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Char Siu Chicken

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This fun grilled chicken recipe is based of char siu, the red pork you see at Chinese restaurants. It soaks for a long time in a great marinade giving it that color and tons of flavorful.

Platter of red char siu grilled chicken legs with glossy finish.

This bright red chicken’s color is matched by its bold flavors.  It is a mix of sweet and savory with a lovely mix of spices. 

It is sticky and delicious.  The chicken marinates for several days giving the flavor a chance to really soak in. 

You finish it with a great honey glaze as it cooks giving you that finger licking good shiny finish.  This is a fun way to switch up your grilled chicken routine!

Today I am going to give you a quick peek into the strange inner workings of my family.  I hope it doesn’t weird you out to much!  

We went through a phase when I was a kid where we went to the Chinese buffet semi-regularly for lunch.

I don’t remember if it was a birthday thing or just a way to get us out of the house for a bit when we were all at home during the summer.

I guess it doesn’t really matter.     

One of the items on the buffet that always found its way onto everybody’s plate was the red meat threaded on a skewer.  You know what I’m talking about.       

None of us knew what it was really called, so we had a family nickname for it.  Are you ready?  

Platter of shiny red Chinese style BBQ chicken, ready to eat.

Oh my.  

No, really prepare yourself.  

Ready now? 

Ok, we all called in monkey butt on a stick.  

Who knows how it started, but it stuck.  We still call it that to this day.  I don’t know what’s wrong with us… please send help!

So, when I was brainstorming ideas for something fun as our entry for the big grill-off I knew I had a winner on my hands as soon as I thought of char siu chicken.  It would be perfect! 

In the week leading up to the competition, everyone was getting really excited and couldn’t help but give some clues as to what they were making.  I quietly nodded, very careful not to give anything away. 

The day of the big contest, the grills circled and the fire was lit.  I waited until the last minute to bring out the bag of red chicken for my husband to grill.  

My brother K.C. quickly came over to inspect what we had going on.  I asked him if he knew what it was.  He quickly answered “Chicken Butt!”  

Ha!  Basically 😉

We have made this a few times now, with varying degrees of food coloring and a couple of different lengths of marinating.  Though the food coloring really shouldn’t affect the flavor much, it at least makes a mental difference.  

Hand holding a glossy red Chinese BBQ chicken leg, ready to eat.

We really like the really red chicken more than that slightly red chicken.  It’s probably all in our heads, but it definitely makes more of an impact. 

We also like the chicken better with a full 3 days in the marinade, though again the shorter times still had good flavor.  Just buy really fresh chicken with a long date on it and let them really soak it up.

I am sure we will eventually make a version using pork and treading it on skewers for the full monkey butt on a stick experience.  But I will tell you a secret, the chicken thighs are actually better! 

After you try these, you should also try making a Bacon Explosion.  It is another recipe that is always a hit at our family gatherings.

Dinner plate with two glossy red char siu chicken drumsticks and broccoli, ready to eat.

Char Siu Chicken

Servings: 12 Servings
Author: Carlee
This bright red chicken’s color is matched by its bold flavors. It is a mix of sweet and savory with a lovely mix of spices. It is sticky and delicious. The chicken marinates for several days giving the flavor a chance to really soak in. You finish it with a great glaze as it cooks giving you that finger licking good shiny finish. This is a fun way to switch up your grilled chicken routine!
4.86 from 7 ratings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 3 days
Total Time 3 days 30 minutes



  • 6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • teaspoons five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon red food coloring
  • 6-8 pounds chicken pieces

Basting Liquid

  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • any remaining marinade


  • In a large zipper top bag, mix together all of the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken pieces. (The thighs are our favorite, but drumsticks are good too.) Place in refrigerator and let marinate for 1-3 days. Every so often adjust the chicken in the bag so that all of the chicken gets plenty of contact with the goodness.
    6 Tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 Tablespoons salt, 1½ teaspoons five spice powder, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1½ teaspoon sesame oil, 3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 Tablespoon molasses, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, ½ teaspoon red food coloring, 6-8 pounds chicken pieces
  • The day of grilling, stir together the basting liquid. Remove chicken from the marinade and add about 1 cup of the marinating liquid to the basting mixture.
    3 Tablespoons vegetable oil, 3 Tablespoons honey, 3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce, 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • Preheat your grill. Because of the high sugar content in the basting liquid, cook over indirect heat or a low flame.
  • Cook chicken, basting frequently until a meat thermometer reads 165°F. Because the basting liquid has raw chicken juice in it, quit basting about 5 minutes before the chicken is done cooking.
  • Rest for 5 minutes and then serve.


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 400kcal

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Cooking With Carlee” is not a dietitian or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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Recipe Rating


Monday 4th of June 2018

Seriously.. these look finger licking good! So glad you shared this one on ouir our grlling recipe round up!


Tuesday 5th of June 2018

It really is, thanks!

A Day in the Life on the Farm

Sunday 3rd of June 2018

I want to make this now just so I can tell my Angel Face we are having Monkey Butt for dinner LOL


Tuesday 5th of June 2018

Ha! You totally should!


Thursday 18th of May 2017

Wow, that is a pretty cool recipe. And I must say at least your family likes to have fun, with a little humor added. This chicken looks amazing. I look forward to trying it. Something different is always fun.


Tuesday 5th of June 2018

We are a bunch of sillies sometimes! We really enjoy this version of "monkey butt!"


Tuesday 23rd of August 2016

What a funny story! Although I don't think I could eat it thinking of that monkey butt name! LOL Sounds delicious though!


Wednesday 24th of August 2016

Ha! Just forget I ever said anything about it ;-) Thanks!


Tuesday 16th of August 2016

Oh yum. What a neat recipe!


Tuesday 16th of August 2016

Isn't it a fun one? Thanks, Jess!