Sous vide chicken thighs make a tender and juicy chicken dinner with a crispy skin. Using sous vide cooking means you can ensure your chicken is cooked perfectly and is super flavorful.
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Using a sous vide cooker to make sous vide rib eye steak or sous vide chicken breast gives amazing results. It is also perfect for making chicken thighs that are extra tasty and juicy chicken with a crispy skin. Dark meat chicken thighs have a little more fat than chicken breast meat, which makes the meat extra flavorful and delicious.
How Does Sous Vide Work?
Sous vide is a different style of cooking which allows a much more precise control over the temperature and time of cooking than in traditional methods.
Sous vide cooking is done by submerging food in a water bath. The water in the container is kept at a constant temperature by the sous vide immersion cooker . This means that food is cooked to exactly the temperature you desire.
Why Sous Vide Chicken Thighs?
Sous vide cooking offers precision control. You regulate the exact temperature at which the chicken cooks so you always get the exact results you are looking for.
Chicken thighs are a great source of protein and are perfect for making a healthy and low carb dinner for your family. As an added bonus they are also relatively inexpensive, which makes them a great choice for a budget conscious family.
At What Temperature Should You Cook Chicken Thighs?
For sous vide chicken thighs I use a temperature of 165 F. If you have ever made sous vide chicken breast you will notice that chicken breast is cooked at a lower temperature than chicken thighs. This isn’t for food safety reasons, it is simply for taste.
Chicken thighs have more fat and connective tissue than chicken breasts. Because of this they need to be cooked to a slightly higher temperature to allow the connective tissue to break down. Chicken thighs cooked to less than 165 F will be tough and therefore not as tasty.
Different kinds of chicken meat taste best at different temperatures. And with the sous vide you can make sure cooking takes place at the perfect temperature.
Some people prefer even higher temperatures for chicken thighs, and they are tasty at over cook a wider range of temperatures than chicken breasts. However I find 165 F gives me the perfect combination of juicy and tender chicken meat.
Should I use Boneless or Bone In Thighs?
Either boneless or bone in chicken thighs work well in sous vide cooking. You should chose whichever you prefer.
- Boneless thighs will cook a little more quickly. You will save additional time by not having to debone them after cooking. If you are making sous vide chicken to use for meal prep this is a time savings advantage.
- Bone in thighs are cheaper to buy. Additionally they are usually sold with the skin on. This allows you to sear them after cooking and get a nice, crispy chicken skin. If you want tender chicken with a crispy skin bone in thighs are your best choice.
How About Sous Vide Chicken Legs?
Sous vide chicken legs should follow a similar recipe, with the same cooking temperature and cooking time, as bone in chicken thighs. They won’t be as easy to brown after the sous vide cooking though, because of their shape.
Can You Sous Vide Frozen Chicken Thighs?
Frozen chicken thighs will work very well in sous vide cooking. One of the biggest advantages of sous vide cooking is the only adjustment you need to make for cooking frozen meat is adding extra cooking time. See the recipe card for the time adjustments you should make.
I like to buy a large, family pack of chicken thighs, package them with my vacuum sealer for sous vide cooking and then freeze them. For the best results season the thighs and add extras, like lime or garlic, before you freeze them. Then the chicken thighs can go straight from the freezer into the sous vide water bath.
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How to Make Sous Vide Chicken Thighs
1. Prepare the Sous Vide
The first step is to set up the sous vide cooker in a water bath and set it to 165 degrees F. Make sure you have the sous vide in a large enough container to hold all the chicken thighs you plan to cook.
2. Season the Chicken Thighs
For the tastiest result season the meat before sous vide cooking. You can use almost any spices you like on the chicken or just stick to salt and pepper. Before you season the thighs pat them dry with paper towels.
For this recipe I wanted southwestern style chicken. So I seasoned the thighs with salt, pepper and cumin. Then I placed a lime and coriander on top of the thighs.
As the chicken cooks the flavors of the lime and coriander are subtly absorbed into the chicken. Find more suggestions for seasoing options here.
3. Package the Chicken
Seal the chicken in vacuum bags or ziploc bags. Keep the chicken in a single layer, using no more than 3-4 pieces of chicken per bag.
You want to get as much air as possible out of the bag. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer you can use the water displacement method with a zippered bag. Check out my post on the water displacement method for step by step instructions.
4. Cook the Chicken in the Sous Vide
Once the cooker reaches 165 F drop the bags of chicken into the water bath. Boneless chicken thighs need to cook for 1 – 4 hours. Bone in thighs should cook for 1 1/2 – 4 hours.
Once the thighs are cooked the next step depends on whether you are serving the them right away or planning to have them later.
5. Ice Water Bath (only necessary if not using right away)
If you aren’t using the chicken thighs right away then after they are cooked put the bags into an ice bath before putting them in the refrigerator. The ice water cools them down so that you can refrigerate them without worrying about food safety.
If you put them right in the refrigerator without cooling them first they could cool slowly enough to allow bacteria to grow. Leave them in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes before refrigerating.
6. Sear the Chicken Thighs
Searing the chicken thighs after sous vide cooking will give you a nice crispy skin. It will also heat the chicken if they are coming from the refrigerator.
A few minutes before you are ready to eat heat a frying pan over medium high heat. My preference is to sear in a cast iron skillet because it browns things well. But you can also use a standard frying pan or sear the thighs on a grill if you prefer.
To sear the chicken take it out of the sous vide bags, remove any herbs and pat it dry. Then sear it in 1 Tablespoon of oil in the hot skillet, with the skin side down.
Use tongs to hold the chicken thighs down at different angles so the entire skin becomes crispy and brown. Once the skin is brown flip the thigh over and let the bottom side brown for a minute or so.
How to Serve Sous Vide Chicken Thighs
You can serve these thighs immediately as a main dish. I like to serve them with salsa or with rice or quinoa.
The crispy skin contrasts beautifully with the juicy, tender chicken inside. You can also use the chicken juices in the sous vide bags to make a pan sauce to serve along side them. Check out my recipes for sous vide pork chops and sous vide turkey breast for examples of making a pan sauce with the sous vide juices.
Many flavor variations are possible with this recipe. Changing up the seasoning is a great way to make the recipe more frequently without it getting boring!
- Spicy thighs – If you are using the chicken for tacos then sprinkle them with a little bit of chili powder.
- Italian thighs – Use Italian seasoning instead of cumin and add a lemon to the bag for a deliciously flavored lemon chicken.
- BBQ thighs – Use your favorite barbecue dry rub to season the chicken. Then sear them on the grill for that outdoor flavor.
Using Sous Vide Chicken Thighs for Meal Prep
Sous vide chicken thighs are extremely versatile – you can make a whole bunch at once, chill them and use them later in the week for easy meal prep. Here are some of my favorite ways to use sous vide chicken thighs:
- Use them in tacos or quesadillas
- Make a tasty chicken salad
- Add the chicken to a weeknight soup
- Slice them and stir into some pasta with a jar of pesto for a quick and easy dinner
Find More Sous Vide Recipes
- 4 bone in or boneless chicken thighs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 lime, sliced
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Set sous vide to 165 F.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and cumin. Add a slice of lime and some coriander to the top of each thigh.
- Vacuum seal the chicken thighs or place in zipper top bag. Keep the chicken in a single layer.
- When the water reaches 165 F submerge the bags in the water.
- Cook 1 1/2 - 4 hours for bone-in thighs and 1 - 4 hours for boneless chicken thighs.
- If you aren't using the chicken right away cool it in an ice water bath before refrigerating it.
- When you are ready to eat the chicken heat a frying pan over medium heat and add 1 Tablespoon of oil.
- Remove the thighs from the bags, remove the herbs and pat dry. Sear for 1-2 minutes on each side, until nicely brown on top.
For frozen boneless chicken thighs cook for 1 1/2 - 4 hours.
For frozen bone in chicken thighs cook for 2 - 4 hours.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 220Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 137mgSodium: 464mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 27g
Nutrition facts are estimates.