When it comes to pure comfort food, Chicken Cacciatore is a Classic Italian dish with a rich and rustic sauce. Made with chicken and San Marzano tomatoes, this flavorful cacciatore sauce is loaded with olives, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and celery, making this easy recipe the perfect family dinner.
Whether you make Chicken Cacciatore Recipe with a whole cut-up chicken or chicken thighs and legs, this fall-off-the-bone delicious chicken is going to become one of your favorite recipes!
These are two of my favorite chicken recipes; Chicken Pepperoni and Creamy Tuscan Chicken.
In Italian, cacciatore translates to the hunter, and alla cacciatora translates to hunter-style.
Ingredients to make Chicken Cacciatore
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients we need to make Chicken Cacciatore. In Chef Speak, this is called the “Mise en Place,” which translates to “Everything in its Place.”
Not only does setting your ingredients up ahead of time speed up the cooking process, it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.
Made with simple pantry ingredients and fresh vegetables
- fresh chicken
- San Marzano tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
- tomato paste
- red wine
- black olives (kalamata)
- fresh basil
- fresh thyme
- Italian parsley
*Fresh chopped oregano can be added, and if you have a parmesan rind on hand, add that to the sauce while is simmers. Red bell peppers or green peppers may also be added.
How to make Chicken Cacciatore
The first step is breaking down the whole chicken into pieces. You can use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to do this. Notice that I include the back, which usually would be discarded. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season liberally with salt and black pepper.
There’s a lot of flavor in that piece of chicken, so we’re going to include it in the pot but not serve it to our guests.
Do I have to use a whole chicken to make this dish?
No, you don’t. In fact, I prefer dark meat when making this type of braised chicken dish and will often use thighs and legs, excluding the breasts when making this type of chicken dish.
Can I use boneless chicken to make this dish?
Yes, you can. But truthfully, it won’t be as flavorful. The bones do add a good amount of flavor to the dish. But if you want to use boneless chicken, I would stay with boneless skinless thighs. They will have the most flavor and not dry out as much as boneless chicken breasts.
After preparing the chicken, the next step is searing those pieces starting skin side down over medium-high heat until they get a nice golden brown color.
I wish the chicken would stay that crispy, but after cooking with the cacciatore sauce, you’ll hardly recognize that beautiful crispy chicken skin. But it is an important step, so don’t skip it.
- Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and mushrooms to the dutch oven (or large skillet) and cook for 6-8 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium.
- Deglaze the pan with the red wine and stir to get all the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan. (traditionally, red wine is used but you can substitute a dry white wine)
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, basil, thyme, salt and black pepper to the pot. Stir until well mixed. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Add the browned chicken back into the dutch oven, immersing the chicken in the sauce. Cover the dutch oven with a lid and allow to simmer for 1 hour.
Do I have to use a Dutch oven?
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Chicken cacciatore can be made in a large skillet if you don’t have a Dutch oven. If you don’t have a lid for the skillet, use aluminum foil to keep the pot covered.
I’ve used a lot of dutch ovens over the years and this chef only uses Misen Dutch Ovens for his cooking.
Misen also makes great quality knives at a reasonable price and has become my knife of choice for my home kitchens.
How do I make Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore?
It’s easy to make Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore, and the instructions aren’t that much different. Sear the chicken as outlined in the recipe and follow the steps until it’s time to let the chicken simmer. Use the directions below to finish the chicken in your instant pot.
- Close the lid, and set the valve to the “sealing” position, if your model doesn’t do this on its own. Make sure your Instant Pot is set to cook at high pressure.
- Press the “manual” or “pressure cook” button and set the timer to 12 minutes. The Instant Pot will beep after a few seconds and it will start building up pressure. This can take 5 to 8 minutes, so be patient.
- Once the cooking cycle is done, press the “cancel/off” button. Let the Instant Pot release pressure on its own. Do Not Touch the Pressure Valve.
- When the pressure valve pin is down, carefully open the lid, making sure its away from your face. Stir in the olives, basil, and parsley, then let the pot sit for 5 minutes before serving.
You can also use your slow cooker to make this dish.
Do I have to use mushrooms in this dish?
No, you don’t. I love mushrooms; they add an earthy flavor and help fill out the dish, but if you’re not fond of mushrooms, feel free to leave them out.
There are many variations on this delicious Italian chicken dish. Feel free to adapt it with your favorite seasonings and veggies. But any way you make it, you’re going to love this slow-cooked chicken cacciatore with its tender chicken pieces and delicious sauce. It’s an easy recipe you’ll turn to time and time again.
I like to serve chicken cacciatore with grated Romano or parmesan cheese, freshly ground black pepper and crusty bread.
If your cacciatore is watery, you can thicken by adding tomato paste to the sauce. Mix it with some of the sauce from the pot and stir the mixture back into the cacciatore.
Cacciatore (hunter-style) originated in central Italy during the time of the Renaissance. Originally made with rabbit or small game birds, the original recipe didn’t include tomatoes and was made with wild mushrooms and available root vegetables and local herbs.
Cacciatore is best served with rustic bread, polenta, pasta, risotto or rice.
Amazing! So full of flavor and delicious. Thank you for sharing. I used chicken thighs and omitted the olives (but only because I forgot to grab them at the store). I served it over pasta. Can’t wait to make this again.
Chef Dennis Littley
I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the chicken, it really is a delicious dish! I hope you find more recipes onmy blog to try.
This sounds delicious. I have a lot of cherry and yellow pear tomatoes, can I use them in this recipe instead of canned?
Chef Dennis Littley
absolutely, I love the yellow cherry tomatoes. I accidentally found the canned variety last year and it was one of those amazing moments for me….lol.
I made this recipe a month ago and it was EXCELLENT exactly as the recipe is written. We served it with Pappardelle and Garlic Toast. Today, I used the recipe again, however, I did not have Mushrooms (which give the dish a wonderful earthy flavor). Instead, I used chopped Zucchini in it’s place and served it atop Mushroom Garlic Noodles. We enjoyed it a lot !!!! Thanks Chef Dennis for the use of your recipe.
This is a very comforting recipe, easy to prepare and delicious. My family enjoyed every single bite.
such a delicious and flavorful recipe. My family loved it and definitely will make it again.
I love everything about this recipes! The flavors are so incredibly perfect! Great way to cook a whole chicken!
Such an amazing and detailed recipe. I love that you included the instant pot method as well, it came out perfectly. Thanks!
Yummo! What a delicious dish and I cannot wait to make it again. Thanks again Chef Dennis.
I just love using my dutch oven for meals, makes me think of my grandma and I am happy to say this meal was just a good as any she made.
I’d never had chicken cacciatore until I tried this recipe. I’m so glad that I gave it a shot. This dish is so aromatic, inviting, and comforting. I especially loved the salty pop of the kalamata olives.
This recipe reminds me of my time in Italy! Such an Italian classic with wonderful flavors. This recipe is so spot on, thank you!
Thank you so much for sharing this amazing chicken cacciatore recipe! Will surely have this again! It’s really easy to make and it tasted so delicious! Highly recommended!
This is definitely a one Pot comforting meal. Bursting with flavors and all the healthy combination of veggies too.
We made this last night for dinner and it was soooo good! Thank for the recipe!