While a whole roasted chicken can be great, there are times when you have to pick between meat cuts.
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Can Chicken Thighs be Substituted for Chicken Breast?
And the two prime cuts you usually pick are either the breast or the thighs. But can you, say, use chicken thighs instead of breasts in cooking?
Here’s the short answer. Yes, in most cases. Thanks to the meat’s culinary versatility, you can substitute thighs for breasts in many regular dishes. Expect some change in texture and taste because each cut brings something unique to the dish.
However, for slow-cooking, low-temp dishes, we wouldn’t recommend replacing the breasts with thighs. Sticking to the recipe is a better option if the dish demands finesse and nuances in taste.
Let’s unpack some of the differences between the two. That way, we’ll truly understand how and where to use chicken thighs instead of breasts.
There aren’t any stark differences in nutrition when you compare the breast and the thighs.
Anyone who enjoys average fitness levels can substitute one with the other without worrying too much about calories.
That’s because chicken is primarily a source of lean protein, and it doesn’t have as much fat as red meat.
That said, there are some minor nutrition differences between the two. And for those on a strict diet, these little differences may also matter.
Let’s take a standard portion of 3.5oz (100gms), for instance. A 3.5oz portion of the breast comes with about 164 calories, 3.5gms of fat, and around 30gms of proteins.
The same portion of chicken thighs comes with 210 calories, 26gms of protein, and almost 11gms of fat.
So, if you’re replacing breasts with thighs, pay attention to the serving to see if the caloric intake is changing.
But we usually eat chicken thighs as an entire piece, while chicken breasts can come served in portions.
So, these caloric values can more or less even out on most dishes.
First off, you can put chicken thighs in any chicken breast recipe, and it should be safe to eat.
So, regardless of cooking style, technique, or recipe, you can certainly put one instead of the other.
However, the difference in taste and flavor will be obvious in some dishes. Chicken thigh is considered dark meat, while the breasts are the prime white meat portions.
So, their cooking temperatures and duration can vary depending on the recipe.
Generally, the thighs require higher temperature and/or longer cooking duration for creating that distinct dark meat taste.
And the chicken breast can cook faster and at lower temperatures because they have less connective tissue.
So, if you’re using the things in a recipe where the breast is the main meat, you may not get the best flavors.
The difference isn’t much if your dish involves high-temperature cooking.
That’s why if you’re roasting chicken, you don’t have to separate any of the cuts or pieces.
But if your recipe requires lower temperatures and slow cooking times, sticking with the chicken breast may be better.
Taste and flavor are probably the most important reasons why you should or should not substitute breasts and thighs.
Ultimately, it’s the palate that decides whether replacing one with the other is a good idea, right?
It’s no secret that chicken thighs have a fatty yet richer flavor, regardless of the recipe.
They really do taste great even before your seasonings, and condiments get into the mix. The breasts, on the other hand, are milder and blander.
That’s because they have less oil and moisture compared to the animal’s frequently used muscles like the wings and thighs.
But it’s also the reason why breasts are great for dishes that add a lot of seasoning, juices, and spices (Eg. Indian dishes).
That’s why you won’t use the breast for a great chicken thigh recipe, but you can usually include the thighs in a chicken breast recipe.
Thanks to its more intense flavors, you can use chicken thighs instead of breasts in most dishes.
Just make sure you make necessary changes to the cooking time and temperature based on the thigh’s consistency.
Price and budget
Alright, so this one isn’t directly a culinary or taste-related matter. But we’ve included it anyway because it can help you decide whether you want to use thighs or breasts in your dish.
Chicken breasts are incredibly popular cuts that come in all sorts of packaging. It may be because of cultural preferences, ease of cooking, the versatility of the meat, etc.
The reasons why they’re popular aren’t really relevant to our purpose here today. Given the demand, chicken breast prices naturally go up (basic economics, right?).
On the other hand, chicken thighs come with slightly lower prices even though their nutritional value is not much better or worse.
Not all of us buy whole chickens for everyday meals. But most of us get chicken breasts on a regular basis.
So, if you’re substituting them with thighs, there are small savings to be made here. This one’s especially true for food outlets or eateries that have good chicken recipes.
Cutting down a dollar here and a few cents there can bring down monthly/yearly expenses.
Switching the breasts with thighs without taking away the taste may even be profitable in the long run.
The bottom line is that you can replace chicken breasts with thighs for most dishes and possibly even get better a better dish out of it.
But there are specific adjustments you have to make when it comes to some dishes.
Here’s a quick summary of how or why you can use chicken thighs instead of breasts.
- Both chicken cuts have similar nutritional values. But if you’re on a strict medical diet, check out the caloric, fat, and serving first before switching.
- Once again, low-temperature chicken breast recipes are best done with the breasts. Those exceptions aside, you can replace them with thighs if the right temperature/duration adjustments are made.
- Chicken thighs have more intense flavors. So, using them instead of breasts can even be a good idea in many cases.
- Finally, chicken thighs are certainly cheaper in most places. So, if budget is a concern for you, using them instead of breasts may be more profitable.