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Slices of char siu chicken on a board.

Easy Chinese BBQ Char Siu Chicken Marinade

For Chinese BBQ lovers everywhere, this sweet and savoury char siu chicken is finger licking good! This super easy marinade produces the most tender and juicy chicken I’ve ever had. Oven baked or barbecued, this char siu chicken is sure to become a definite crowd pleaser.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 1 d
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cantonese, Chinese
Servings 6 people


  • lbs chicken thighs (boneless and skinless)
  • ¼ cup char siu sauce (Lee Kum Kee or other brand)
  • 1 tsp chou hou paste
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (or other rice wine)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • pinch of salt


Marinade Chicken Thighs

  • Sprinkle salt to taste on chicken thighs.
  • Combine char siu sauce, chou hou paste, garlic powder, cinnamon, soy sauces, white pepper, Shaoxing wine and water into a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  • Pour marinade over chicken thighs (reserving 2 tbsp for basting later). (Note 1)
  • Coat marinade over chicken thighs. Marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Oven Baking Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Place marinated chicken on an elevated rack. Line a cookie sheet or baking pan with tin foil (for easy clean up) and place it underneath the rack.
  • Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from oven and brush on additional marinade on one side. No need to flip. (Note 1)
  • Place it back in the oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes till fully cooked (internal temperature at 165°F).
  • Set oven to broil on high (500F) for 3-5 minutes or until desired char effect. (Note 2)
  • Rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Barbecue Grilling Instructions

  • Grill on high temperature for 5 minutes on each side.
  • Brush on additional marinade on one side. (Note 1)
  • Lower temperature to medium. Close the lid and cook thoroughly until the internal temperature is 165°F.
  • Rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.



Chicken thighs:  You can use chicken breasts instead but will yield a drier texture.  Reduce cooking time.
Char siu sauce: If you're unable to find char siu sauce in your grocery store, a combination of nam yu/fermented soy beans, sugar (molasses and honey) and five spice powder will provide that char siu flavour.  Combine nam yu (2 cubes), extra 1 tsp of light soy sauce, molasses (2 Tbsp), honey (3 Tbsp) and five spice powder (1/2 tsp). 
If nam yu or fermented soy bean sauce is difficult to find, hoisin sauce is a great substitute. I would add more hoisin than the nam yu since it's sweeter and less salty. Replace the nam yu above with 3 Tbsp. of hoisin sauce. Just note, the mixture will no longer be red.  Add some red food coloring if desired.
Chou hou paste: This provides a deeper umami flavour to the chicken.  If you're unable to find this in your local Asian grocery store, use fermented soy bean paste.  Otherwise leave this out altogether.
Dark soy sauce: Replace with 1 tsp of light soy sauce
Shaoxing wine: Replace with dry sherry


Note 1: If you're finding the marinade too thick and you're unable to reserve some of it, add an extra tablespoon of water.
Note 2: I've also tried this recipe without basting with additional marinade and it's turned out great.  If you happen to forget it - it's not really a big deal!  Basting it adds a bit more sauce on the chicken (for mixing with rice)
Note 3:  When broiling, watch your oven closely to make sure you don't excessively burn the surface of the chicken.  Open the oven door slightly if it starts smoking.  I usually don't broil for longer than 5 minutes and I haven't experienced any smoking.
Keyword char siu chicken
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