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 caciatore sauce is loaded with olives, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and celery, making this easy recipe the perfect family dinner.
Whether you make my 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!
In Italian, cacciatore translates to the hunter, and all 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?
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.
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 of 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 it 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.