Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with Habanero Salsa

Total Time: 1 1/2 Hours
Yield: 6 Servings


  • 2 cups plain yogurt, preferably full-fat, divided
  • 1 ½ cups lightly packed cilantro leaves, divided
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds chicken leg quarters (about 6 thighs and 6 drumsticks)
  • 2 large semi-ripe mangos, peeled and chopped
  • 1 to 2 habañero peppers, seeds and membranes removed, minced
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil for grilling


  • Combine 1 ¾ cups yogurt with 1 cup cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper. Locate the ball joint between the chicken’s thigh and drumstick and cut through to separate them. Place the chicken in a large zip-top bag, add the marinade, and ensure that the chicken is completely coated. Squeeze out any excess air and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Before you cook the chicken, let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the salsa: Stir together the mangos, habañero, red onion, ¼ cup yogurt, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon lemon zest; chop the remaining ½ cup cilantro and add that to the bowl. Reserve half and pulse the other half in a food processor until it’s roughly puréed but not smooth or homogeneous. Combine and set aside.
  • Heat the grill to medium-high, leaving one area with indirect heat by either leaving one burner off (for a gas grill) or keeping it free of coals (for a charcoal grill). Keep the lid closed for at least 5 minutes, giving the grate a chance to get very hot. Clean and oil it well.
  • Scrape the excess marinade off the chicken and brush the skin with a little vegetable oil. Add the pieces, skin side down, and cover with the lid after 30 seconds. Check back on the pieces after 4 minutes; they’re ready to be flipped when the skin releases easily from the grates. If they resist, cook for another 1 to 2 minutes before trying again. Flip the pieces, cover, and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes, until the internal temperature at the thickest part of the thighs is 160° F. If the skin is deeply browned before they reach temperature, move them to indirect heat, cover, and continue cooking. Serve immediately or at room temperature with the salsa on the side.