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Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken (Gà Xào Sả)

One pan, Vietnamese lemongrass chicken cooks in a sticky-sweet base of coconut water, caramelized shallots, lemongrass, and ginger; garnish with fresh cilantro and serrano chilies to complement the sweet and delicious chicken recipe. We serve ours with fresh rice and nuac cham for a meal that’s ready and on your table in 45 minutes!

Caramelized Vietnamese lemongrass chicken topped with cilantro and serrano chilis.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

As it cooks, the chicken will look plain, like there’s nothing special about it – but wait! It will take right up until the last few minutes for the chicken to completely transform and caramelize before your eyes – the color alone is absolutely drool-worthy!

What You Need to Make this Recipe

  • Brown Sugar + Coconut Water: Sugar and coconut water combine to caramelize the chicken, shallots, lemongrass and ginger.
  • Fish Sauce: You may consider skipping this ingredient because it’s unfamiliar – don’t do it! Fish sauce is an essential ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine and a staple in our home; Red Boat fish sauce is our preferred brand. It doesn’t have an off-putting smell other brands have.
  • Shallots: Bites with caramelized shallot, lemongrass, and ginger are the highlight of the meal. They cook in sugar and coconut water, adding the perfect amount of the sweetness to offset the tangier elements like ginger, lemongrass, and lime.
  • Lemongrass: What’s lemongrass chicken without the lemongrass? If you’re unfamiliar with the herb, let me give you the rundown. Begin by trimming the ends of the stalk and remove the outer reed. Mince the tender white part of the stalk. I prefer fresh lemongrass, but use paste if you have a hard time locating stalks in the grocery store; I find them at our local Asian market or in the produce section of the grocery store.
  • Ginger: Ginger caramelizes along with the lemongrass and shallots.
  • Lime Zest: Compliment the savory chicken dish with a pop of fresh citrus.
  • Chicken Thighs: Use skinless chicken thighs; bone-in or boneless. The chicken nestles into the pan and caramelizes alongside the other ingredients.
  • Garnish: Finish Vietnamese lemongrass chicken with fresh cilantro and thinly sliced serrano chilies.

How to Select Lemongrass

  • Look for stalks that are firm but flexible.
  • Avoid stalks that are soft and rubbery or dry and brittle.
  • Select bright green and yellowish stalks and avoid those starting to brown.

How to Make Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Bring the sugar and 3 tablespoons of the coconut water to a boil in a saute pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the color changes, for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Bring coconut water and sugar to a boil.

Step 2: Reduce the heat and stir until the mixture turns light brown, for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the fish sauce. Stir to combine.

Cook sugar and water until it turns brown.

Step 3: Return the pan to heat and stir in the remaining ½ cup of coconut water. Next, add ginger, shallots, lemongrass, and lime zest. Adjust the temperature and maintain a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.

Add shallots, lemongrass, and ginger to the mixture and simmer.

Step 4: Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and nestle them into the pan; continue simmering for 10 minutes.

Nestle the chicken into the pan.

Step 5: Turn the chicken and cook until the chicken and shallots caramelize, for 10-20 minutes.

Cook the Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken until it caramelizes with the other ingredients.

Step 6: Garnish with cilantro and thinly sliced serrano; serve with white rice or coconut cauliflower rice.

Caramelized Vietnamese lemongrass chicken topped with cilantro and serrano chilis.

If you enjoy this meal, try one of these chicken recipes!  

Serving Suggestions

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: Let the dish cool and transfer it to a freezer-safe container. Vietnamese lemongrass chicken will freeze for 4-6 months.
  • Reheat: Warm leftovers in the microwave or on the stovetop.

More Quick Dinner Ideas:

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Caramelized Vietnamese lemongrass chicken topped with cilantro and serrano chilis.

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken (Gà Xào Sả)

Tressa Jamil
One pan, Vietnamese lemongrass chicken cooks in a sticky-sweet base of coconut water, caramelized shallots, lemongrass, and ginger.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 4 Servings
Calories 562 kcal
Equipment
Ingredients
  
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • cup coconut water, divided
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 – inch fresh ginger, julienne
  • 6 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white inner bulb, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon lime zest
  • 6 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • black pepper, coarse ground, to taste
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped, to garnish
  • 1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced, to garnish
Instructions
 
  • Bring the sugar and 3 tablespoons of the coconut water to a boil in a saute pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the color changes, for about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat and stir until the mixture turns brown, for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the fish sauce. Stir to combine.
  • Return the pan to heat and stir in the remaining ½ cup of coconut water.
  • Next, add ginger, shallots, lemongrass, and lime zest. Adjust the temperature and maintain a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and nestle them into the pan; continue simmering for 10 minutes.
  • Turn the chicken and cook until the chicken and shallots caramelize, for 10-20 minutes.
  • Garnish with cilantro and thinly sliced serrano; serve with white rice or coconut cauliflower rice.
Notes
Adapted:
  • The inspiration for this recipe comes from Milkstreet. Their recipe is delicious, but I wanted more of the Vietnamese lemongrass chicken flavor while caramelizing the chicken with the other ingredients as they do. 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 2 Chicken Thighs | Calories: 562 kcal | Carbohydrates: 20 g | Protein: 38 g | Fat: 36 g | Saturated Fat: 10 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15 g | Trans Fat: 0.2 g | Cholesterol: 212 mg | Sodium: 1984 mg | Potassium: 821 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 14 g | Vitamin A: 255 IU | Vitamin C: 5 mg | Calcium: 64 mg | Iron: 3 mg
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
5 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating




Jen

Wednesday 6th of September 2023

If you use lemongrass paste instead of fresh, how much would you use?

Tressa Jamil

Wednesday 6th of September 2023

The lemongrass bulbs come out to about 2 tablespoons, so I would use 1-1 ½ tablespoons of the paste since it is more concentrated.