Yassa Poulet (Senegalese Grilled Chicken)

Yassa Poulet (sometimes called Chicken Yassa) is a West African dish originally from Senegal, characterized by its spicy marinade of peppers, lemon, and onions. I was initially drawn to this dish because the marinade uses a crazy amount of onions, and they’re not wasted; instead, they are recombined with the chicken during cooking.

Many traditional recipes call for the chicken to be browned in a skillet and then braised with the marinade until tender. That sounds good, but our nice summer weather always compels me to grill, which left me with a conundrum; how do I reincorporate the onions into this dish after grilling? The answer turned out to be simple – caramelize the onions while the chicken is on the grill. Combining the sweet, delicate flavor of the caramelized onions and the bright, crispy grilled chicken was a pretty awesome move.

I’ve also found that this makes a perfect weeknight dinner – throw together the marinade before work (or the night before), then finish the dish in less than an hour when you get home. Since both the chicken and onions are relatively hands-off, it gives you plenty of time to prepare other accompaniments along the way. Sure, it’s a bit more work than something like my Simple Grilled Chicken Drumsticks recipe, but it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor.

Yassa Poulet (Gluten Free, Paleo, Primal, Whole30)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
juice of 2 lemons (1/4 cup)
zest of 1 lemon (1 tbsp)
4 onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice

2-3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Combine all of the marinade ingredients and place them in a resealable plastic bag with the chicken. Marinate in the fridge for at least four hours but up to overnight, shifting the bag contents occasionally.

2. After four hours, remove the chicken pieces from the bag and set aside. Pour out and discard most of the liquid from the bag, and pull out the bay leaves. In a skillet, add the marinade ingredients and sauté over low heat until the onions are caramelized, about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

3. While the onions are caramelizing, grill the chicken. Set up your grill for indirect grilling (one side hot, the other side cool). Place the chicken on the hot side of the grill for 5 minutes, then switch it to the cool side of the grill until cooked through, about 30 more minutes. Alternatively, you could bake the chicken in the oven on a baking sheet lined with a wire rack, at 400F for 35-40 minutes, until its juices run clear.

4. Serve the chicken over the caramelized onions and with lime wedges. This dish is often served with plain white rice, but cauliflower rice will definitely do the trick.

43 thoughts on “Yassa Poulet (Senegalese Grilled Chicken)

  1. I’m grill-less, how would you cook it in the skillet? Just add the chicken in while your caramelizing the onions? For how long? Looks delicious :)


    1. Christina, I would bake the chicken like in step #3. Since the onions are caramelized at a low temperature, it wouldn’t work to combine the chicken with the onions (for this recipe in particular).


        1. Katie, I would caramelize the onions separately in a pan while the chicken bakes. Caramelizing wouldn’t happen in the same way in a 400F oven. It’s an extra dish to clean but definitely worth it for the two different textures!


      1. I totally missed that in the directions, haha. Thanks for the reply, I’m adding to this to my list of things to make next week


  2. I am going to try this with boneless skinless chicken thighs. yum! Maybe grill some red peppers to serve alongside!


  3. This looks and sounds so yummy. I’m doing AIP at the moment so I’ll have to leave out the jalapeno. I like the idea of a previous commenter to use ginger. I was wondering what you thought about the idea of using horseradish in a dish when heat is required? Not necessarily this one, but recipes in general?


    1. Heidi, to be honest I haven’t cooked with horseradish. It’s definitely a different taste than peppers, but could do well. I would think that it’d be best to add a bit of it at the end, once the onions have caramelized. Let me know if you try it!


    1. Honestly, I used six cloves of garlic because I felt that it was appropriate for the overall flavor. You’re welcome to use two cloves by all means, but I didn’t consider the chicken to be too garlicky; bear in mind that the garlic is going to be cooked down with the caramelized onion, and will have a very mild flavor by the time the dish is served.


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  6. This is in my oven now, and going on the grill in a moment to finish – it smells amazing! I used chicken legs, as that’s what I had on hand, hence starting in the oven.


  7. After reading the whole recepie and all the comments with adding or taking out some things I decide that I follow the whole recepie first and then maybe make little tweaks. But I think it does not need a lot. Great for weekdays like you mentioned.
    Thanks for sharing and I will be back to let you know how it was.


  8. This made a delicious dinner with sauteed spinach and grilled sweet potatoes. Fantastic! The kids loved it as well!


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