Sous vide chicken thighs make a tender and juicy chicken dinner. Using sous vide cooking means you can ensure you chicken is cooked perfeclty and is super flavorful. In this recipe lime and cilantro are cooked with the chicken for an easy southwestern flavored dinner.
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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. The 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 control 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 or higher. 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.
This is one of the main reasons it doesn’t make sense to cook a sous vide an entire chicken! Different kinds of chicken meat taste best at different temperatures.
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. Boneless thighs will cook a little more quickly. Bone in thighs are cheaper and after cooking the bone comes out easily. So pick whichever one you prefer.
How About Sous Vide Chicken Legs?
Sous vide chicken legs should follow exactly the same 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.
I’ve never actually made them though. So if you make some let me know how it turns out!
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Can You Sous Vide Frozen Chicken Thighs?
Frozen chicken thighs will work very well in sous vide cooking. One of the great 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 boneless chicken thighs, package them with my vacuum sealer for sous vide cooking and then freeze them. It works best if you season and add extras, like lime or garlic, to the thighs before you freeze them. Then the chicken thighs can go straight from the freezer into the sous vide water bath.
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 your desired temperature. 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 you should season chicken thighs before sous vide cooking. For this recipe I was making southwestern style chicken. 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.
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.
3. Cook the Chicken in the Sous Vide
Once the cooker reaches 165 F drop the bags of chicken into the sous vide cooker. Boneless chicken thighs need to cook for 45 minutes – 4 hours. Bone in thighs should cook for 1 1/2 – 4 hours.
4. Sear the Chicken Thighs
For optimal taste and appearance you will want to sear the chicken thighs once they are done. A few minutes before you are ready to eat heat a frying pan over medium high heat.
Take the chicken out of the sous vide bags, remove the herbs and pat it dry. Then sear it in 1 Tablespoon of oil in the hot pan, for about 1 minute on each side.
How to Serve Sous Vide Chicken Thighs
I served these thighs as a main dish, along with some peach salsa. The salsa worked nicely with the southwestern flavor of the chicken thighs.
Sous vide chicken thighs are extremely versatile – you can make a whole bunch at once, chill them and use them later in the week. 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
If you have more than one or two sous vide chicken thighs to put in the refrigerator you should chill them in an ice water bath first. Before taking them out of the sous vide bags add them to a bowl of ice water to quickly chill them. This will ensure you don’t over stress the refrigerator by adding too much hot foot at once.
- 4 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 45 min - 4 hours for boneless chicken thighs.
- When you are ready to eat 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.
- Serve with peach salsa or cool and refrigerate for later use.
For frozen boneless chicken thighs cook for 1 1/2 - 4 hours.
For frozen bone in chicken thighs cook for 2 - 4 hours.