Home Dinner Chicken Carolina BBQ Chicken Recipe

Carolina BBQ Chicken Recipe

If you’re a BBQ fan, you must try this delicious Carolina chicken recipe.

It’s a special kind of grilled chicken that features a vinegar/brown sugar base.

Grilled chicken breast brushed with barbecue sauce served on a white plate.
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Carolina chicken is tangy, savory, and just a bit spicy.

Put simply, it’s one of the yummiest grilled chicken recipes you’ll ever try.

Carolina Chicken

If you haven’t had it, you may be wondering how Carolina chicken is different from other grilled chicken. Simple. As Fried Green Tomatoes’ Sipsey would say, “Secret’s in the sauce.”

In other words, it’s all about the marinade.

It includes robust, flavorful ingredients like apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. They give the chicken a sweet-n-tangy, irresistible flavor.

There are also red pepper flakes and hot sauce, which add a hint of spice to every bite. Everyone will LOVE this marinade.

And spoiler alert: It tastes even better with the optional BBQ sauce!

Chicken breast marinated in with sauce made with apple cider vinegar and light brown sugar, oil, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, top view on top of white marble table.


Here are the ingredients you need for Carolina chicken:

  • Apple cider vinegar – It provides the sharp, tangy base for the marinade.
  • Light brown sugar – This ingredient sweetens the apple cider vinegar. It keeps it from being too overwhelming.
  • Vegetable oil – It gives the marinade the perfect texture and helps it soak effectively into the chicken.
  • Hot sauce & red pepper flakes – These ingredients add heat and spice. The hot sauce also adds to the overall tanginess of the marinade.
  • Salt & black pepper – For seasoning.
  • Chicken – You can use whatever chicken you like best. I typically opt for boneless breasts, but thighs work just as well.

For the BBQ sauce ingredients, see the recipe card below.

How to Make Carolina Chicken

Follow these steps to whip up juicy Carolina chicken:

1. Combine all the marinade ingredients. Whisk together the apple cider vinegar, sugar, oil, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

2. Soak the chicken. Place the chicken into the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge to chill. The chicken needs to sit in the marinade for at least 4 hours.

3. Preheat the grill. Somewhere between 350 and 400 degrees should suffice.

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4. Grill the chicken. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off the excess. Cook it over the hot coals for 4 to 6 minutes, flipping it once.

Then, move the chicken to a more indirect heat source. Cook it, covered, for 7 to 10 minutes. Then, flip it and cook it for another 10 to 15 minutes.

It’s ready when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Rest and serve. Let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, serve and enjoy!

Chicken breast grilled brushed with barbecue sauce garnished with chopped parsley served on a white plate.

Recipe Tips and Variations

Check out these tips and variations:

  • Using boneless breasts? Use a mallet to pound them to an even thickness before cooking.
  • Give the sugar a good packing. Packing the sugar means adding it to a measuring cup and packing it down tightly.
  • Don’t skip the sauce. Although optional, the Carolina chicken BBQ sauce is absolutely delicious. Use it immediately before grilling the chicken and while the chicken is cooking.
  • Tweak the marinade. This marinade is delicious as is. However, you can tweak the seasonings to suit your tastes. Try adding garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and more.

How to Store

It’s unlikely you’ll have any leftover chicken. It’s simply too delicious! If you do, here are some storage tips:

  • To Store: Let the chicken cool, then place it in an air-tight container. Refrigerate it for 2 to 3 days.
  • To Freeze: Transfer the cooled chicken to a freezer-safe zip-top bag. Freeze it for up to 3 months.
  • To Reheat: Let frozen chicken thaw in the fridge overnight. Then, reheat chilled chicken in the microwave in 30-second increments until warm. You can also use the air fryer. Set it to 380 degrees and heat for 2 to 4 minutes.
Sliced Carolina chicken served with green beans on the side.

What to Serve with Carolina BBQ Chicken

Carolina BBQ chicken pairs well with most side dishes. Here are some ideas:

More Chicken Recipes

Here are some of my other favorite chicken recipes to try:

Carolina BBQ Chicken Recipe

Course: Main CourseCuisine: American


Prep time


Cooking time



Get a taste of the South with Carolina chicken! Grilled in a sweet brown sugar and vinegar barbecue base, it’s impossible to resist!


  • For the Chicken
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce

  • 4 teaspoons salt

  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 2 pounds chicken (boneless breasts, thighs, or legs)

  • For the (Optional) Carolina BBQ Sauce
  • 1 cup yellow mustard

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup

  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder


  • For the Chicken
  • Whisk together the apple cider vinegar and light brown sugar in a medium boil. Add the oil, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Whisk well.
  • Once the marinade is well-mixed, add the chicken. Be sure to submerge the chicken in the marinade fully. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or longer. (Overnight is best.)
  • When you’re ready to cook, preheat the grill to between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Take the chicken out of the marinade and let the excess drip off. Trash the marinade and add the chicken to the hot grill, skin side down directly over the hot coals. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
  • Rearrange the chicken so that it now sits over indirect heat. Replace the cover on the grill and cook the chicken for 7 to 10 minutes. Then, flip the chicken and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. When ready, the chicken’s internal temperature should be 165 degrees.
  • Transfer the chicken to a clean plate and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. If desired, add extra Carolina BBQ sauce. Enjoy!
  • For the (Optional) BBQ Sauce
  • Whisk together all ingredients in a shallow bowl.
  • If using, brush it on both sides of the already marinated chicken before cooking it. Also, baste with the sauce again while grilling the chicken.


  • Alternate cooking method. Sear the chicken in a large skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Then, bake it in the oven for 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Carolina chicken.

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author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

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