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Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters with Lime Dressing


The problem with grilling whole chicken legs is that by the time the thick joint cooks through, the edges are dried out and the skin is burnt. We start the chicken over a low fire and then move it over hot coals to crisp up the skin. Cutting deep slashes down to the bone evens out cooking and gets the seasoning—a flavorful paste of garlic and spices—deep into the meat. We reserve some of the paste and mix it with lime juice and fresh herbs to make a bright vinaigrette to finish the dish.

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  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 (10-ounce) chicken leg quarters, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped


Servings 4
Preparation time 15mins
Cooking time 80mins
Adapted from


Step 1

Combine garlic, salt, sugar, lime zest, 2 teaspoons oil, cumin, pepper, and cayenne in bowl and mix to form paste. Reserve 2 teaspoons garlic paste for dressing.

Position chicken skin side up on cutting board and pat dry with paper towels. Leaving drumsticks and thighs attached, make 4 parallel diagonal slashes in chicken: 1 across drumsticks, 1 across leg joints; and 2 across thighs (each slash should reach bone). Flip chicken over and make 1 more diagonal slash across back of drumsticks. Rub remaining garlic paste all over chicken and into slashes. Refrigerate chicken for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

For charcoal grill:

Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6-quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour two thirds evenly over half of grill, then pour remaining coals over other half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

For gas grill:

Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium and turn other burner(s) to low. (Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature of 400 to 425°F.)

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken on cooler side of grill, skin side up. Cover and cook until underside of chicken is lightly browned, 9 to 12 minutes. Flip chicken, cover, and cook until leg joint registers 165°F, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer chicken to hotter side of grill, skin side down, and cook (covered if using gas) until skin is well browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip chicken and continue to cook until leg joint registers 175°F, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1/4 cup oil, lime juice, cilantro, oregano, and reserved garlic paste together in bowl. Spoon half of dressing over chicken and serve, passing remaining dressing separately.


A garlic press makes quick work of mincing the 6 cloves called for here. You can use 1 teaspoon of dried oregano in place of the fresh called for in the dressing. Don't use dried cilantro.

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