Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore (Pollo alla Cacciatora) is a traditional Italian dish. The word “Cacciatora” translates to “Hunter” in English, as this dish was originally used to prepare rabbit and gamefowl. Today, variations that feature rabbit meat still abound.

The story goes that this “hunter’s stew” consisted of ingredients you could find in the forest or open fields. Many American versions of this dish have been altered considerably from their source material; breaded, fried chicken cutlets are often smothered in a marinara sauce (not unlike Chicken Parmesan, really). Italian versions often feature tomatoes but not overwhelmingly so; instead they’re a complement to other vegetables like onion, mushrooms, carrot, and bell pepper. Northern Italian variations of this dish use white wine, while Southern Italians use red wine.

Typically, this dish is prepared with a broken-down whole chicken. I’m down for that, but at the same time, I’m always concerned about the different cooking times for dark meat and finicky chicken breasts; instead, I prepared this recipe to feature thighs and drumsticks, so that everything comes together naturally.

Chicken Cacciatore (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet friendly)

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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3 lbs chicken thighs and drumsticks
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp olive oil (or omit ghee and use 2 tbsp olive oil for dairy-free)
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 14oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
10oz cremini mushrooms, quartered (white mushrooms okay)
1 small handful pitted kalamata olives
6 sprigs fresh thyme
~1 cup chicken broth (see step 4)
1 small handful chopped parsley

1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Warm the ghee and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Brown the chicken, in batches if needed, about 5 minutes per side. Don’t overcrowd the pieces while browning them; reduce heat to medium if the chicken starts to burn.

2. Preheat your oven to 350F. Remove the chicken and set aside, then reduce the stovetop heat to medium (if you haven’t already) and add the onion. Saute until softened, about 4 minutes, then add the garlic, tomato paste, basil, and oregano; saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and white wine. Simmer and reduce the wine by half, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, olives, and fresh thyme, then pour enough chicken broth in to mostly cover the chicken and veggies, about 1 cup.

3. Transfer the dutch oven to the oven and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour. Every 20 minutes, gently rotate and redistribute the chicken with some tongs. 1 hour is just a ballpark figure; you’re basically looking for that moment when the ingredients look caramelized but before the chicken looks overly “stewed” or boiled (nobody likes soggy chicken, no matter how soft it is). Rotating the chicken periodically will give the pieces some time in the open air and prevent them from getting soggy.

4. Taste the liquid in the pot and season with salt and pepper if needed. Plate the chicken and vegetables, then garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with rice-based pasta or boiled potatoes if you’re up for it, but otherwise enjoy as-is.

** I know, leaving an uncovered pot in the oven sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but it’s an easy way to caramelize the vegetables and reduce the liquid without overcooking the vegetables. Truth be told, 350F won’t cause the ingredients to escape the pot, but I understand the fear of everything boiling over; you can place a sheet of heavy-duty tinfoil under the dutch oven if you’d like (I did, just in case, and it was unnecessary).

** For best results, serve the next day. After finishing step #4, let the pot cool, cover and refrigerate overnight, then warm in a 350F oven for 30 minutes the following day. This will let the flavors really come together and is great for when you’re prepping for a party.

Plated and ready to eat. Personally, I prefer the look of everything in the pot, like the photo below…

…see what I mean?

43 thoughts on “Chicken Cacciatore

  1. What step do you stop at to allow it to stay overnight? Is it after you brown the chicken and make the sauce? Do you recommend keeping the chicken and sauce separate when in the fridge or together???

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    1. Hi Krisia, in order to serve it the next day you’ll want to completely finish the recipe and then cool it overnight. I updated the recipe so that it is clearer. And yes, keep everything together. Thanks for the catch!

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  2. I collect and improvise hunter/gatherer stews constantly, they’re a passion of mine — taste of a landscape and all that. Rarely do I cook a dish as it’s written but I did make this one according to recipe and it is absolutely delish. Tweaked the amounts because I had closer to four pounds of thighs on hand, and I like to sautee my onions for about thirty minutes for science reasons, but otherwise cooked this one to spec. Highly recommended for a beginning-of-autumn celebration dish, and it’s even better the next day. Thanks for a lovely cacciatore to add to my arsenal!

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  3. Russ, another fantastic recipe! I love braised chicken (well braising anything really). One thing I like to do when I setup the pot is I nest the chicken pieces into the braising vegetables/liquid just so that the meat is fully submerged and most of the skin is exposed to the air. That way you can keep that delicious crispy skin. Sometimes I’ll also finish the chicken thighs under the broiler to crisp them up before serving.

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  4. How do you not have a cassoulet recipe yet? Don’t get me wrong, this recipe looks stunningly delicious and I will definitely tackle this soon. It’s just that this recipe made me immediately think of cassoulet and your repertoire is so broad I assumed you would have a cassoulet recipe.

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  5. Lovely! Suggestions, anyone, on substituting another veg for the mushrooms, or omitting altogether? Are the mushrooms a dealbreaker in this recipe? I’m not a mushroom fan, but this dish looks fantastic and I’d like to try it. Thanks!

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  6. Another exquisite recipe, Russ! I made this Sunday night, served it Monday night, and enjoyed leftovers Tuesday and Wednesday (it makes a lot of food for 2 people). I followed your instructions to the letter, except I had to use shallots instead of the onion (of all the things to forget to buy… ugh). Your version of this recipe is one I’d actually pay money for in a restaurant. It’s THAT good!

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  7. This sounds good, I will be cooking this tonight. How ever there is one thing on here that is not Paleo and that is the Rice based pasta. Grains are not paleo by any means. I recommend serving with Cauliflower Rice if you want this to be a Paleo meal

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  8. Made this tonight. Only change I made was to substitute chicken broth for the white wine to make it Whole30 compliant. The flavor was phenomenal!! Can’t wait to have leftovers tomorrow!

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    1. Matt, yes, breasts need less time in the pot than thighs would. I would do everything in step two but don’t add the chicken. Bake for 20 mins then add the chicken, then bake for 40 minutes. This will prevent the breasts from being overcooked. Good luck!

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  9. I made this last night and it was so delicious! I left out the mushrooms because we are not a mushroom family but it was still very good. I also found it super easy and relatively fast!

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  10. Hi The Domestic Man,

    Very delicious looking recipe. I am using all the chicken parts. On the breast can the skin be left on? I saw someone else had mention chicken breast and that is the part of the chicken I like also.. Thanks for the recipe. In need of a stew chicken recipes.

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