Spicy Grilled Chicken Breasts

One chicken recipe with three sauces to choose from.

Spicy Grilled Chicken Breasts
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Ruth Blackburn; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis
Active Time:
15 mins
Chill Time:
30 mins
Rest Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
50 mins

Here it is, folks—the surefire way to achieve a juicy, perfectly seasoned chicken breast every time. After tasting these Spicy Grilled Chicken Breasts, our Test Kitchen pros swore that they'd never go back to another technique for cooking chicken breasts.

This recipe for Spicy Grilled Chicken has a little secret: It's all in the brine. Brining your poultry before grilling seasons the chicken all the way through, locking in the moisture that will keep the cooked chicken tender and juicy.

Don't leave the chicken in the brine for more than 30 minutes; otherwise it might absorb too much of the salt. (If you want to brine ahead of time, let the chicken soak in the brine for 30 minutes, then remove the chicken and pat it dry. Wrap the chicken and refrigerate, discarding the brine.) Cooking the chicken breasts on the high heat of the grill imparts lovely char—and means that dinner will be ready in no time.

Once you've mastered this perfect technique for brining and grilling chicken breasts, the sauce possibilities are endless. Channel the spirit of Nashville Hot Chicken with our Nashville-Style Hot Sauce, opt for our aromatic Spicy-Ginger Garlic Sauce, or stick with a Southern classic: Sweet Heat Brown Sugar Sauce. Choose just one sauce or try all three. No matter which way you turn, you can't go wrong.


  • ¼ cup kosher salt

  • 4 (6- to 8-oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • Nashville-Style Hot Sauce, Ginger-Garlic-Chile Sauce, or Sweet Heat BrownSugar Sauce (recipes below) 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper


  1. Stir together 4 cups water and salt in a large bowl until salt dissolves. Add chicken; chill, uncovered, 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, preheat grill to high (450°F to 500°F) on 1 side and medium-low (300°F to 350°F) on other side.

  3. Prepare desired sauce; set aside 4 tablespoons.

  4. Remove chicken, discarding brine; pat dry. Coat with oil; sprinkle with pepper. Place on oiled grates over hotter side of grill. Cover and grill, undisturbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip chicken; place on oiled grates over cooler side of grill. Cover and grill until a thermometer inserted in center registers 160°F, 10 to 15 minutes, brushing each breast with about 1 tablespoon of reserved sauce after 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate; cover with aluminum foil. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with remaining sauce, if desired.

Nashville-Style Hot Sauce

Stir together ½ cup canola oil; 2 Tbsp. each cayenne pepper and light brown sugar; 1 tsp. each paprika, garlic powder, and kosher salt; and ½ tsp. black pepper in a microwavable bowl. Microwave, covered, on HIGH until sizzling and fragrant, about 1 minute. Makes about ⅔ cup.

Ginger-Garlic-Chile Sauce

Cook ¼ cup each canola oil and finely chopped scallions (3 medium scallions), 3 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger, and 1 tsp. grated garlic in a small skillet over medium-low until sizzling and fragrant, 1 minute. Remove from heat, and stir in 1 Tbsp. sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste), 2 tsp. soy sauce, and 1 tsp. each sesame oil and rice vinegar. Stir until slightly cooled, 1 minute. Stir in 3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro. Makes about ⅔ cup.

Sweet Heat Brown Sugar Sauce

Whisk together ½ cup bottled chili sauce, 3 Tbsp. each light brown sugar and minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, and 2 tsp. each Worcestershire sauce and paprika in a bowl until smooth. Makes about 1 cup.

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