It is hard not to like chicken thighs. Despite being one of the cheapest meats, they are packed with more flavor and healthy fats than costlier cuts like chicken breast.
Surprisingly enough, the benefits of chicken thighs only increase as the cost goes down. By opting for bone-in, skin-on thighs — instead of the more expensive boneless, skinless option — you can reap the benefits of collagen and bone broth without having to pay extra for keto supplements.
To help you get the most out of each thigh while staying in ketosis, we put together this keto guide to chicken thighs. In it, you will find plenty of tips and recipes to add to your keto lifestyle, so you can get the most out of every cut, every dollar, and every meal.
Here is a quick overview of the topics we will cover in this post:
- The benefits of chicken thighs for keto
- Essential rules for preparing chicken thighs and staying in ketosis
- Top 10 low-carb chicken thigh recipes
- Bonus tips for keto thighs on a budget and on the go
- Practical takeaways and helpful resources
The Benefits of Chicken Thighs for a Keto Lifestyle
Other than the fact that they are tasty, juicy, and filled with fat, chicken thighs come with several benefits for keto:
- Packed with healthy fats. Your fat consumption plays a crucial role in your weight loss results, and the type of fat you consume significantly impacts your health. Chicken thighs are not only a high-fat meat option for the keto lifestyle, but most of their fat content comes from the same healthy fat that is found in avocados.
- A good source of complete protein. If you’re looking for a way to increase your protein intake, chicken thighs are one of the best keto-friendly choices. With the skin, you’ll get around a 60/40 ratio of fat to protein.
- Experience the benefits of collagen. Collagen supplements have become popular in the keto community for the unique benefits this type of protein can provide. What the manufacturers won’t tell you is that you can reap these benefits by simply eating more chicken skin. Along with that, the skin-on thighs will add extra healthy fats to your meal as well, making it perfect for keto.
- Budget-friendly. Thighs are far cheaper than more popular cuts of meat, such as chicken breast and steak.
- Easy to prepare. The moisture content, skin, and bones make it difficult to overcook the thigh meat, regardless of how you prepare it. You’ll find an example of the easiest way to prepare crispy keto thighs in the next section.
- Versatile. Unlike leaner cuts of meat, chicken thighs are available bone-in, skin-on, as well as boneless and skinless, and can be cooked in virtually any way you prefer. This includes grilling, braising, pan-roasting, oven baking, slow cooking, and even air frying.
Now that we are equipped with the “why” behind chicken thighs, let’s take a closer look at how to incorporate them into your keto diet.
4 Essential Rules for Cooking Chicken Thighs and Staying in Ketosis, Too
Whether you follow keto chicken thigh recipes or want to come up with your own dish, it is important to know these four essential rules to support your goals:
1. Start simple.
To help you make your diet into a sustainable healthy lifestyle, start with simple steps and build from there. The same principle applies when adding chicken thighs to your keto diet as well.
For example, if you are not sure what to buy or how to cook your chicken thigh, keep it simple by opting for bone-in and skin-on thighs prepared in the oven. This tends to be the simplest and cheapest method to prepare chicken thighs while providing you with plenty of fat, protein, collagen, and flavor.
For quick and easy keto chicken thighs, simply place them in a preheated oven, skin side up, and coated with your preferred seasonings. Cook at 400°F convection or 425°F conventional for about 35-40 minutes. Place the thighs on baking grates for crispier skin.
While it cooks, throw together some low-carb vegetables or make a keto salad. The result will be a simple, healthy, and complete keto meal. Before you dig in, however, make sure to check that your chicken is cooked to the right temperature.
2. Cook to the right temperature.
Since each oven and cooking method will vary, it is best to test the temperature. This is the only way you can truly know if the thighs are cooked all the way through.
The bare minimum is an internal temperature of 165F (74 degrees C) with the thermometer placed near the bone. For a thigh that provides tender and juicy meat with every bite, leave it in the oven until it reaches around 180-185F (82-85C).
3. Find the right serving size for your needs.
To help you figure out how you can fit this into your keto diet, we’ve put together a chart with rough estimates for the macronutrients found in each thigh:
|Type of chicken thigh||One bone-in, skin-on thigh||One boneless, skinless thigh|
|Net Carbs (g)||0||0|
Keep in mind that these are rough estimates. Macronutrient content of each thigh will vary depending on the size.
As a rule of thumb for a main course, plan on about 3/4 to one pound of bone-in chicken thighs per person or 1/2 pound of boneless chicken thighs per person.
If you need a way to fit more fat into your day, opt for skin-on, bone-in thighs instead of boneless and skinless. Conversely, for some extra help upping your daily protein intake, boneless and skinless thighs will be the better choice.
If you are not sure what your fat or protein needs are yet, our keto calculator will get you on the right track.
4. Plan ahead to get the most out of every thigh
More specifically, you’ll want to bulk buy on-sale items, bulk freeze, batch cook, and use the remaining bones for bone broths to get the most out of every dollar and every thigh. We’ll dive deeper into how you can apply this rule after we explore what you can make with our feature ingredient.
Top 10 Easy Keto Chicken Thigh Recipes
Here are our favorite easy recipes that anyone on keto can enjoy. Click on the photo or the button to see how the recipe is made.
1. Crispy Curry Rub Chicken Thighs
This is one of the easiest chicken thigh recipes — the perfect example of how simple it is to whip up a delicious keto dinner.
Simply coat each thigh with olive oil, rub on the mix of flavorful herbs and spices, and put it in the oven. The result is a crispy, savory chicken thigh that is packed with medicinal compounds from cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and olive oil.
If you are not a fan of curry, you can easily adapt this recipe to your flavor preferences.
Virtually any spice and herb blend can be used to replace the rub — just make sure it doesn’t come with any carb-ridden additives. The ingredient label should only list herbs and/or spices.
2. Caprese Chicken Thighs
For a boneless, skinless thigh option, look no further than this simple keto recipe. Though it looks fancy, all you have to do is cook, blend, layer, and bake.
The end result will be a well-balanced keto meal with plenty of fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals that is sure to impress any guest.
Even the keto skeptics in your family will want to dig into these. They look good and taste even better.
3. Crispy Chipotle Chicken Thighs
Think of these as a healthy Mediterranean keto option with a chipotle kick. You can easily adapt the spice level to your preferences as well. Even without the kick, this will still be a delicious dinner.
With this low-carb chicken thigh recipe, you’ll also learn how to prepare crispy thighs in a skillet without having to stick them in an oven. Just don’t forget to reuse the butter and chicken fat to cook up some quick keto greens like spinach or kale.
4. Lemon & Rosemary Roasted Chicken Thighs
Here’s another super easy low carb thigh recipe, but with this dish, you’ll let the marinade do most of the work before you put it in the oven. The smells that fill your kitchen will be reminiscent of an oven-roasted chicken with flavors to match.
Keep in mind that this recipe features boneless and skinless thighs, making it a higher protein meal than you’ll usually find on keto. You can use this to your advantage if you are looking for a dinner that encourages your body to burn off its stored fat and preserve muscle mass.
5. Keto Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Thighs
If you love cheese, you’ll love these. The creamy sauce features plenty of Parmesan that is balanced with the rich flavors of garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and Italian seasoning.
As the ingredients blend together in front of your eyes, you’ll realize how easy it is to make a gourmet keto meal. Bookmark this recipe just in case you need a reliably delicious low carb dinner for the next family occasion.
6. Oven “Grilled” Asian Chicken Thighs
This low carb chicken thigh recipe will give you a full spectrum of BBQ chicken flavor without having to fuss with the grill. All you need is the right combination of keto-friendly ingredients and the oven will do the rest.
Each bite will come with crispy caramelized skin and tender, juicy dark meat chicken — a guilt-free keto treat. You’ll also get a healthy serving of spinach with the recipe. This will provide you with the fiber and minerals you need to help remedy keto flu symptoms as you adapt to the keto lifestyle.
7. Chicken Skillet with Jalapeno and Cheese Sauce
This combination of cheese, spice, and chicken is hard to beat. Plus, the high-fat content of this recipe will help you experience the jalapeno kick without it overstaying its welcome.
This is one of the simplest, quickest, and well-balanced keto thigh recipes. Not only is it high-fat and packed with flavor, but it will help you meet your protein needs as well. You can even add an extra crispy dimension to each bite by letting the thigh sit on top of the sauce and dipping each forkful in before you take a bite.
8. Roasted Chicken Thighs in Red Pepper Sauce
This easy low carb recipe will make you feel like an expert keto chef. The secret to the rich flavor in this dish is in the combination of keto-friendly ingredients. The goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and garlic, in particular, mix together wonderfully to create a deceptively delicious cream sauce. You’ll want to add this recipe to your weekly dinner rotation.
To make a complete meal, try having these thighs with any keto pasta variation — from zoodles to shirataki noodles. Simply drizzle extra red pepper sauce on top for a quick and easy side of low carb pasta.
9. Skillet Browned Chicken with Creamy Greens
If you love chicken skin but would rather not deal with the bones, give this recipe a try. Each bite will come with crisp skin, juicy chicken, and a creamy savory sauce without any bone, tendon, or cartilage to pick through.
This is one of the higher fat chicken thigh recipes for keto, making it a great dinner option if you usually find yourself eating more protein than you need. You’ll also get plenty of low carb vegetables without having to figure out what side to make.
10. Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Popper Casserole
Though it is pretty obvious what you’ll get with this recipe, there is one ingredient you may not expect: bacon.
With the sacred keto trinity of cheese, bacon, and chicken thighs, this casserole is sure to be a crowd favorite. This recipe is also easy to scale up if you need to feed a party or keto meals for the week.
You can easily customize this recipe to fit your needs as well. Need some extra fat? Simply add sour cream on top. Want to add some extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals? Break up each serving and throw it on a bed of leafy greens.
Bonus Tips & Strategies for Adding Chicken Thighs to Your Keto Lifestyle
To help you optimize your keto lifestyle, we put together a list of tips and strategies to cover a wide range of topics. We broke them down into three categories: getting the most out of each dollar, getting the most out of each thigh, and on the go options.
Getting the Most Out of Each Dollar: Budget, Bulk, and Storage
For the cheapest keto chicken option, you’ll want to bulk buy when you find a good deal and freeze or batch cook. The most budget-friendly strategy will be centered around what you can get the best deal on.
In general, the least expensive chicken thigh option tends to be chicken leg quarters or whole chicken legs. These consist of both the thigh and drumstick.
If you plan on making bone broth, the leg quarters will yield a more nutritious broth than chicken thighs alone. Keep in mind, however, that you will get less meat and fat per pound with this option.
Ideally, you want to find chicken thighs (bone-in or boneless) for chicken leg prices and bulk buy to take advantage of any deal. From there, you can find a recipe that fits the ingredients you have and plan out how you’ll make use of the meat and leftovers.
When it comes to storage, it is generally advised to freeze any chicken thighs you don’t plan to cook within the next two days. Chicken thighs can be stored for up to nine months in the freezer. Make sure you mark the date before you freeze.
If you are planning to batch cook keto recipes for the week, it is safer to freeze separate portions and thaw them out before cooking it in the oven. Freezing a cooked keto thigh can preserve it for around 3-4 months. Refrigerating your portions is also an option if you plan to eat them within the next 3-4 days.
Getting the Most Out of Each Thigh: Crispy Skin, Cooking Tips, and Bone Broth
Now that you know how to fit more delicious keto meals into your budget, here are some tips you can use to get the most out of each thigh you buy:
Perfectly Crispy Chicken Skin — Three Ways
- Skillet + Oven Crisp — Cook bone-in, skin-on thighs in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, with a small amount of oil, skin-side down, until the skin is crispy and golden brown. Then turn them over and transfer the pan to a 375 F oven and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes.
- Oven Only — Put the thighs on an oven grate, skin side up, and put them in your preheated oven. Cook for 400°F convection or 425°F conventional for about 35-40 minutes. Make sure to follow the temperature recommendations in Essential Rule #2.
- Skin Cooked Separately — This will take some extra time to prepare (unless you can purchase the chicken skin on its own). Simply follow the cooking instructions from our chicken thigh tostada recipe, and you’ll end up with an incredible zero-carb chip alternative. Even if you don’t want to make full keto tostada recipe, you can still make the crispy skin into an appetizer or small meal with a side of sour cream, cream cheese, or keto-friendly dip.
Tips for Different Thigh Types
- Chicken leg quarters — When left whole, the leg quarters are delicious when roasted or grilled. You can also separate them to make a drumstick appetizer followed by a keto thigh recipe as the main course.
- Boneless chicken thighs — Boneless chicken thighs are faster-cooking than bone-in and run the risk of drying out when cooked for too long on the grill or in the oven. Boneless thighs are a great low-cost meat option for slow cooker, pressure cooker, or Instant Pot chicken recipes. This cut also makes a flavorful, higher fat substitute for soups and chilis that call for lean chicken breast.
- Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs — These are ideal for making sheet pan suppers and skillet meals, roasting, and grilling. The skin also works as a perfect canvas for glazes and sauces to cling to. Keep in mind, however, that braising and slow cooking skin-on thighs will yield a soggy companion to the tender meat.
Reviving the Remains — How to Minimize Food Waste and Maximize Health Benefits
Whether you debone your chicken thighs before cooking or simply save the bones afterward, they will contribute a rich array of flavor and health-promoting nutrients to your homemade chicken broth. Simply collect the inedible remains from each thigh and freeze them until you have enough to make a broth.
When you are ready to revive the remains, check out our keto guide to the bone broth diet. There you’ll find everything you need to know to make the broth and add it to your keto lifestyle.
Keto-friendly Thighs to Order: On-the-go Options
In general, most restaurant-chain chicken thighs will have a flour-based coating with a sugary sauce. This combination not only will drive the carb count up, but it will counteract the benefits we can get from a keto-friendly chicken thigh.
To ensure that you’re ordering a meat dish that promotes ketosis, follow these tips:
- Avoid breading. Anything fried and crispy is likely to be coated in carb-laden flour. If you can, try to order your food with no breading.
- Stick to dark meat, cheese, and vegetables. If you aren’t able to find a crispy keto-friendly thigh when you are on the go, you can always order dark meat chicken with cheese and low carb vegetables. Just make sure there are no added sugars or carb-ridden ingredients.
- Check online. Many popular restaurants put their nutritional information online. Some even offer a “build your own” style app where you can choose what ingredients you’re eating. This is will help you check the ingredients and carb counts in your favorite meals.
- Be cautious with condiments and sauces. Chicken is commonly accompanied by a sugary dipping sauce or slathered with something sweet, so make sure to check what it comes with before you order. Try to opt for high-fat, low-carb salad dressings like ranch, caesar, bleu cheese, or oil and vinegar.
- Use our on-the-go keto guides. For more keto-friendly restaurant options, check out our post on keto and fast food. Or, if you need something quick that you can just grab and go, look through our keto snack list.
Putting It All Together
Whether you are new to the keto lifestyle or a ketosis connoisseur, you now have the information you need to get the most out of each chicken thigh.
If you are not sure where to start, here are some easy low carb chicken thigh recipes you can try tonight :
- Crispy Curry Rub Chicken Thighs
- Caprese Chicken Thighs
- Crispy Chipotle Chicken Thighs
- Lemon & Rosemary Roasted Chicken Thighs
- Keto Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Thighs
- Oven “Grilled” Asian Chicken Thighs
- Chicken Skillet with Jalapeno and Cheese Sauce
- Roasted Chicken Thighs in Red Pepper Sauce
- Skillet Browned Chicken with Creamy Greens
- Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Popper Casserole
- Spiced Crispy Chicken Skin Tostada
As with any keto meal, make sure you are mindful of how the recipe fits into your nutritional needs for the day. Your results will mostly depend on what you eat and how much you eat.
To help you figure out what this means more you, we’ve included several tools and plans that’ll help guide you toward the results you want:
- Our keto calculator — Find out how much of each macronutrient you need to eat to lose fat and stay in ketosis.
- Our 30-day meal plan — One month of keto meals mapped out for you
- Keto Academy — A comprehensive meal plan and step-by-step keto guide