnight. But if you’re short on time and desperate for a pickle, 3 hours will do. The pickle is comprised of sliced cucumber and red onion and is pickled in a concoction comprised of white vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and gochugaru. It’s salty, sweet, tangy, and fiery. Basically, it’s everything you want.
And finally, we get to the ponzu mayo. I feel a little silly even writing a recipe for this condiment. It is exactly two ingredients and all you have to do is stir. Now, you could make this more complicated by making your own ponzu. But with so many good-quality ponzus available on store shelves, it’s not necessary. I generally don’t make my own ponzu because sourcing yuzu in my area is tough. But for some reason, I can get a yuzu cheesecake but an actual yuzu. Figure that out. You can make ponzu with lemon if you are hell-bent on trying your hand at making it sans yuzu. I just don’t think it’s as good.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Ginger Chicken Thigh Sandwiches with Ponzu Mayo. A simple grill-side meal that’s easy to assemble, grill, and most certainly eat. This is one for the summer eats bucket list for sure.
Ginger Chicken Thigh Sandwiches with Ponzu Mayo
- 1 cast-iron griddle or charcoal grill
- 1 mandoline optional
Ginger Chicken Thighs
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 tbsp mirin
- 1½ tbsp honey
- 3 tbsp fresh ginger minced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 4 chicken thighs boneless, skinless
Gochugaru Pickled Cucumbers
- ⅓ English cucumber sliced thin on a mandoline **
- ¼ red onion thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp gochugaru
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup mayo
- 1 ½ tbsp ponzu sauce
- 4 potato buns toasted
- 1 avocado sliced
- 8-12 leaves green leaf lettuce washed
For the Ginger Chicken
- Place the soy sauce, mirin, honey, garlic, and ginger in a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the chicken thighs and toss to coat. Cover and transfer to the fridge. Let marinate for 3 hours or overnight.¼ cup soy sauce, 3 tbsp mirin, 1½ tbsp honey, 3 tbsp fresh ginger, 1 clove garlic, 4 chicken thighs
- Once the chicken is ready, take it out of the marinade. Pour the marinade into a small skillet and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the marinade is reduced by half.
- While the marinade is simmer, heat your cast-iron griddle or charcoal grill until smoking. Sear the chicken thighs on both sides until grill marks appear. Either reduce the heat or move your chicken to indirect heat and cook until the it registers an internal temperature of 165°F. Brush the chicken all over with the reduced marinade and transfer to a plate and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Pickles
- Place the cucumber, red onion, and garlic in a bowl and set them aside.⅓ English cucumber, ¼ red onion, 1 clove garlic
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and gochugaru. Pour the mixture over the cucumber and onions. Cover and let pickle for 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.1 cup white vinegar, ½ cup water, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, 2 tsp gochugaru, 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Mayo
- Place the mayo and ponzu in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover and chill until ready to serve.½ cup mayo, 1 ½ tbsp ponzu sauce
- Slather both sides of the toasted potato buns with the ponzu mayo. Place the lettuce on the bottom bun and top with avocado, and the Gochugaru Pickled Cucumbers. Place a chicken thigh and another bit of lettuce on top and place the top bun, well, on top. Repeat with the remaining buns.4 potato buns, 1 avocado, 8-12 leaves green leaf lettuce