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Tea smoked chicken legs on a plate garnished with oranges.
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5 from 5 votes

Tea Smoked Chicken Legs

Finger licking crispy skinned Tea Smoked Chicken Legs are smoked on the grill with an Asian tea spice packet and then slathered with sticky honey soy glaze.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 45 mins
Total Time1 hr 55 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 4 people (2 legs per adult)
Calories: 234kcal
Author: HWC Magazine


  • Gas or BBQ grill


Chicken Marinade

  • 8 drumsticks chicken legs
    (or can use chicken thighs, whole split chicken or chicken breasts on the bone)
  • ½ cup rice wine (shao xing)
    or dry cooking sherry or dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce Substitute with tamari sauce if you need to keep it gluten-free. You can use regular soy sauce if you cannot find dark soy sauce.
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
    1 tablespoon grated fresh (can also use ¼ teaspoon dried ground)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    (can also use canola oil or light flavored oil)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
    to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns (ground)
    (if you do not have just exchange with white or black peppers but I love the thumb numbing sensation of the Szechuan peppercorns)

Tea and Herb Smoking Packet

  • 2 sheets aluminium foil
    to make tea smoking packet
  • 1.5 cups loose leaf tea We used a combination of black tea and oolong tea. (Remember to set aside ½ cup of tea to add half way in the cooking process)
  • ½ cup rice Jasmine long grain rice (or other rice as desired, do not use instant rice)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar (½ cup for initial packet- reserve ¼ cup for half way )
  • 5 slices orange peel
  • 5 whole star anise (if do not have can exchange with 1 tablespoon of Chinese 5 spiced powder)
  • 4 sticks cinnamon
    or 1 tablespoon ground

Honey Soy Glaze

  • ½ cup honey (if diabetic or need this recipe to be low carb- exchange with ½ cup sugar free orange marmalade)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
    fresh or ¼ teaspoon ground
  • ½ cup dark soy sauce or can substitute tamari sauce to keep gluten- free
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil


  • Marinate the chicken
    Place chicken legs or (chicken thighs, chicken breasts on the bone or split whole chicken breast) in shaoxing (rice wine), soy sauce, orange zest, ginger, garlic , olive oil and salt overnight or at least for 1 hour to allow the the flavors to penetrate.
  • Create the Tea and Spice Smoking Packet: 
    Double layer your aluminum foil (about a 18 inches or 46 cm) on a flat surface. Lay the following ingredients onto the center of the aluminum foil; loose leaf teas (set aside ½ cup for later) , rice, brown sugar (set aside ¼ cup for later), oranges peels, star anise and cinnamon. Fold in the 2 sides and leave a small vent at the top of the packet to allow the smoke to escape and area to add more tea and brown sugar half way in the cooking process.
  • Place the tea and herb packet under the grill plates on a gas grill or directly on top of the charcoal briquettes on a BBQ grill on the side of the grill that gets hottest. Preheat grill to a low heat (250 degrees F (121 degrees C) and wait until the tea and herb packet to get hot and start smoking well. (about 10 minutes). We like to prep our grill grates with a little oil to prevent sticking.
  • In the mean time, remove the chicken from the marinade. Dry the chicken well with a paper towels (this helps make the chicken crispy on the grill). Rub the chicken with a little extra oil. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
  • Place the prepared chicken on the grill.
    Place the chicken on the side of the grill that is cooler - opposite of the tea and herb packet Grill and smoke chicken, depending on size for about 20 to 30 minutes on low heat. Turn chicken if ready and not sticking to grill. Close the lid to grill.
    About halfway into the grilling/smoking of the chicken you will need to spoon the ½ cup reserved loose leaf tea and ¼ cup of brown sugar carefully into the opening of the tea smoking packet. When the tea burns off it stops smoking. Be careful and wear oven mitts.
  • Make the Ginger Honey Soy Glaze: 
    In a medium bowl, add the honey (or sugar free orange marmalade if diabetic or want this recipe low carb), ginger, dark soy sauce and sesame oil. If using orange marmalade, heat for about 30 seconds to 1 minute in the microwave to get it loosened up.
  • Depending on how accurate your heat settings are on your grill, it will take approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours to cook chicken legs on the grill. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest meatiest portion of the chicken leg, away from the bone to get a reading. Once the thermometer reads 165 degrees F (73 degrees C) you are ready to glaze the chicken drumsticks with the honey soy glaze.
  • In the 10 minutes of the grilling/smoking of the chicken, brush on the sticky honey soy glaze on all sides. Close the lid on the grill and cook until the meat thermometer reads 175 degrees F (79 degrees C). According to the Food and Drug (FDA), chicken is properly cooked when it reaches 165 degrees F. However, trust us, letting the chicken get up to 175 degrees F allows time for the fat to render- giving you a crispy skin and tender meat.
  • Enjoy your finger licking aromatic Tea Smoked Chicken legs!



Cooked Tea smoked chicken legs can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and frozen for up to 2 months.
Chicken legs can be reheated in the microwave. If you want to crisp them back up, place them in the air fryer at 400 degrees F  after to coming to room temperature for about 6 minutes or until hot and toasty.
Cooking Tips
  • If your chicken legs are frozen, thaw them before marinating.
  • You can also use whole split chicken breasts, thighs, leg quarters, Grilled Split Cornish Game Hens or drumsticks for this recipe. However, each has a different length of time required to cook. It is best to use chicken on the bone as it has so much more flavor.
  • Experiment with different types of teas (oolong, black, green, etc.) for smoking. All of them have subtle changes in the aroma and flavor of the chicken.
  • For full flavor, marinate chicken legs overnight like we did for our Air Fryer Crispy Curry Chicken Legs.
  • Dab the excess marinade off the chicken before placing on the grill so they get crispy.
  • Resist the urge to keep opening the lid of the grill to check on the poultry as you are letting all the delicious tea smoke out.
  • If your chicken legs are sticking to the grill grates, they are not ready to turn yet.
  • Halfway through the cooking process, add more tea and brown sugar into the tea smoking packet. The tea and brown sugar will have burned off and it is time to add more. (Be careful and wear oven mitts)
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken leg. Place in the meatiest portion away from the bone for the most accurate reading.
  • Don’t add the honey soy glaze until about 10 to 15 minutes left in the grilling process. Make sure you glaze the chicken all over on both sides.
  • If you are diabetic or want a low carb option, you can exchange honey with a little sugar free mandarin orange marmalade.
  • To keep this tea smoked chicken leg recipe gluten-free, marinate and glaze your chicken with tamari, instead of dark or regular soy sauce


Serving: 2g | Calories: 234kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 1440mg | Potassium: 193mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 8IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 1mg