Spicy Korean Chicken

Korean Chicken bursting with savory sweet heat that is easy to make at home!

This Korean Chicken recipe is out of this world – and way easier, less messy and healthier than Korean Fried Chicken – but with ALL the flavor.  The Korean spicy chicken is bathed in a spicy, savory marinade spiked with soy sauce, honey, rice wine, garlic, ginger, and kicking gochujang.  The spicy, sweet, and savory notes are utterly addicting.  You can cook the Korean Chicken recipe on the grill, on the stove or in the oven – for an easy marinate and cook chicken dinner that’s destined to become a year-round favorite.

top view of Korean Chicken garnisheed with sesame seeds and green onions

KOREAN CHICKEN RECIPE

Korean Chicken is characterized by the perfect blend of spicy and savory with a hint of sweetness.  It’s one of my favorite flavor profiles due to the gochujang (Korean chili sauce) which delivers bold, complex flavors in just one ingredient.  That means this Korean Chicken recipe is super easy to make with less ingredients but boasts huge aromatic flavors that deliver a truly addictive result.

Here are more reasons to love this Korean Spicy Chicken:

  • Easy: marinate and cook!
  • Simple ingredients:  grab some gochujang at your grocery store and now you have ALL the ingredients to make this Korean Chicken recipe any time.
  • FLAVOR!  you will be blow away at this flavor bomb. 
  • Versatile: you can cook this Korean chicken recipe on the stove, grill, or oven AND customize the heat.
  • JUICY and so TENDER:  the marinade tenderizes the chicken leaving it incredibly moist and flavorful.
  • Freezer friendly:  you can freeze the chicken in the marinade for an easy defrost and cook dinner or freeze it after cooking for an easy thaw and reheat dinner.
side view of best Korean Chicken recipe with spicy Korean dip

Ingredients for Korean Chicken Marinade

Most of the ingredients for this Korean chicken recipe are pantry staples, except perhaps gochujang BUT it can be easily found at your grocery store (more on that later).  You will need: 

  • Soy Sauce.   Always use less sodium soy sauce otherwise your chicken will be too salty.  I recommend Kikkoman for the most rounded flavor.
  • Honey.  Mild clover honey will do the trick.
  • Brown sugar.  You may also substitute granulated sugar if that’s all you have.  Both the honey and brown sugar are needed to balance the savory soy sauce and spicy chili paste.
  • Sesame Oil Is made from sesame seeds and adds a fabulous nutty flavor but you may substitute vegetable oil.  I don’t recommend olive oil because we want an oil with a high smoking point.
  • Ginger.  Adds a fabulous, almost pepper kick.  You will need one tablespoon freshly grated ginger or you may substitute with ¾ teaspoon powdered ginger.
  • Garlic.  This Korean Chicken uses 4 garlic cloves but you may use more or less to taste.
  • Rice Wine.   Rice wine should become a pantry staple if you do much Asian cooking because it is used ALL the time. Rice wine is NOT rice vinegar– DO NOT switch them out.  Rice wine adds a sweetness and depth of flavor while also tenderizing the chicken.  Rice vinegar, on the other hand will add an acidic flavor.
  • Where do I Buy Rice Wine? I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it.  I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry.
  • Gochujang.  Gochujang is a spicy Korean red chili paste that puts other chili pastes to shame.  Do NOT substitute with any other chili paste and expect the same results.
showing how to serve Korean Chicken with sliced up Korean Spicy Chicken over rice

WHAT IS GOCHUJANG?

Let’s talk a little more about Gochujang because it is the quintessential ingredient in this Korean Chicken recipe. It adds a ton of flavor to the chicken and balances the sweet notes of the brown sugar and rice wine.

Gochujang is a Korean red chili paste and my FAVORITE chili paste.  It is primarily made from red chilies, glutinous rice and soy beans. What sets this chili paste apart is that it is not just spicy, but boasts more of a complex, savory, spicy, sweet heat – kind of like a spicy Asian BBQ sauce. The sweetness comes from the starch of cooked glutinous rice which imparts its distinctly wonderful flavor.

WHERE CAN I BUY GOCHUJANG?

Gochujang is the primary flavor in this Korean BBQ Chicken, so please don’t substitute it for any other ingredient. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to worry about that because Korean and other Asian ingredients are increasingly easy to find at your local grocery store and Amazon.

For this Korean Chicken, I use Annie Chun’s Gochujang Sauce.  It is located in the Asian section of my grocery store, but you can also easily buy it on Amazon (LOVE Amazon prime!).  I do recommend looking to see what Annie Chun’s Gochujang Sauce looks like so you can easily spot it at the grocery store (not an affiliate, just will make your life easier).

If you live by an Asian or Korean Market, look for Chung Jung One Sunchang Hot Pepper Paste Gold (Gochujang).  You can also purchase it on Amazon.

In addition to this Korean Spicy Chicken recipe, I also use gochujang in my Korean TacosKorean MeatballsKorean Spicy Noodles, Korean Beef Bulgogi and Korean Beef  Bowls, so you will have plenty of scrumptious opportunities to use it up!

top view of easy Korean BBQ Chicken on a platter with green onions

WHAT CUT OF CHICKEN IS BEST?

I know many of you are going to ask if you can use chicken breasts for this Korean Chicken recipe instead of chicken thighs– and the answer is yes!  I chose chicken thighs because they are more commonly used in authentic Korean Chicken, are inherently juicier and reheat better but chicken breasts will still work

If you choose to use chicken breasts then take care to pound them to an even thickness before marinating.  If your chicken breasts are extra-large, slice them through the equator to create fillets.  You don’t want large chicken breasts because the honey in the marinade will cause the surface of the chicken to burn before it is cooked through, especially on the grill or stove.

showing what sided to serve with Korean BBQ Chicken by placing chicken in a bowl with rice

HOW SPICY IS THIS KOREAN CHICKEN?

This Korean Spicy Chicken is supposed to have a kick.  That being said, you can control the heat of this Korean Chicken recipe by adding more or less of the reserved marinade (that becomes the dip/sauce) to the chicken after it is cooked. 

This sauce is quite spicy so it will make your Korean Chicken that much spicier.  For less spicy chicken, don’t use the sauce.

If you already know you don’t like spicy foods then start with just 2 tablespoons gochujang and use only one tablespoon brown sugar.   

up close of Korean Chicken thighs with gochujang

HOW DO YOU MAKE KOREAN SPICY CHICKEN?

This Korean Spicy Chicken is extremely simple make – pound the chicken, marinate the chicken, cook the chicken!  Here’s how:

  • Pound Chicken. Whether you use chicken breasts or chicken thighs for this Korean Chicken recipe, you will want to pound the chicken to an even thickness.  Pounding chicken to an even thickens not only helps tenderize the chicken but ensures the chicken cooks evenly. Even cooking eliminates dryness caused from overcooking the chicken in order to make sure the thickest part is cooked at the peril of the thinnest.
  • Whisk marinade together. Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl or Ziploc bag (whatever you are going to marinate your chicken in).
  • Reserve part of the marinade.  Remove ½ cup of the marinade.  This will become your sauce or dip for the cooked Korean BBQ Chicken. 
  • Add chicken to marinade. Add chicken and massage marinade into chicken so it’s evenly coated/covered.
  • Marinate.  Marinate Korean Chicken for 4 to 8 hours. I normal marinate this chicken for 4 hours and it is seeping with flavor.
  • Let chicken rest.  Let your chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before cooking so it will cook more evenly.
  • Cook.  You can cook the Korean Spicy Chicken on the grill, stovetop or in the oven – all work fabulously well.
two hands holding a platter of Korean Chicken with gochujang

How to cook Korean BBQ Chicken

HOW TO COOK KOREAN CHICKEN ON THE GRILL

The method of cooking is entirely up to you! To impart that smoky Korean BBQ Chicken flavor, however, go for the grill.  Just keep in mind that due to the honey in the marinade, the Korean Chicken can char quickly, so make sure you grease the grill extremely well and only use thinly pounded pieces of chicken so they can cook through before the outside of the chicken burns.

  • Generously grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
  • Grill chicken, covered for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through and an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

HOW TO COOK KOREAN CHICKEN IN THE OVEN

I love the oven method for cooking Korean Chicken because it means you can pop it in the oven and completely forget about it while you prep veggies, etc.  The oven method also means we get to enjoy Korean Chicken year-round!

  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. 
  • Add chicken to baking sheet so they aren’t touching. 
  • Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

HOW TO COOK KOREAN CHICKEN ON THE STOVE

Upon first glance, the skillet method looks like the fastest way to cook Korean Chicken BUT your chicken will likely not fit in one skillet without overcrowding so you’ll need to work in batches or use two skillets.

  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Remove chicken from marinade and let excess marinade drip off. Add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side.
  • Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook approximately 3-5 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through.
showing how to make sticky Korean Chicken by spooning glaze over chicken

How to make Sticky Korean Chicken

I don’t usually thicken the reserved sauce after cooking and use it more as a thin glaze or dip. If you want sticky Korean chicken, however, simply whisk in 1 teaspoon cornstarch and ¼ cup water and simmer into a sticky glaze.

TIPS FOR KOREAN CHICKEN RECIPE

This Korean Chicken recipe is SO easy, so here’s just a reminder of my most important tips and tricks:

  • Pound chicken to an even thickness for the most tender and evenly cooked chicken. If you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use the side of a can.  I place my chicken in the ziploc bag I’m going to marinate it in for convenience.
  • Let the chicken marinate to drink up the strong aromatic flavors for at least 4 hours.
  • Use chicken thighs for the juiciest chicken.
  • DON’T substitute the gochujang for any other chili paste.
  • Let chicken sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before cooking.
  • Use little or no sauce for less spicy chicken and more sauce for spicier chicken.
  • Always use a meat thermometer so you don’t undercook, OR overcook the chicken.
  • Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing so it has time to reabsorb the juices that have pushed towards the outside of the chicken. If you cut into it immediately after cooking, valuable, moisture-giving juices will run out.
sticky Korean Chicken on a platter with glaze

What Sides do I serve with Korean BBQ Chicken?

My favorite sides to serve with Spicy Korean Chicken are steamed rice and stir-fried veggies.  The chicken is so flavorful, that both the rice and vegetables offer a neutral, textural counterpart.

Here are some more delicious options to serve with your easy Korean Chicken recipe:

CAN I PREPARE KOREAN CHICKEN RECIPE AHEAD OF TIME?

This Korean Spicy Chicken is just as delicious the next day, especially if you use chicken thighs.  You may store cooked chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days.  Use leftover Korean BBQ Chicken warmed up with some sauce or serve it cold on a salad, sandwich, wraps etc.

up close of Korean Chicken thighs

CAN I FREEZE KOREAN BBQ CHICKEN?

Yes!  You can freeze either the marinating Korean Chicken or the cooked chicken.

  • Marinade:  Add chicken to marinade in a freezer safe bag or container.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  The chicken will marinate as it defrosts.
  • Chicken: After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.

HOW TO REHEAT KOREAN CHICKEN

  • From frozen:  thaw Korean Spicy Chicken in the refrigerator overnight.  You can also defrost in the microwave but take care to defrost slowly so your chicken doesn’t become rubbery.
  • From fridge: you can warm chicken in a skillet on the stove top or in the microwave at 30 second intervals.  Take care not to overcook or it will become dry.  You can also reheat in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or just until warmed through.
holding a bowl of Korean BBQ Chicken recipe

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Spicy Korean Chicken

Korean Chicken bursting with savory sweet heat that is easy to make at home! This Korean Chicken recipe is out of this world – and way easier, less messy and healthier than Korean Fried Chicken – but with ALL the flavor. The Korean spicy chicken is bathed in a spicy, savory marinade spiked with soy sauce, honey, rice wine, garlic, ginger, and kicking gochujang. The spicy, sweet, and savory notes are utterly addicting. You can cook the Korean Chicken recipe on the grill, on the stove or in the oven – for an easy marinate and cook chicken dinner that’s destined to become a year-round favorite.
Servings: 6 - 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 2- 2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs trimmed pounded to an even thickness

Marinade and Glaze

Garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl or freezer bag. Remove ½ cup (this will become sauce). Add chicken to marinade, turn to coat, cover and marinate in the refrigerator 4-8 hours.
  • When ready to cook, let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.

GRILL DIRECTIONS

  • Generously grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
  • Grill chicken, covered for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should read 165 degrees F.)
  • Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing.

OVEN DIRECTIONS

  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  • Add chicken to baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
  • Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  • Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing.

SKILLET DIRECTIONS

  • Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat (you will likely need to work in batches).
  • Remove chicken from marinade and let excess marinade drip off. Add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side.
  • Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook approximately 3-5 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Notes

WHERE TO PURCHASE GOCHUJANG

  • Gochujang is the primary flavor in this Korean BBQ Chicken, so please DO NOT substitute it for any other ingredient. 
  • Annie Chun’s Gochujang Sauce should be easy to find in the Asian section of your grocery store or you can purchase it on Amazon. .  I do recommend looking to see what Annie Chun’s Gochujang Sauce looks like so you can easily spot it at the grocery store (not an affiliate, just will make your life easier).
  • If you live by an Asian or Korean Market, look for Chung Jung One Sunchang Hot Pepper Paste Gold (Gochujang).  You can also purchase it on Amazon.

HOW TO CUSTOMIZE SPICE LEVEL 

  • This Korean Spicy Chicken is supposed to have a kick.  That being said, you can control the heat by adding more or less of the reserved marinade (that becomes the dip/sauce) to the chicken after it is cooked.   
  • This sauce is quite spicy so it will make your Korean Chicken that much spicier.  For less spicy chicken, don’t use the sauce.
  • If you already know you don’t like spicy foods then start with just 2 tablespoons gochujang and use only one tablespoon brown sugar.   

How to make Sticky Korean Chicken

I don’t usually thicken the reserved sauce after cooking and use it more as a thin glaze or dip. If you want sticky Korean chicken, however, simply whisk in 1 teaspoon cornstarch and ¼ cup water and simmer into a sticky glaze.

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24 Comments

  1. Mike says

    Cooked the gochugang chicken and the asian salad. Crushed it! My asian wife loved it! Have some interesting recipes I could share. Interested?

    • Jen says

      Thanks Mike, I’m thrilled both the Korean Chicken and the Asian Salad were a hit! I would love to see some of your recipes – you can email me at [email protected] Thank you!

  2. THerese says

    This was amazingly good!! My family is already asking for it again. 🙂 This one is going into our Freezer Party rotation!!! I keep coming back to your website to get more recipes for our freezer parties. They always work and never disappoints!!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for your awesome feedback Therese! I especially love hearing when a new recipe is a hit – so THANK YOU!

  3. Eva Domkowski says

    I made this last night, and it was such a hit with my family! I have 3 children, all with varying degrees of heat they can handle. I made the marinade moderately spicy and then thicken the reserve on the stove so i could brush it on as a glaze to finish the chicken. That way, my kids could decide how spicy they wanted their serving to be. It was perfect. And it just bumped our beloved Peruvian chicken out of first place for grilled chicken thighs. lol Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jen says

      Wahoo! I’m honored this Korean Chicken is your new favorite chicken recipe! I’m thrilled this Korean Chicken was such a hit with your family and you were able to customize the spice level with the glaze. Thanks for making my day Eva!

  4. Jennifer Fulk says

    Hi Jen! Korean food is the best! I can’t wait to make this. I was wondering how you think pork tenderloin would be with this marinade? I love pork. I was also thinking of using chicken breasts and cubing them up to marinate and make skewers , basting with the reserved sauce. Do you think it would be good? Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Yes! I think they both would be fantastic! You really can’t go wrong with this marinade.

      • Garrett says

        Hi Jen,

        I forgot to save the half cup of sauce before adding the chicken ‍♂️. Do you have a scaled down recipe or do you recommend boiling some of the leftover marinade?

        Thanks,
        G.B.

        • Jen says

          Hi Garrett, you can get a scaled down version by using the arrows in the recipe card. Alternatively, boiling the leftover marinade will also work great – just make sure it gets HOT!

  5. Sa Allysa says

    Hi, Can I know whether this recipe can be frozen? and can it last up to 3 mth?

    • Jen says

      Yes, this chicken can be frozen for up to three months, enjoy!

      • Julie says

        Can you freeze the raw chicken in the marinadeand cook it later?

  6. Kim says

    Hi! Looking forward to making this but I’m not able to fine the gochugang sauce, is there a substitute?

    • Jen says

      Hi Kim, there isn’t an exact substitute because gochugang is sweet and spicy so I would you to purchase it on Amazon (I use Annie Chun’s Korean Sweet and Spicy (Go-Chu-Jang) Sauce). You can try substituting with Asian chili sauce like sambal oelek and reduce the amount. Best!

  7. BB says

    What about using Sriracha- easy to find, and all stores carry it.

    And, how would you compare the heat of Sriracha to gochujang ( heat level and flavor)

    • Jen says

      Hi BB, the two taste very different and only gochuchang will impart the authentic Korean flavor. Gochuchang boasts a sweet fermented tang of miso with a mild kick of heat. As far as heat, gochuchang measures less than 1,000 Scoville units and sriracha measures between 1,000-2,500, so if you substitute with sriracha you will definitely want to use less. Good luck!

  8. John Conwell says

    WOW! I tasted the marinade before adding the chicken and it ROCKS! Can’t wait to pull the chicken off the grill and serve with various banchan!

    I doubled the recipe using 3 lb of chicken (there’s only 3 of us) . Set aside 2 cups of reserve sauce and will take half of that and put it in a qt freezer bag and stick it in another freezer bag with half the chicken!

    • John Conwell says

      BONUS! I added a dozen Xtra Jumbo shrimp to the marinade! Going to hit the grill in about 30 minutes!

      • Jen says

        That sounds amazing – love the idea of shrimp with this marinade!

    • Jen says

      Awesome John, I’m so pleased it’s a winner and great thinking/planning ahead!

  9. chickenmarinade says

    can I substitute rice wine with mirin?