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Vietnamese Grilled Chicken Recipe Perfect for Banh Mi

This Vietnamese Grilled Chicken Recipe is so luscious. With just a few ingredients, this spice rub makes your taste buds sing! Perfect for banh mi’s, noodle bowls, or just over rice, this garlic pepper chicken with a hint of sweetness is perfect for any meal!

Why This Vietnamese Grilled Chicken Recipe Is So Amazing

Vietnamese food is some of my favorite, and this simple Vietnamese grilled chicken recipe is no exception.

Whether made with boneless chicken breasts or boneless thighs, this easy Vietnamese chicken is perfect over white rice, rice noodles, or even sliced and served on a Vietnamese banh mi.

Never had a banh mi? Well, it’s high time you fix that! This Vietnamese-style sub sandwich is one great sandwich.

Perfect for summer, the marinade ingredients needed are super simple.

Ingredients for the Vietnamese Chicken Marinade

Yes, you need fish sauce, and I prefer to buy a Vietnamese brand instead of a Thai brand. I think this gives the chicken a more authentic flavor profile.

Sugar: Brown sugar or white

Garlic: Because all good things have garlic, right?

Shallots: Shallots are becoming easier to find at the grocery store, and they have a distinct flavor that is a bit different from an onion. They are also a bit sweeter than an onion, though. If you can’t find them, substitute them with a yellow onion.

Light soy sauce: Light soy sauce is not as thick and has less of a soy flavor than dark soy sauce. Often it is labeled as “thin” or “superior”.

Pepper: Fresh ground black pepper is essential to this spice paste. For maximum flavor, use five or six turns of the pepper mill.

Grilled Chicken on brown cutting board with green parsley.

Lemongrass – Optional But So Worth It

Some fresh lemongrass is an authentic and aromatic addition. If you have it and want to use it, by all means, stir in one stalk of just the tender white core, chopped fine.

Or keep a tube of lemongrass paste in your fridge and use about 1/6th of the tube or to taste!

This Vietnamese grilled chicken recipe then becomes a super duper Vietnamese lemongrass chicken recipe!

How to Make Vietnamese Grilled Chicken

Directly grill the chicken on a gas grill over medium-high heat. If you’d rather thread the chicken onto skewers and make chicken skewers, that’s OK, too!

Make sure you oil or spray your grill with cooking spray. This paste-covered chicken does have a tendency to stick, but that doesn’t hurt the flavor or anything!

I always serve this chicken with pickled carrots, even if I am not making Vietnamese sandwiches.

It is also great with nuoc cham as a dipping sauce, even if you aren’t making a rice noodle bowl.

However, a vermicelli noodle bowl, a banh mi, or even rice bowls are great with fresh herbs such as cilantro or Thai basil, and then a squeeze of lime juice and some chopped peanuts.

Add a little hot red pepper flakes in the form of fresh, sliced jalapenos and this becomes one of my most healthy recipes.

I love Asian cuisine, especially Vietnamese.

This Vietnamese grilled chicken is great kept on hand and makes for a great dinner party. Just set up a dinner bar with all the accompaniments and let guests build their own bowls or banh mi’s.

However you choose to eat this simple Vietnamese grilled chicken recipe, I promise your taste buds will thank you!

grilled chicken on cutting board with shaved carrots and rice in bowls.

The Beauty of a Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwich

My favorite sandwich is the Vietnamese Banh Mi. By now, they are everywhere, except at your local Subway. Boy, are they missing out.

The Best Banh Mi In Denver

In Denver, they can be found on Federal Boulevard, which is my not-so-secret stomping ground. I love Federal.

It makes me feel adventurous, but I don’t have to show my passport when crossing over. I love the thrill of discovery and the excitement it brings.

And that is how I found this sandwich at Ba Lee – a tiny sandwich place stuck in a nondescript strip center.

A true piece of heaven if heaven was so easy to find. 

A banh mi sandwich is something I love. Truly. If you haven’t had one, don’t.

Otherwise, you will crave them forever. And I mean forever. They are that good.

Few foods combine sweet and salty and spicy better than this.

Not to mention the crunchy veggies and the warmth of the bread.

Add in the crinkle of the butcher paper and the price of $3.50. Well, I think the price has gone up to $4.50 since I first posted this in 2013.

Vietnamese Grilled Chicken.

Oh, How I Love the Banh Mi – Let Me Count the Ways

And did I mention the beauty of the sandwich?

The dark greens, the lettuce and jalapenos, the orange and white carrots, and a slice of cucumber—my mouth is watering just thinking of it.

Some of the best Vietnamese cuisine is found in Denver. I love it all.

But I love the banh mi because of its simplicity and the fact that you can cram so much flavor onto a little bit of bread.

The hardest part to get right is the bread. Banh mi bread is really a French baguette, but it is a French baguette made by the Vietnamese. It is not so crispy on the outside that it hurts your mouth when taking a bite. The interior is tender and soft, and for a Banh Mi, it is always served warm.

Do yourself and go explore some Asian markets. My favorite in Denver is off of Federal and Alameda, the Pacific Ocean Marketplace.

While there, pick up some Vietnamese rolls made for banh mi and some fish sauce—I prefer 3 Crabs or Red Boat. You can even buy the carrot salad there if you choose.

I could go on and on about what I buy, and perhaps I should do a post on just that, but in the meantime, have fun exploring on your own. (They also have a great inexpensive kitchen shop where I buy some of my white dishes and small bowls.)

Other Vietnamese-Inspired Recipes You Might Enjoy

Vietnam Cuisine

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Vietnamese Grilled Chicken

Grilled Vietnamese Chicken

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes*
  • Cook Time: 10 Minutes
  • Total Time: 20 – 25 Minutes*
  • Yield: 46 Servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese


Vietnamese Grilled Chicken is so luscious. With just a few ingredients, this spice rub makes your taste buds sing! Perfect for banh mi’s noodle bowls or just over rice, this garlic pepper chicken with a hint of sweet is perfect for any meal!



2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

6 garlic cloves

4 shallots

2 t sugar

2 T fish sauce (Vietnamese preferred)

2 T light soy sauce

1 stalk of lemongrass (just the tender inner white core finely chopped) Optional

Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Carrot Daikon Salad Pickled Salad

2 carrots (Slice carrots lengthwise in half. Then cut each half into long flat slices. Then stack these slices and cut into thin strips.)

2 c daikon (Japanese white radish-our grocery sells them in the produce section.) Cut like carrots.

1/4 c unseasoned rice vinegar

1/4 c white sugar

1 t kosher salt

Toss all together in a bowl. Let stand 1 hour tossing occasionally. Drain before putting on Banh Mi or chicken.

Other Ingredients:

Fresh Cilantro

Fresh Jalapeno (Slice thin with seeds or deseed if you don’t want as spicy)


Mayonnaise to spread on a Banh Mi: Usually a sweeter mayo like Kewpie is used, but I love to make my own by combining 2/3c mayo with 2 finely chopped green onions and 1T sriracha.)


Blend garlic and shallots in a blender or food processor.

Stir in sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and a liberal amount of ground black pepper.

Smear on pounded breasts or thighs and marinate several hours and up to overnight.

Preheat grill to medium high and oil the grill with cooking spray so that the chicken does not stick.

Grill until done.

Carrot Daikon Pickled Salad

Toss all together in a bowl. Let stand 1 hour tossing occasionally. Drain before putting on Banh Mi or chicken.


*Not including marinating time

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Wednesday 5th of October 2022

Hello! is it 2 teaspoon sugar or 2 tablespoon sugar? Does lower case "t" mean teaspoon?

Chef Mimi

Sunday 22nd of August 2021

Lovely. Next year I’m going to grow lemon grass again. Wish I’d done that this year. I love Red Boat also. Great information about bahn mi!


Thursday 2nd of September 2021

Thanks Mimi. Is lemongrass an annual where you live or is it a perennial?


Thursday 19th of August 2021

I could probably just each the chicken with a side of the salad, but who can resist a Banh Mi. What fabulous flavors!


Friday 20th of August 2021

Right?! Thanks MJ!

Healthy World Cuisine

Wednesday 18th of August 2021

Love how quick and easy this marinade comes together. We are especially enjoying that crispy carrot salad on the side as it is all about the fresh bright herbs and veggies in Vietnamese cooking that make it so delicious. Take Care

Susan Grupe

Tuesday 17th of August 2021

How I wish I could "order" from your photos!


Tuesday 17th of August 2021

SO funny! But wouldn't that be nice! Thanks Susan!