Recipe // Cherry BBQ Chicken Thighs

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Cherry season!

Especially here in Michigan. Traverse City is one of the biggest producers of cherries in these parts, so we don’t have to go very far to find the best ones. In fact, they are so enthusiastic about cherries that they have an entire festival dedicated to cherries once a year. I’m so enthusiastic about cherries that I made this recipe… I was born to be a Michigan girl!

I couldn’t tell you what happens at a cherry festival… we always manage to be out of town when it occurs and this year is no exception. In fact, we will be so far out of town that we won’t even be on this continent. A week from today, we will be waking up to our first morning in Reykjavik, Iceland! I can hardly contain my excitement. I’m listening to Sigur Ros as we speak, in an attempt to absorb the culture (okay, I always listen to Sigur Ros, you got me…) They aren’t exactly hype music, but I’m not exactly a hype person so it’s fitting.

In the meantime, I’ll be eating lots of skyr and smoked fish, frantically packing (the one time I turn into a type A), and making as many things as I can with this Cherry BBQ Sauce because, oops, I made way too much of it. Worse things have happened. All around.


For this recipe, you will need…

For the sauce:

  • 2 cups of pitted cherries
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 1/3 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 c coconut aminos
  • 1/3 c molasses
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks


  • Add the cherries, water, AVC, and coconut aminos to a pot and boil
  • Let the water boil for a couple minutes, then turn the stove down to simmer and cover
  • After 10 minutes or so of simmering, start to smash the cherries with either a potato masher, or a fork by pressing them against the wall of the pot. They don’t need to be smashed to oblivion… just enough to release the juices
  • Stir in the molasses and all of the spices (including the cinnamon stick) and simmer for another ten minutes


Remove from heat and let it cool before storing it in a glass container in the fridge. You’ll have far more than what you need for this particular recipe… so feel free to a) double the chicken, b) half the sauce recipe, or c) have extra sauce and use it on other things!


If you’re cool and recycle old mustard containers, make sure to ignore the existing expiration date on the jar and perhaps replace it with a more accurate label. I did no such thing. Don’t be like me.


And now onto the chicken!

You will need to acquire approximately 5 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in. It’s the only way to go. If there were only a way to get skin on and boneless… well that’d be groovy. I’m sure you can ask nicely at the butchers station for them to do it, but it is always crowded over there and I like to spend no more than 2 minutes at the grocery store. Incidentally, this leaves me to remove all the bones from my chicken thighs as I have never stuck around a store long enough to ask a butcher to do it for me.

For the record, you don’t HAVE to remove the bones before you make this recipe… I just prefer to. Totally up to you.

The reason I do it is because I don’t like eating meat directly off a bone. I’m not philosophically against it, but it makes me kind of cringey. I think it’s a tooth thing. I don’t know.


Directions for the chicken:

  • In a quart sized storage bag (or comparable container) add the chicken thighs, and 1-1 1/2 cups of the cherry BBQ sauce
  • Store in the fridge for at least one hour (overnight is good too) to let the chicken marinate
  • When you are ready to cook, heat a large cast iron skillet with the oil of your choice (avocado) on high, and pre-heat your oven to 375
  • Once the skillet is hot, add the chicken thighs skin side down to get a good crispy sear
  • Flip them after about 5 minutes, and let them cook on the other side for about the same amount of time
  • Turn the stove off, cover the pan, and put the whole thing in the oven for ten minutes
  • (optional) Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, remove the cover and turn the oven on broil for three minutes to re-crisp the skin
  • Ta-da!


I like to slather on another layer of the cherry BBQ sauce before serving… but that’s just me. You can do you (but trust me, you’ll wanna do it)

I had some internal (and external) debate about whether or not to classify this recipe as “paleo” since the sauce has molasses in in. I’ve heard mixed things about molasses being paleo, and since I ultimately don’t follow a paleo diet, I’ve not had to care at all. My thoughts are this: molasses, like the rest, is still sugar. It’s no superfood. However, molasses is one of the least processed sweeteners out there… I’d personally throw it in the same category as honey and maple syrup.

But the other cool thing is this: no one has to follow any kind of food rules to a T. Or at all for that matter. Rather than worrying if molasses is paleo, wonder if it’s right for you.

One thing is for sure… it is right for this sauce! Hellooooo



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