Paleo Crispy Baked Citrus Chicken

The inspiration for this dish?  I am always trying to find new ways to prepare chicken.  Chicken is such a delicious, yet affordable protein, and each cut of chicken can bring a completely different flavor.  Chicken breast used to be my favorite cut of meat, but now I am finding that I love the depth of flavor and tender texture of chicken thighs.  You can make this dish with any part of the chicken and the marinade and crust will keep the chicken juicy, but Taylor and I have enjoyed it immensely with chicken thighs.

I got the idea for the citrus marinade from the cookbook that comes with the Vitamix.  It had an Asian Buffalo sauce that was meant to coat wings or be a dipping sauce.  I decided to add a little more hot sauce, add more orange zest, and turn it into a marinade for chicken.  I decided that I wanted to use the marinade as the base of some sort of “breading.”  My original idea was to use crushed pecans because I have previously enjoyed the combination of orange and pecan in my Paleo Orange Pecan Chicken.

I used my Vitamix to turn pecan halves into a crumbly pecan powder.  I put the Vitamix on power 3 with the lid cap removed – so there was a small opening at the top.  I slowly dropped in the pecan pieces, paprika and salt until it was a course powder.  I then poured the mixture into a large plate to coat both sides of the chicken.  If you do not have a Vitamix, blender, or food processor that can pulverize dry ingredients, you can always place the nuts in a ziplock bag and smash them the old fashioned way.  That way, you can take out any aggression while making a mouth-watering crust for your chicken pieces!

The pecan mixture created a deliciously crunchy coating, without being too heavy and filling.  When I made this recipe the second time, I did not have pecans in my pantry.  I decided to coat the marinated chicken in toasted unsweetened coconut and some crushed almonds from Trader Joe’s (sent to me in the mail from my amazing Mom).  It is impossible to say which “breading” we liked better.  They were both uniquely tasty!  The marinade does not end up being very spicy, so feel free to toss some cayenne pepper into the “breading” if you want a little extra heat.

If you are familiar with my recipes, then I hope you have read and tried my Paleo Chicken Tenders.  My Mom gave me the idea of poking holes in the parchment paper-lined cooling racks so that steam and juices can move through – allowing the chicken to crisp up.  I used the same strategy in this recipe with a baking pan, cooling rack and parchment paper.  Simply flip the chicken halfway through the cooking process, and you should end up with a chicken that is both crisp and juicy.

This chicken can be served with almost any side dish, or on its own!  It is a perfect protein for the top of a salad, and paired extremely well with my Paleo Roasted Brussels Sprouts.   With a little planning ahead to make and marinate the chicken, the breading and cooking will have a fun and yummy chicken dish on the table in an hour!


  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos or low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbs hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1 orange, peeled, halved, seeds removed
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 strips orange peel (about 2 inches long, without the white part of the rind) or zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 2.5-3 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • For pecan crust:
  • 1 pkg (6 oz/1.5 cups) pecan halves, crushed to a crumbly powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • -OR-
  • For coconut crust:
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut, toasted in the oven
  • 1/4-1/2 cup roasted salted almonds, turned into crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s 50% Less Salt Almonds)


  • 1. Place coconut aminos/soy sauce, sesame oil, hot sauce, honey, orange, ginger, garlic, and orange zest in Vitamix or blender
  • 2. Turn up Vitamix to variable 10, then HIGH and blender for about 45 seconds (until all ingredients have emulsified)
  • 3. Pour contents into a large ziplock bag, add chicken thighs, press out excess air, and seal tightly
  • 4. With hands, massage chicken into marinade, and refrigerate 8-24 hours
  • 5. Remove marinating chicken from fridge to let it get closer to room temperature
  • 6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • 7. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, place a cooling rack inside the pan, then cover the rack with parchment paper
  • 8. With a sharp knife, poke several holes in the parchment paper to help crisp up chicken
  • 9. Pour chicken into a colander in the sink to drain excess marinade, but do not pat dry
  • 10. For pecan crust:
  • 11. Crush pecans, salt and paprika into a grainy powder by placing in a Vitamix or blender on a low setting (Variable 3) and pulsing until you have a relatively even consistency
  • 12. Pour pecan crust mixture into a shallow bowl or large plate
  • 13. With tongs, place each chicken thigh in pecan mixture to lightly coat each side
  • 14. Place chicken on parchment-covered rack, so that pieces are not touching
  • 15. Bake for 40-45 minutes, pecans should be toasty brown, and chicken should be juicy, yet cooked through
  • 16. For coconut crust:
  • 17. Place coconut on a baking pan lined with aluminum foil and in preheated oven for 4-5 minutes (or until golden brown)
  • 18. Let sit for a few minutes until the coconut is room temperature
  • 19. Place almonds in Vitamix or food processor and pulse on power 3 until it forms a course powder
  • 20. In a large plate or bowl mix coconut with almond “powder”
  • 21. With tongs, place each chicken thigh in coconut mixture to lightly coat each side
  • 22. Place chicken on parchment-covered rack, so that pieces are not touching
  • 23. Bake for 40-45 minutes, pecans should be toasty brown, and chicken should be juicy, yet cooked through
  • 24. No matter which “crust” you chose… Enjoy!