An Aptly Named Longtime Favorite!
While my obsession for all things pasta is long-documented here on PWWB, I’ve never shared the first truly authentic Italian meal I ever fell in love with – until now! This Slowly Braised Chicken Cacciatore is is the dish that changed everything for me, inspiring a lifelong love of Italian food & wine.
I first experienced chicken cacciatore at a classic Italian-American joint in the North End of Boston. My mom & I road tripped together that summer, & while I don’t recall the restaurant’s name or how we ended up sitting at that red checker-clothed table, I do recall their chicken cacciatore. It was transformative. I’ve been obsessed with chicken cacciatore ever since!
While there’s an endless number of versions of this iconic Italian dish – seriously, everyone & their Nonna seems to have their own delicious take on it! – this particular version is my all-time favorite. Humble chicken thighs simmer away with mushrooms, peppers, & onions in a homemade cacciatore sauce made of wine & San Marzano tomatoes – basically all the best things in life! The chicken stays totally juicy, but becomes fall-apart tender, infusing its richness into the cacciatore sauce.
It’s pure comfort food, that begs to be served atop a pile of carbs & shared with the ones you love most. & to me, that is what Italian cooking is all about. ♡ Read on to learn more about this easy Chicken Cacciatore recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
First thing’s first – What is Chicken Cacciatore?
Chicken alla cacciatora translates to “hunter-style” chicken, a nod to those who first prepared & ate this dish – Italian hunters! As expected with any dish that’s been around since the 15th century, there are many, many versions of this classic Italian meal. In fact, the original recipe likely wasn’t originally prepared with chicken, but with rabbit or wild game! These days – especially here in the US – cacciatore typically refers to a slowly braised dish consisting of meltingly tender chicken, onions, tomatoes, herbs, & wine.
This particular recipe draws inspiration from the best Italian-American versions I’ve had over the years. The cacciatore sauce is tomato-forward, but not overpoweringly so. Plus, it features a nice balance of sweetness from the softened onions & bell peppers, the floral notes of Italian herbs & spices, & the acidity of good white wine.
It’s our all-time favorite not just for its flavor, but for its ease too – it’s the kind of one-skillet meal that practically cooks itself, plus it’s very meal prep-, slow cooker-, & Instant Pot-friendly. I know you’re going to love it just as much as we do!
Chicken Cacciatore Key Ingredients
Like the best Italian dishes, this recipe is all about coaxing big, bold flavor out of relatively humble ingredients. With a quick glance, the ingredients list may seem lengthy but it’s made up of mostly simple staples that you probably keep stocked in your pantry & fridge!
Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
Key Ingredients in this Chicken Cacciatore Recipe include…
- Chicken – Of course! Since chicken cacciatore is a slowly simmered dish, it’s best to use bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, so they stay super juicy & flavorful through the long cook. For maximum flavor, I always opt for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. This recipe will work with another chicken part – simply adjust cooking time accordingly.
- Veggies – Here we stay true to tradition with a classic combination of onions, bell peppers, & mushrooms.
- Tomatoes – A combination of petite diced San Marzano-style tomatoes, which add flavor & body to the chicken cacciatore sauce, & tomato paste for its concentrated flavor. DeLallo’s tomato paste tube, which is double concentrated for a bigger punch of flavor, is my absolute favorite!
- Aromatics – A generous amount of garlic, Italian seasoning, & fresh thyme infuse the chicken caccciatore sauce with loads of aromatic flavor as it simmers. Use of fresh thyme is pretty traditional, though you can easily swap it with another hardy herb like, sage or rosemary, with great results. And if you like a kick of heat, toss in a little bit of crushed red pepper flake!
- Wine – Which infuses richer flavor into the cacciatore sauce. Red or white, up to you! See below for further explanation & suggestions for what wine goes best with chicken cacciatore.
- Anchovy paste – My super-secret flavor boosting ingredient! As far as I know, anchovies are not traditionally used in a cacciatore recipe, but they’re loaded with deep umami flavor! For convenience, I prefer to use anchovy paste over fillets – DeLallo’s anchovy paste is a staple in my kitchen!
Recipe FAQ: Do you use red or white wine in chicken cacciatore?
The truth is, you can make chicken cacciatore with either! I opt for use of a dry white wine here, which keeps the flavors light & prevents the chicken cacciatore sauce from overpowering the chicken. For a bolder cacciatore sauce, feel free to use red wine.
Suggested white wine for chicken cacciatore. ⇢ My go-to white wine for cooking is a simple, crisp Pinot Grigio. If you’d like to try an Italian white, Verdicchio is great (similar to an unoaked Chardonnay) & Soave is one of my faves (it’s similar to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio).
Suggested red wine for chicken cacciatore. ⇢ My go-to red wine for cooking is a good, dry Merlot. If you’d like to try an Italian red, a good, dry Chianti is a great option. Nebbiolo, which is a little lighter & more acidic, also pairs beautifully with the tomato-based chicken cacciatore sauce!
Recipe Trick! ⇢ Meal Prep Tip!
While it does require some time to simmer to perfection, nearly all the active prep work for this easy chicken cacciatore recipe comes from prepping the veggies. Take care of this in advance – it takes 15 minutes, tops – & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for an exact how-to!
How to Make Chicken Cacciatore:
Chicken cacciatore is basically the OG one-skillet meal! Everything – from browning the chicken to simmering the cacciatore sauce – is done in just one skillet. The result? A richly flavored meal with the added bonus of less dishes to wash!
Here’s an overview of how to make this easy recipe:
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
First, dredge & brown the chicken.
Dust bone-in, skin-on chicken parts with a lightly seasoned flour, then brown it off in olive oil until it’s beautifully golden brown.
Why take the time to brown the chicken? ⇢ Quite simply, FLAVOR! As the chicken browns, it leaves browned bits on the bottom of the pan (the technical French term for this is fond), which is what creates a rich base flavor for the chicken cacciatore sauce.
Cook the veggies.
In the same skillet used to brown the chicken, cook the veggies. First, add in the mushrooms & cook them for a solid 5-6 minutes, until they’re beautifully golden brown. Transfer them to a plate, then add in the onions & bell peppers. Cook until softened & fragrant.
Why cook mushrooms separately? ⇢ Cooking the mushrooms separate from the onions & peppers allows them to brown really deeply, resulting in bolder flavor & better texture. If you cook them with the onions & peppers, they end up steaming instead of browning, becoming softened & limp – no good!
Next, build the cacciatore sauce.
Add the aromatics (garlic, herbs, tomato paste, anchovy paste) to the base of softened veggies. As soon as they become fragrant, deglaze the skillet with wine. Let the wine reduce, then build the chicken cacciatore sauce by adding in tomatoes & fresh herbs.
What’s the importance of deglazing? ⇢ As soon as the wine hits the hot skillet, it simmers, creating steam. This steam releases the browned bits that developed on the bottom of the skillet thus far. Again, this fond is where all of the flavor is, so you want to scrape it up to incorporate it into the chicken cacciatore sauce.
Simmer, simmer, simmer!
Nestle the browned mushrooms & chicken thighs into the chicken cacciatore sauce. Cover & simmer for a solid 40-45 minutes.
Why? ⇢ A low & slow braise gently cooks the chicken thighs until they’re succulent & fall-apart tender.
Finishing Touches – Broil for Texture!
Once the chicken is fall-apart tender & the cacciatore sauce is simmered to perfection, your easy chicken cacciatore is ready to serve! To take it completely over the top, transfer the chicken to a small baking sheet & pop it under the broiler for a few minutes.
Why? ⇢ It’s neither traditional nor authentic, but finishing the chicken under the broiler gets the chicken skin gloriously crisp. I always finish braised chicken under the broiler (you may have seen this trick on other PWWB chicken recipes!). Broiling the chicken adds amazing texture to an otherwise soft dish. Plus, it caramelizes the sugars on the chicken from the tomatoey cacciatore sauce, adding extra richness & smokiness that’s hard to beat. I never skip this step!
Alternate Cooking Methods:
Because it involves braising (i.e. slowly simmering to create bold, rich flavor) the cook time of this easy chicken cacciatore recipe is admittedly a lengthier one. As a major bonus, it’s a nearly hands-off process, so it’s perfect for a lazy Sunday dinner. However, you can easily adapt the recipe for a few different cooking methods based on the amount of time you have or how hands-on you’d like the process to be.
- Slow Cooker or Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore. ⇢ This easy chicken cacciatore recipe is super slow cooker-friendly, since a slow cooker or Crockpot’s low & slow environment is great for slowly cooking the chicken & cacciatore sauce. Bonus points – if your slow cooker has a browning or searing feature, you can make this entire recipe in your slow cooker! Full slow cooker chicken cacciatore directions are also provided in the Recipe Notes, below.
- Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore. ⇢ This easy chicken cacciatore recipe is super Instant Pot-friendly. Use the Instant Pot’s sauté setting to brown the chicken & build the cacciatore sauce as you would on the stovetop, then seal up the pot & pressure cook. If you’d like a slightly quicker recipe, check out this easy Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore!
- Make-Ahead Chicken Cacciatore. ⇢ Chicken cacciatore is also super make-ahead & freezer-friendly – it’s one of those things that gets even better as it sits & its flavors meld together. You can prep this chicken cacciatore up to 5 days in advance or freeze it up to 3 months. Check out the Recipe Notes, below, for full storage & freezing instructions.
What to Serve with Chicken Cacciatore:
With the chicken cacciatore braised to flavorful, fall-apart perfection, all that’s left to do is serve & enjoy!
What to serve with chicken cacciatore?
I really like serving chicken cacciatore over creamy polenta, which is a cornmeal porridge similar to American grits. Polenta’s comforting, creamy texture & mild flavor really takes on the big, bold flavors of chicken cacciatore beautifully. I like to zhuzh up this polenta – it couldn’t be easier to prep! – with a little butter & parmesan for extra flavor. Chicken cacciatore is also great over rice, mashed potatoes (these are our all-time fave!), or with your pasta of choice (a beautiful egg pappardelle or fettuccine are my top picks!).
Spoon the cacciatore sauce & braised veggies allllll over the polenta or potatoes or pasta, then set a braised chicken thigh or two on top. Finish with fresh herbs, grated parmesan, & crushed red pepper flakes, as desired.
What wine goes best with chicken cacciatore?
As far as I’m concerned, you have to serve chicken cacciatore with Italian wine. Due to the acidity of the tomato-based cacciatore sauce, a light, dry red wine with nice acidity works really nicely! Nebbiolo, which is native to Northern Italy & comparable to a nice Pinot Noir, isn’t too heavy but has nice tannins & beautiful acidity. If you like a slightly bolder wine, try Montelpuciano d’Abruzzo. It’s also dry & acidic, but it’s slightly earthier, which is a nice complement to the mushrooms in the cacciatore sauce.
I can’t wait for you to try this All-Time Favorite Chicken Cacciatore! As its name suggests, it’s my all-time favorite, & I am pretty sure you’ll obsess over it just as much as we do! If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!
Love Classic Italian Dishes? You are in the right place, because SAME! 🙌🏼 Be sure to try my Best-Ever Bolognese (it’s seriously the best!), this Slowly Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu (pure Italian comfort food!), or these irresistible Crispy Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlets next. ♡ Happy cooking!Print
Rich, flavor-forward chicken thighs become meltingly fall-apart tender as they slowly simmer with peppers, onions, & mushrooms in an aromatic cacciatore sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes & wine. Serve over polenta, or with rice, potatoes, or pasta, this easy chicken cacciatore recipe is a one-skillet meal that packs a big punch of ‘hunter-style’ flavor!
Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for oven-braised, slow cooker, & Instant Pot directions!
- ⅓ cup olive oil, divided
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2.5–3 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 16 ounces cremini mushrooms (baby bella), halved or quartered
- 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 2 medium bell peppers, thinly sliced
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- optional: up to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (or 2 fillets)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 28 ounces diced San Marzano tomatoes
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: creamy polenta (pictured), mashed potatoes, pasta of choice, freshly grated parmesan, crushed red pepper, fresh thyme or fresh basil, etc.
- Chicken prep: Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan with lid (at least 4-qt capacity) over medium-high heat. As the oil heats, prep the chicken. Use paper towels to pat the chicken thighs as dry as possible. In a shallow bowl, combine all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, & ground black pepper as desired. Lightly dredge the chicken thighs with the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess flour.
- Brown the chicken: Once the oil is hot & simmering, brown the chicken. Work in batches as needed to avoid overcrowding the pan. Carefully place the chicken thighs skin side down. Cook 4-5 minutes, until golden brown & rendered. Flip the chicken & cook 3-4 minutes more, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate & set aside.
- Cook the mushrooms: If needed, add an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the same a heavy-bottomed pan used to brown the chicken. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the mushrooms, stirring to coat in oil. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown. Transfer the browned mushrooms to a plate & set aside.
- Cook the onions & peppers: If needed, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the same a heavy-bottomed pan used to brown the chicken & mushrooms. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the sliced onions & bell peppers. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir to coat. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened & begin to take on some color.
- Add aromatics & deglaze: Working quickly, add the garlic, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes (if using), tomato paste, & anchovy paste to the pan. Stir to coat the vegetables in the seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, until the aromatics are browned & fragrant. Deglaze by pouring in the white wine & using a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed at the bottom of the pan. Let the wine simmer 2-3 minutes, until it’s nearly completely reduced.
- Build the chicken cacciatore sauce & simmer: Add the diced tomatoes & fresh thyme to the skillet, stirring to combine. Stir in the reserved browned mushrooms from Step 3, above. Nestle the chicken thighs into the skillet such that the crispy chicken skin peeks out of the sauce. Reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle, steady simmer. Cover & simmer for 45-50 minutes, until the chicken is fall-apart tender & cooked through.
- Optional: Broil for texture: Preheat your oven’s broiler to its highest setting, ensuring an oven rack is positioned about 6 inches below the broiler. Transfer the chicken thighs to a small baking sheet. Place under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the chicken skin is crispy & caramelized. As the chicken broils, you can also thicken the cacciatore sauce by increasing the heat under the pan to high. Boil 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced as desired.
- Serve the chicken cacciatore immediately. We like enjoying chicken cacciatore over creamy polenta (this is my favorite easy polenta!), though you can also serve it over mashed potatoes or with your pasta of choice. I suggest spooning the cacciatore sauce & veggies over the polenta or potatoes, then setting a chicken thigh or two on top. Finish with fresh herbs, grated parmesan, & crushed red pepper flakes, as desired. Enjoy!
- Storage & Freezing:
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover chicken cacciatore will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. It’s the kind of thing that gets even better as it sits & its flavors meld together. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- Freezing: You can also freeze leftover chicken cacciatore. Transfer cooled chicken cacciatore to a freezer container or divide between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions – these are my favorite! Freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen chicken cacciatore the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw. Easily reheat on the stovetop. The cacciatore sauce may be a little watery from freezing, simply simmer excess water off.
- Alternate Cooking Methods:
- Oven-Braised Chicken Cacciatore: Prep the recipe according to Steps 1-6, above. Rather than cooking on the stovetop, transfer the covered pot to a 350 degree F oven. Braise in the oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until the chicken is fall-apart tender. Complete the recipe according to Steps 7 as desired, & serve.
- Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore: Prep the recipe according to Steps 1-6, above, then transfer to your slow cooker. Slow cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 5-6 hours until the chicken is fall-apart tender. Finish as directed in Steps 7 as desired. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook the entire recipe, Steps 1-7.
- Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore: Prep the recipe according to Steps 1-6, above, assembling the chicken cacciatore in your Instant Pot. Cover & seal the Instant Pot. Cook the chicken cacciatore on manual high pressure for 15 minutes. Carefully quick release by flicking the valve to its “venting” position. Switch the Instant Pot to its “Sauté” setting, & finish the chicken cacciatore as directed in Steps 7. Or, try this Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore recipe!
- 15-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all the active prep work for this chicken cacciatore recipe comes from prepping the veggies. Take care of this in advance – it takes 15 minutes, tops – & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week:
- Thinly slice 2 yellow onions & 2 bell peppers. Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (5 minutes active)
- Wipe clean 16 ounces cremini mushrooms, then trim & halve. Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active)
Keywords: chicken cacciatore, easy chicken cacciatore recipe, Italian, comfort food, classic, braised, slow cooker-friendly, instant pot-friendly, simmer
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.