A perfect fall, grilled chicken recipe hits all the comfort food buttons. This easy sugar free, BBQ maple pecan chicken is keto friendly, low carb, and gluten free too!
The flavor combination of sweet and spicy never get’s old. I’ve been playing up these sweet and spicy BBQ combos lately (like I did here with these epic pumpkin spice chicken wings) with my favorite all purpose BBQ spice (keto friendly of course), some sugar free maple syrup, and of course pecans to make these epic, grilled chicken thighs with the crispiest skin.
While I am always finding an excuse to grill, you will also find directions below for roasting or air frying these as well to make it work for you!. Grab all the details below for tips and techniques to make the best maple pecan crusted chicken recipe like a pro!
- Cast Iron Skillet or Baking Sheet
- Knife & Cutting Board or Food Processor (optional)
- Tongs and Oven Mitts
Let’s dive into the ingredients, optional substitutions, and all the cooking techniques to get that signature crunchy crispy skin you know and love!
The Chicken Thighs: I choose bone in thighs for this recipe. Bone in tends to have the skin still in tact (which is the extra yummy part). You could substitute with chicken breast (maple pecan chicken tenders sound like a kid pleaser) if you like white meat over dark as an option.
All Purpose BBQ Rub: This recipe is always a go to. I keep a full jar on hand at all time for easy way to spice up dinner recipes. It utilizes standard flavors like smoky paprika, salt and pepper, chile powder, cumin, and garlic powder.
I like to sweeten it with keto friendly brown sugar that helps adds a touch of sweetness if you want that. You need about a tablespoon per thigh or 1/4 cup total for this recipe.
The Maple Syrup: If you’re avoiding processed sweeteners, are Paleo, or just love authentic maple syrup, then I recommend going with a good quality syrup for this recipe. Need a sugar free or keto friendly option? I like this version from Lakanto too.
Pecans: I prefer using a roasted, salted pecan over raw. Even try a keto candied pecan as an option for this recipe too. While you can use a few, whole pecans to garnish, chopping them with a knife or a food processor helps make a finer crust.
Baking Powder: This is key to helping dry out the skin (read more below) and getting it nice and crispy on the grill!
How to grill crispy chicken thighs?
The process I use here is the same one I talk about in my guide to grilling crispy chicken wings, as well as the guide for grilled crispy chicken quarters. You can get crispy skin by taking the correct steps prior to cooking by drying out the skin and removing excess moisture. You can do this in a handful of ways. Start by:
- Patting the chicken thighs dry with paper towels
- Seasoning with salt and pepper and leave the chicken skin open and exposed in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to dry it out.
- Alternatively, you can use a few tablespoons of baking powder and coat the thighs evenly with the seasoning. Leave it to sit in the fridge, uncovered as well, for at least 30 minutes (ideally a few hours) to help dry the skin.
Whether you plan on cooking with gas or charcoal, you want to preheat your grill to medium heat (around 425 -450 F.) and set it for indirect heat. If you plan on baking, set your oven to 425 F and preheat an air fryer to 375 F.
Cooking at a higher temperature helps render the fat in the chicken skin. The chicken will remain juicy and won’t dry out because it makes the cooking time fairly fast (compared to cooking a whole chicken for instance).
I prefer to cook my chicken, skin side up and seasoned with the dry rub in a cast iron skillet or on cooling rack lined baking sheet. Both are great options, and utilizing indirect heat allows you to essentially bake on your grill.
If you use a charcoal grill, you can add wood chips (milder woods are best for poultry) to the charcoal to help impart some additional flavor. This is a great way to amp up that maple taste too!
Cook the chicken to around 155 F before glazing in some of your maple syrup of choice (just like you woulda barbecue sauce) and the chopped pecans.
Let it continue to cook until a final internal temperature of 165 F and remove from the grill. Adding the syrup towards the end helps prevent over carmelization and ensures that it doesn’t burn and turn bitter.
If you cook this in the air fryer, cook at 375 F for about 15 minutes skin side down (to render), then bump up the heat to 400 F and finish cooking it off, skin side up until it also hits 165 F.
I like breaking up the temperature here to ensure the chicken is fully cooked, and then giving it a chance to brown and crisp the skin. Add the syrup and pecans once it comes out of the air fryer or for a minute or two to heat through!
Remove the chicken from the grill (or oven or air fryer) and let it rest 10 minutes before serving. I like to garnish with a few more pecans and a little fresh drizzle of the maple syrup.
Pair this chicken with my bacon wrapped BBQ delicata squash or this delicious shaved brussel sprouts and roasted vegetable salad recipe.
- 4 Chicken Thighs Bone In W/ Skin
- 1/4 cup All Purpose Keto BBQ Dry Rub
- 1/4 cup Chopped Pecans
- 1/4 cup Maple Syrup (sugar free optional, see notes)
- 1 tbsp. Baking Powder
- Start by patting the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. In a bowl combine the 1/4 cup of dry rub and the baking powder.
- Toss the chicken thighs in the baking powder dry rub mixture so they are coated all over, top and bottom.
- Let rest in the fridge uncovered for a minimum of 30 minutes to 2 hours, or overnight if desired.
- Place the chicken thighs, skin side up, in a cast iron skillet or baking sheet lined with an elevated cooling rack.
- Grilling/Baking: Preheat your grill or oven to 425 F. and set the grill to medium heat. If grilling, set it for indirect heat. Cook the chicken for about 25-30 minutes or until an internal temperature is 155 F. Add a tablespoon of syrup and a tablespoon of chopped pecans to each piece and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes or until it reaches 165 F.
- Air Fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 375 F. Place each piece in the air fryer basket, skin side down. Cook for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken skin side up and change the temperature to 400 F and cook until the skin is crispy and the chicken is 165 F internally. Remove the chicken and then add the syrup and pecans.
- When the chicken is cooked, let it rest 10 minutes or so before serving. Garnish with more syrup and pecans if desired.
Need a sugar free maple syrup? Try this one!