Have you ever been clued into a recipe that is so easy and delicious, that it seems almost too good to be true? This easy Coca-Cola chicken thighs recipe was given to my parents years ago by my late uncle. At that time, it was known by my uncle as Pepsi Cola chicken. Over the years, it’s become a family favorite. Frequently requested for birthdays, I always enjoy making this super simple cola chicken thighs recipe. When our boys were growing up, they eagerly devoured it whenever it was served. Now that my husband and I are empty-nesters, we’ve scaled it down a bit and still have leftovers. I even created a crock pot version. Read on to get the scoop about the best Coca-Cola chicken thighs recipes!
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Why is this Coca-Cola Chicken Thighs Recipe so Amazing?
In addition to being super easy, there is actually another reason why this Coca-Cola chicken thighs recipe is so delicious. If you were wondering, “Does Coca-Cola tenderize meat?” you are exactly right. The soda in the cola acts as a meat tenderizer, so the coca cola chicken thighs turn out moist, tender, and juicy every time. Pepsi chicken is just the same. Use whichever soda you prefer. You can even use diet Pepsi or Coke with this chicken.
***Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.*** Already know what you’d like to get from Amazon? Here’s a handy way to get to the website, linked to one of my favorite easy recipe books. Just click on the link, then browse around and do your shopping.
How Do You Cook with Coke?
Here’s the secret to cooking with cola: Pair it with any barbeque sauce and you have a delicious sauce. Do you have to use Coke? No, and since it was originally known in our family as Pepsi Cola chicken, that lets you know we have tried different colas. In fact, you will notice that in this post I use the terms Coca-Cola chicken and Pepsi Cola chicken interchangeably. There are many cola options you can choose from. In our family, we actually prefer to use Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi. A generic diet cola will work well, too. Does the type of barbeque sauce matter? In my decades of experience making these Coca-Cola chicken thighs recipes, the dish turns out to be delicious no matter which brand of barbeque sauce you use. The one I use most frequently is Sweet Baby Ray’s, but that is because we seem to find it on sale frequently.
Basic Coca-Cola Chicken Thighs Recipe Ingredients
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs OR bone-in thighs with skin removed
1 12-ounce can of cola, your favorite brand (You can use Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, or diet cola–any cola, really.)
16 ounces barbecue sauce
Directions for the Coca-Cola Chicken Thighs Recipe
Heat oil in an electric skillet. Ours is similar to this Presto 16-inch version. Set the heat to 350 degrees.
Brown the chicken for five minutes on each side. When the chicken is browned, pour the barbeque sauce and cola over the chicken. Cover and simmer at 250 degrees for 20 minutes.
If the liquid is boiling rapidly, you may want to turn the heat down to 200 degrees. Serves 4.
What to Serve with Coca-Cola Chicken Thighs
We like to serve the chicken and sauce over rice, but you could also serve it over baked potatoes. If you serve it with rice, you may want to start the rice about 20 minutes before the chicken. We use a rice cooker and prefer brown rice, which takes about 40 minutes to cook. Depending on the rice cooker and the type of rice you use, the cooking time for the rice may vary. We love our rice cooker, which is similar to this 8-cup version by Hamilton Beach.
If you use an instant pot for your rice, the cooking time may be a lot shorter, depending on your model. I haven’t transitioned to an instant pot yet, so just follow your manufacturer’s directions. Other side dishes that go well with this Coca-Cola chicken thighs recipe include super simple cornbread, roasted red skin potatoes, or berry mandarin tossed salad.
Coca-Cola or Pepsi Cola Chicken Thighs
- 1 skillet
- 2 tablespoons Cooking oil
- 6-8 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or bone-in thighs with skin removed
- 1 12-ounce Can of Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, or diet cola
- 16 ounces Barbecue sauce
- Heat oil in an electric skillet. Set the heat to 350 degrees.
- Brown the chicken for five minutes on each side. When the chicken is browned, pour the barbeque sauce and cola over the chicken.
- Cover and simmer at 250 degrees for 20 minutes.
- If the liquid is boiling rapidly, you may want to turn the heat down to 200 degrees.
- Serve over rice, if desired.
Does it Matter if the Chicken Thighs are Bone-In or Boneless?
This recipe works well with bone-in or boneless chicken thighs. We prefer to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. That way, you don’t have to spend time taking the skin off of the meat. Bone-in thighs are just as flavorful adn tender, though.
Coca-Cola Chicken Thighs Recipe for the Slow Cooker
Since I love to have a meal ready and waiting for me when I get home from work, I decided to adapt this recipe for the crock pot. Since the chicken needs to be browned, I do that the night before, then put the browned chicken in the crock pot. I pour the cola and barbeque sauce over the chicken, then refrigerate overnight. In the morning, I put the crock pot on low and let it cook for about 8 hours. The chicken really doesn’t need that much time to cook, so it ends up being pulled chicken. The meat just falls apart, it is so tender. The electric skillet version is still our family’s favorite, but the crock pot version might work better with your schedule.
Coca-Cola Chicken Thighs Recipe with Pineapple
We recently discovered another winning variation by accident. I had some leftover fresh pineapple chunks in the refrigerator. On a whim, I put them in the Pepsi Cola chicken sauce as it was simmering with the chicken thighs. When I served the chicken and sauce with the pineapple chunks, it received rave reviews from the family. All you do is add 1 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks or 1 and 1/2 cups chopped, fresh pineapple to the sauce when you pour the cola and barbecue sauce over the chicken. Let the pineapple simmer along with the chicken thighs, then serve as usual. This variation has the added advantage of increasing the serving amount by 2 more people.
Coca-Cola Chicken Thighs Recipe for the BBQ Grill (Smoker)
We love to use our Traeger smoker to grill meat. When adapting this recipe for the smoker, skip the browning in the electric skillet. Some of the steps are the same as the ones we take to make our favorite orange-glazed smoked pork chops. Place the chicken thighs, cola, and barbecue sauce in an aluminum pan. Cover and refrigerate. Turn the Traeger grill on high and heat to 180 degrees with the lid closed. After about 15 minutes, reduce the heat to smoke. At this point, I usually use a metal brush to scrape the grill. Bring out the chicken and place the pan on the grill. With the temperature still at 180 degrees, smoke for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the grill to 400 degrees and cook for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Check the meat with an instant-read meat thermometer before removing from the grill.
Pull out the cooked Coca-Cola chicken thighs to a cutting board, tent them with foil, and let them rest. While the chicken is resting, pour the cola and barbecue sauce mixture into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. You may thicken the sauce with a bit of cornstarch if desired. Place the chicken in a serving dish and pour the cola mixture over the chicken before serving.
**If you have an older Traeger with no temperature gauge, no problem! Ours is an older model smoker with just Low, Medium, and High settings. To add a temperature gauge to your smoker, use this handy digital thermostat kit. It’s easy to install and works like a charm.
Downsizing the Coca-Cola Chicken Recipe for Empty-Nesters
There are just two of us at home most of the time now. To downsize the recipe from when we served it to hungry teenage boys, we have started using a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved. The recipe still makes enough for two meals when served with rice. It’s one of my favorite go-to dishes to serve during a workweek.
Other Easy Main Dishes You Might Enjoy
If you are a fan of easy meals, here are some other recipes you might want to try. The ingredients are simple, and the preparation takes very little time. Some of these recipes make use of leftovers to make your food budget stretch farther. Check out these delicious options:
- Easy Curried Turkey
- Easy Ham and Potato Hash
- How to Make Easy Lasagna
- Easy French Onion Soup with Sausage in the Slow Cooker
- Greek Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Are You Now Craving Moist Coca-Cola Chicken Thighs?
If you are like me, you are always looking for new, easy recipes to try. I get many of my ideas from Pinterest. If I find a recipe I’d like to try, I save it to my Recipes to Try board.
My family members have been beneficiaries of my many Pinterest experiments. Most of them have turned out well. Do you have a Pinterest account? If you like to collect easy recipes as well, I’d love to follow you.
More Food Inspiration
It’s always nice to have a plan when it comes to meals. If you’re looking for a way to get more organized with your meal planning efforts, I’ve got something for you. Free, editable meal planners! The templates can be used over and over, as often as you need them. You can make as many duplicates as you like, and you’ll be able to save old meal plans for future reference. I hope it simplifies things for you.
Enjoy making one of these easy Coca-Cola chicken thighs recipes and may all of your cooking endeavors meet with great success!
Lisa Mitchell is a wife, mom, and school librarian who likes to create and share recipes, often using fresh ingredients from her family’s small Pacific Northwest farm. To get more easy recipes, click on over to the Food page.