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Healthy Twists on Classic Lemon Pepper Fried Chicken Thighs

In Recipes
May 21, 2024
Lemon Pepper Fried Chicken Thighs

Lemon pepper fried chicken thighs are a delightful dish loved for their crispy exterior and juicy, flavorful interior. However, traditional frying methods can add extra calories and fat, which might not align with everyone’s dietary goals. The good news is you can still enjoy this classic favorite with healthier twists that retain all the deliciousness without the guilt. Here, we explore several ways to prepare lemon pepper fried chicken thighs that are both nutritious and satisfying.

Air-Fried Lemon Pepper Chicken Thighs

The air fryer has revolutionized healthy cooking by offering a way to achieve that coveted crispy texture with minimal oil. Here’s how you can make air-fried lemon pepper chicken thighs:

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on or skinless, based on preference)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the Chicken: Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels to ensure they get crispy.
  2. Seasoning Mix: In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
  3. Coat the Chicken: Rub the seasoning mixture all over the chicken thighs, ensuring they are evenly coated.
  4. Air Fry: Preheat your air fryer to 375°F (190°C). Place the chicken thighs in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Cook for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through (internal temperature should reach 165°F or 75°C).

Oven-Baked Lemon Pepper Chicken Thighs

Baking is another fantastic method to enjoy healthier lemon pepper chicken thighs. It’s simple and requires minimal hands-on time.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on or skinless)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Prepare the Chicken: As with the air-fried method, pat the chicken thighs dry.
  3. Seasoning Mix: In a bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
  4. Coat the Chicken: Rub the seasoning mixture all over the chicken thighs.
  5. Bake: Place the chicken thighs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C).

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken Thighs

Grilling adds a smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with the zesty lemon pepper seasoning. This method is also lower in fat as excess fat drips away from the chicken as it cooks.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on or skinless)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the Chicken: Pat the chicken thighs dry.
  2. Seasoning Mix: Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt in a bowl.
  3. Coat the Chicken: Rub the mixture over the chicken thighs, ensuring even coverage.
  4. Grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Place the chicken thighs on the grill and cook for about 6-7 minutes per side, or until the chicken is charred and reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).

Tips for Healthier Chicken Thighs

  • Skinless Options: Opt for skinless chicken thighs to reduce fat content.
  • Marination: Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes to enhance flavor.
  • Herbs and Spices: Experiment with additional herbs like rosemary or thyme for extra flavor without extra calories.
  • Portion Control: Enjoy moderate portions alongside a variety of vegetables or salads to maintain a balanced diet.

Conclusion on Lemon Pepper Chicken Thighs

By using healthier cooking methods like air frying, baking, or grilling, you can enjoy the deliciousness of lemon pepper fried chicken thighs without compromising on health. These methods not only reduce the fat content but also bring out the rich flavors of the dish. So, go ahead and try these healthy twists for a guilt-free culinary delight.