Easy no-marinade caramelized garlic chicken leg

whole chicken leg

I used to nuke a lot of “Asian marinated drumsticks” when I was in high school in Christchurch, NZ. It’s sold at Countdown (one of the largest hypermarket chain) and I just put it in the microwave when I felt like a snack. I set it for 1 minute on high for each drumstick and it tasted really good…well, as far as microwave food can taste.

Now, I got thinking about that good ol’ comfort food that helped me through the cold winters and I decided to make my own version. The “Asian marinate” is nothing more than soy sauce and I reckon I could make a far better version. I managed to come out with a delectable dish – it’s so good I’m drooling as I write this. 😀

You will need:
Whole chicken leg
Dark sweet soy sauce
Light salty soy sauce
Sugar (a lot of it)

chicken leg

Chicken legs are an excellent cut for this dish. It has just enough of the fattier bits of the chicken for a whole meal. Now, when we cooked this for the first time we were both very hungry and didn’t feel like taking the time to marinate the chicken. That turned out to be an excellent decision. The no-marinade caramelized garlic chicken leg was born and here’s how it goes! 🙂

First, put the chicken leg inside the cooking pot and dump in the dark and light soy sauce. Add your 4 tablespoons (not teaspoons – tablespoons) of sugar and let the heat caramelize it for a bit.


Next, peel at least an entire bulb of garlic and put the cloves in whole. You need the entire chicken leg to be covered so add a bit of water if you need to. Let the chicken simmer in the pot for about 30 minutes.

simmering chicken leg

It’s now ready to serve! Just take out the chicken leg and pour a bit of the sauce on top of it. Remember to spoon out all the garlic, it tastes heavenly with it.

This method of cooking the chicken tastes even better than marinating it. The slow simmering process tenderizes and allows all the flavors to be absorbed into the chicken. It’s absolutely fabulous – sweet and garlicky. It goes really well with steamed rice and the sauce is to die for.

caramelized garlic chicken

Garlic fans would LOVE this. I can eat plates of rice with just the caramelized sauce and melt-in-your-mouth garlic cloves.

Just remember your breath mints after having this for dinner. smirk

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33 thoughts on “Easy no-marinade caramelized garlic chicken leg”

    • Heh! Not a garlic fan eh bro? It’s really good with lots of garlic but I suppose it can work without garlic.

      Perhaps you can try onions? I think my grandma made a version of this that’s sweet but with onions instead of garlic. 🙂

    • Hey that sounds like a pretty good idea! Honey glazed chicken if you bake it. I wonder how it would go if you simmer it.

      Honey and garlic chicken sounds pretty promising. Tell me how it goes! 🙂

    • Thanks Kim! 😀

      Yeah, I like how this one tastes but you have mad food presentation skillz. I gotta learn some of that too. I love how your cooking comes out. 🙂

    • Hello Brian!

      Yup, I added a little bit of water but most of the stuff is the two varients of soy sauce, sugar and garlic.

      The reason why it looks a little oily in the last photo is coz the gf decided to pour some parsley infused olive oil over it. 🙂

      I didn’t think it added much to the taste though, I prefered the ones we cooked without the parsley infused olive oil.

      Cheers bro! 🙂

      • whoa parsley infused olive oil LOL now thats innovation for the menu. i thought that oil layer was fro, the simmering of chicken. hehe.

        • Heh! I know. She thought it would taste better with it – there’s a bottle in the pantry for cooking pasta (makes aglio olio much easier ;)) and she poured it on top of the chicken.

          The simmering method of cooking does not produce oil, it’s actually quite healthy, considering…

          …if you discount the sugar, that is. 😉

  1. Dude, tips: flatten the garlic clove with a cleaver and lightly brown the smashed garlic cloves to release the natural sugar, then add the chicken, skin side on bottom, get a lil char on the skin, flip over, then deglaze with the soy-sauce, scrape the bottom of the pot to release the flavor of burnt garlic and chicken brown bits into the gravy, then add the rest of the cooking fluid for a slow simmer, trust me, elevates the flavor to another level of savory goodness.

    • Thanks for the tip bro! 🙂

      That’s what I did! The chicken has already been charred – I first put it down skin side first and then flipped it over, which is the second last picture you see. 🙂

      I don’t like smashed garlic cloves though…I like to eat them whole. I’m a HUGE fan of garlic, it tastes a lot better that way if you love garlic.

      You have some good points there bro, will keep that in mind. Cheers! 🙂

    • Heh! Well, we’ll see how things go. One tentative step at a time I guess. It’s a huge commitment. 🙂

      Yeah, I’m starting to love these easy cooking posts – this is our regular meals, sometimes we make harder to cook stuff. 🙂

      • man cooking’s not that hard though, just that sometimes u don’t know what to shop for groceries and when ur complaining about how ur neighborhood dairy is so costly compared to pak n save when u suddenly have an idea of what to cook. i always end up going to chinese takeaway at the last minute.

        • Heh! Yeah, sometimes takeaway can be easier when you’re really busy but cooking is fun too. Well, we tend to get a lot of different stuff so the pantry is usually stocked with the basics…and it’s not too hard to go grab some missing ingredients the next time around. When I suddenly get an idea, I’ll just wait till the next grocery shopping trip. 🙂

        • Yeah me too, I miss the kampua noodles and the relaxed pace. However, Sibu is best during Chinese New Year when everyone goes back. I won’t want to live there right now, maybe when I’m older, I’ll retire there. 🙂

    • Yes! That would be an excellent addition! 😀

      Especially the five spice, I can see that going VERY well with this dish.

      Unfortunately, we didn’t have any on hand…there’s a pantry full of McCormick herbs, seasonings and other sauces but not enough Oriental stuff – will need to add more to the collection.

      Thanks Michelle! 🙂

  2. My boyfriend loves garlic! Hmmm… I shd try this one, and add five spice powder. Ah, and sprinkle some spring onions too. 😀

    Thanks HB for sharing!

    Great to read about you and Jeanie too. 🙂

    • Yup, if your boyfriend loves garlic, he’ll love this! Especially with five spice powder, I imagine that’ll taste AWESOME with this dish. 🙂

      No worries, glad you liked it.

      Thanks Joyce! All the best to you and your boyfriend too! 😀

    • Indeed bro! The best thing is that no oil is used in cooking this dish – only soy sauce and sugar so it’s relatively healthy. It’s meant to be a sweet dish so we didn’t add in any salt too since the light soy sauce is salty enough for this.

      Yup, garlic is awesome! 🙂

    • Hello Eiling! 😀

      Yup, been doing a lot of cooking lately – more than eating out actually. It’s a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t call it healthy all the time, due to the stuff I usually cook, which is high in fat, sodium and sugar. Heh! 🙂

  3. When I make chicken with garlic I insert cloves of garlic into the chicken slow braise it till it caramelized with the soy sauce and sugar.

    • Nice! Yeah, a slow braise would do wonders with the taste. I bet the meat would come out more tender than a simmer too! 🙂

  4. Mmm, looks good. Looks like Red Cooked Chicken.. You should try adding aromatics like star anise, green onion, ginger, dried chili or cinnamon sticks

    • Ah! Red cooked chicken! It’s one of those things I used to hate when I was a kid but strangely have a bit of a craving for it now. You’re talking about the traditional Foochow dish right?

      It’s hard to get the ingredients over here though…

      …and you’re right my friend, I’ll stock up on the star anise and cinnamon sticks. 😀

      We do have a lot of dried chilli but the gf doesn’t eat spicy food so I just add it into my own portion after I cooked hers. 🙂

  5. It looks like ‘ayam masak kicap’ for our Malay.. but we don’t use too much of garlic..as long as we get that taste is already ok for us.. some people cant stand the smell of it..

    • Yeah, it does eh? 😀

      It’s a lot sweeter though and yes, more garlicky. I love garlic so I tend to put a lot of it inside. Heh!

      Cheers Aisyah!

  6. My grandparents cooked this a lot and I loved the sauce! I would eat so much rice with sauce dumped on, my tummy would hurt. My tongue was happy, though 😉 I make this dish with tofu now, as I don’t eat meat anymore. I add oil to replace the fat of the chicken and it still tastes amazing.


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