These Baked Italian Chicken Thighs are marinated in garlic, lemon and herbs then baked until falling-off-the-bone tender and juicy. With crispy, golden brown skin and flavorful meat, this chicken dish is quickly going to become a meal your family will beg for!
There’s everything to love about these Baked Italian Chicken Thighs! Firstly, they taste amazing! Secondly, they’re deliciously succulent thanks partly to the tasty marinade and partly to the fact that this recipe uses bone in and skin on chicken thighs.
If you come from a background of only ever using chicken breast and probably enjoy making my chicken cutlets and my chicken pot pies, I get that you may be hesitant at first. But cooked properly and well seasoned, juicy chicken thighs are so much better than chicken breast! You’ll love the extra chicken flavor and thighs are more economical.
Chicken thighs have got to be the easiest cut of chicken to bake because it’s almost impossible to overcook. While chicken breast will dry out if overcooked, chicken thighs get better with longer cooking. This is because the meat has a lot of connective tissue that breaks down and becomes gelatinous keeping the thighs juicy and tender.
While I use a lot of chicken breast and love it to make dishes like Chicken Sorrentino, chicken thighs (particularly with the bone in and skin on) are my go to when baking or roasting. I think you’ll agree with me too when you taste these easy baked Italian chicken thighs!
For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.
Table of Contents
- Chicken thighs - This recipe works best with bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs. The cooking time has been calculated for this cut of chicken. Boneless skinless chicken thighs thighs can be used but the cooking time would reduce significantly. I highly recommend using bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs which will be much juicer and tastier.
- Extra virgin olive oil - My preferred oil is EVO but use regular olive oil if that’s what you have.
- Garlic - Fresh garlic has the best flavor. Just peel and mince the garlic cloves using a fine grater. Or crush with the back of the knife and chop finely.
- Lemon juice - Of course, I suggest you use fresh lemon juice because you will need the zest as well.
- Lemon zest - Finely grated lemon zest adds lemon oil which is fragrant but not acidic like lemon juice.
- Italian seasoning - This is also known as Italian herbs and can consist of marjoram, basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Sometimes other herbs or spices are added. Be careful to purchase unsalted seasoning otherwise, you might find the chicken is too salty.
- Dried red pepper flakes - Adjust this to your own taste. If you like spicy food, you can add more. If you prefer less spicy, reduce or even leave the red pepper flakes out.
- Freshly ground black pepper - If you’ve been using pre-ground black pepper you’ll find freshly ground is so good! Often pre-ground black pepper
- Salt - Salt will bring out the flavors of the chicken and seasonings so don’t be scared to use it. When a dish tastes bland it’s usually because not enough salt was added. I like a little more salt but if you prefer less salty food, start with just one teaspoon of salt.
See recipe card for quantities.
- Trim the chicken thighs of any excess fat and skin then wipe dry with paper towel.
- Mix together the marinade ingredients.
- In a large, heavy duty ziplock bag combine the chicken thighs with the marinade mixture. Seal, remove excess air and massage the bag to ensure all the chicken is covered in marinade. Refrigerate to marinade.
- Preheat the oven 30 minutes before baking. Remove the chicken thighs from the bag and arrange skin side up in a large baking pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Don’t forget to preheat the oven at least 30 minutes before baking! And don’t crowd the pan or the chicken thighs will stew and not become crispy!
- Chicken legs or marylands can be used instead of thighs. Cooking time will be similar but be sure to check towards the end of the baking.
- Bottled lemon juice could be used in a pinch. If you’re using bottled lemon juice, just omit the lemon zest. It won’t be quite as good but it will still be tasty.
- Instead of fresh garlic use 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
- Substitute Italian seasoning with your favorite dried Italian herbs. Equal quantities of dried basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme make a delicious substitute.
- Don't like lemon? Substitute dry white wine for the lemon juice and omit the lemon rind.
The baked Italian chicken thighs recipe can be varied to suit your tastes or what you have in the pantry.
- Spicy - Increase the amount of red pepper flakes for extra zing!
- Deluxe - Loosen the chicken skin and slip some salted butter between the skin and the chicken meat.
- Kid friendly - Leave out the red pepper flakes for a mild version
If you love this recipe, don’t miss my whole, butterflied roast chicken version!
You’ll need a large baking pan that is big enough to not crowd these oven baked chicken thighs. If you don’t have one large enough divide the chicken thighs between two smaller baking pans.
If you have leftover Italian baked chicken thighs, you can store them well covered in the refrigerator for four or five days. Reheat in the microwave.
These chicken pieces can also be frozen for later. Just wrap in plastic and pop into a zip lock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. It won’t be quite the same after freezing but will be perfect for chicken sandwiches or salads.
Tips for success and FAQ's
To begin, trim the chicken thighs of excess fat and skin then pat dry with paper towel. Any extra moisture will dilute the marinade flavors.
Marinade the chicken thighs for as long as you can but if you don’t have much time 30 minutes will be fine. Lastly be sure to preheat the oven and bake the chicken thighs until completely cooked through to ensure crispy, golden brown skin and moist and juicy meat.
These chicken thighs should be baked for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature registers at least 165ºF/75ºC or more on a meat thermometer. Unlike chicken breast which can dry out easily, chicken thighs are very forgiving even if overcooked a little. I like to take chicken thighs to a higher temperature of up to 190ºF/88ºC. Don’t go over 210ºF/99ºC.
Marinate the chicken thighs for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to 12 hours. When marinating always store the chicken in the refrigerator.
Chicken thighs are naturally more tender and juicy than other cuts like breast. However, marinating will make them even more so, especially when baked in the marinade like in this recipe. Also long cooking breaks down the connective tissue making chicken thigh juicy and tender.
Another name for Italian seasoning is Italian herbs. Generally, this mix is made up of marjoram, basil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. You can substitute equal parts of dried basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano.
The suggestions for what to serve with these baked Italian chicken thighs are endless! I usually go with a salad like my cherry tomato Caprese salad or this Greek couscous salad but Italian fried peppers or crispy roast potatoes also pair superbly!
More recipes like this
Baked Italian Chicken Thighs Recipe
- 1 large baking pan or 2 smaller baking pans
- 8 chicken thighs bone in and skin on (3 pounds or 1½ kilograms) bone in and skin on
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons unsalted Italian seasoning See Note 1
- ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes See Note 2
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Trim the chicken thighs of excess skin and fat and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, lemon zest, herby Italian seasoning mix, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken thighs in a large, heavy-duty ziplock bag and pour over the marinade. Seal the bag, remove the excess air and massage the marinade into the chicken thighs. If you have time, refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC.
- Remove the chicken thighs from the zip lock bag and arrange skin side up in a large baking dish or large oven proof skillet. Don’t crowd the pan.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until browned and when pierced, the juices run clear. The inside of the chicken, near the bone, should be 165ºF/75ºC or more.
- Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. This will make it juicier.
- Serve scattered with chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges.
- This is also known as Italian herbs and can consist of marjoram, basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
- Also known as chilli flakes in some parts of the world.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C).
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods.
- Trim chicken of excess skin and fat.
- Marinade for at least 30 minutes.
- Be sure to preheat the oven.
Nutritional Information Per Serving
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.