Learn how to make my mom’s easy chicken cacciatore! A rustic Italian stew made of tender braised chicken thighs cooked in tomatoes, a medley of vegetables, fresh herbs, and vibrant aromatics for deep flavor. From my family to yours!
If you’ve never had chicken cacciatore (also known as Pollo alla cacciatora in Italian), you’ll find that everyone makes it a bit differently, but the ingredients are all very similar! The word cacciatore means “hunter” so the dish is prepared hunter-style. This makes the dish rustic and more flexible to add whatever you like.
Traditionally, chicken cacciatore (pronounced “chicken catch-a-tori”) is made of braised chicken thighs, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, and carrots with aromatics (onions, garlic, and herbs). Adding white or red wine to this stew is also not uncommon. This recipe is simple Italian cooking, but how you prepare it is where all the flavor comes from!
This hearty Italian chicken recipe originated in central Italy, but this specific recipe is more true to a northern Italian chicken cacciatore, which uses onions, celery, and carrots for the base of flavor. If you were to make one more traditional to southern Italy, you would find ingredients such as anchovies, capers, or olives.
Whenever we have a special occasion or even a Sunday dinner as a family, this is the recipe my mom will make. It’s cozy and hearty, and everyone devours it!
HEARTY & COMFORTING. This dish is filling and hearty while being ultra comforting! It’s the perfect meal for colder weather because it will warm you from the inside out.
WHOLESOME & FRESH. While it’s a delicious comfort-food recipe, this dish is surprisingly wholesome and fresh! It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, and filled with fresh wholesome ingredients.
A CROWD-PLEASER. It’s hard not to love a dish made of tender braised chicken in a richly flavored tomato-herb sauce. My family often serves this dish for company and guests; it is always raved about and loved!
Ingredients – What You Need
Chicken thighs: to add deep flavor and have moist chicken, I recommend thighs (boneless and skinless) rather than chicken breast.
Bell pepper: we like to use red bell peppers for sweet flavor.
Celery: to add the perfect flavor to the base!
Carrot: for sweet flavor!
Tomatoes: I recommend crushed for a thicker consistency.
Mushrooms: even if you don’t love mushrooms, don’t skip out on them! They are chopped very small so you can’t even tell and they add tons of flavor.
Onion & garlic: to add lots of flavor to the base! I also like to layer fresh garlic with garlic powder for deep flavor.
Tomato paste: to help thicken the stew.
Fresh herbs: for this recipe, we used a blend of rosemary, sage, and basil. Fresh is best for flavor!
Red pepper flakes: for a little spice – nothing too intense!
How to Make Chicken Cacciatore
Season and brown the chicken thighs. First, season the chicken thighs with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper on both sides. Then brown in the pan with olive oil for about 3 minutes on each side. Then remove the chicken and transfer them to a plate.
Sauté the vegetables. In the same pan as the chicken, without cleaning the pan, sauté the onions, diced peppers, celery, and carrots for 3 minutes with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Then add the chopped mushrooms and garlic, and cook for another 4 minutes or until the veggies are soft and cooked down.
Add the tomatoes, seasonings, and chicken. Next, add the tomatoes, fresh basil, rosemary, sage, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a healthy pinch of black pepper. Add the chicken thighs.
Bake. Do your best to nestle the chicken into the vegetables and tomatoes, and spoon the sauce over the thighs. Cover and bake at 350F for 50 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. Then serve with fresh basil and parmesan cheese!
If you want to add different flavors or ingredients, here are a few recipe variations we love for chicken cacciatore!
Add sausage. My mom often makes this recipe with added sausage links – like spicy or sweet Italian sausage. Leave them whole and tuck them into the sauce when you bake the chicken. It adds delicious flavor to the sauce and pairs wonderfully with the chicken!
Add a splash of wine. To add richness to the sauce, you can add some vino! In northern Italy, it’s common to add a generous splash of white wine to cacciatore, while in southern Italy, it’s more common to use red wine. So you can use either red or white, though I don’t recommend cooking with sweet wines – dry to semi-dry wines are best for cooking!
Switch up the herbs. If you don’t have sage and rosemary, or you want to switch of the flavors, cacciatore can also be made with oregano, parsley, or thyme!
Try it with olives, anchovies, or capers. It’s more common in a southern Italian cacciatore to use ingredients that give a tangy flavor, such as green olives, achoves, or capers. If you use capers, we recommend rinsing them before adding them to this dish since the brine they marinate in is quite salty.
Tips for Success
Use dark meat for cacciatore. Since this recipe is braised for quite some time, dark meat (chicken thighs and legs) will be more forgiving. They can handle being cooked for an extended period; the results are tender and perfect. White meat, such as breast or chicken cutlets, can produce a dry chicken. For more flavor, you can use bone-in chicken thighs.
I recommend fresh herbs for the best flavor. Dried herbs are fine, but they don’t have fresh herbs’ brightness and savory flavor. This is why I highly recommend using fresh herbs versus dried in this recipe!
Layering fresh garlic with garlic powder is key. I learned this trick from a family friend who is an amazing cook. Layer fresh garlic and garlic powder to get the most flavor in a dish. The powder is more concentrated and will add the perfect punch along with the fresh cloves – both ingredients are key for developing rich flavor.
If the dish is too liquidy once it’s done, try this. Whether the tomatoes created a lot of liquid or you decided to add some wine, a liquidy cacciatore can happen. To fix this, add a little bit more tomato paste, then keep the cacciatore uncovered and bake it until most of the moisture has been absorbed/reduced.
If it needs more flavor, add more salt. This dish heavily relies on salt for flavor. If you find the dish lacks flavor once it’s done, sprinkle a little salt at a time and do your best to mix it thoroughly into the whole dish. Taste and adjust as needed.
Best baking dish for braising. I like to use a heavier cast iron pan for braising cacciatore; it develops a faster and more even heat than glass, and I find it creates a richer consistency in the sauce too. But if you don’t have a cast iron pot or baking dish, you can use a glass or stainless steel baking dish!
How to Freeze Leftovers & Freeze
Keeping leftovers fresh: the best way is to let the chicken completely cool, then refrigerate in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Freezing chicken cacciatore: let the chicken cool completely, then store the chicken and the sauce in a freezer-friendly bag. Remove all the air and seal tight, then freeze for 1-2 months.
How to reheat after freezing: when you’re ready to reheat the recipe again, let it thaw completely (either in a bowl of cold water or at room temperature). Cover the chicken and sauce in a baking dish, then bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.
What to Serve it With
Pasta (and lots of parmesan). A very traditional pairing is serving cacciatore with pasta and lots of fresh parmesan! Any shape of pasta works, but we love small shapes that catch the sauce well, like small shells, radiatore, or reginetti (pictured in the recipe). To make it healthier, we serve it with whole wheat pasta, but you can also use your favorite gluten-free pasta too!
Potatoes. We’ve had readers share how much they loved this dish with potatoes – roasted or boiled. We think this is a delicious pairing and a healthy alternative to pasta!
Bread. Crusty bread is a must with cacciatore! We love it with sourdough, a crusty Italian loaf, or a french baguette.
More Italian Classics
If you love this Italian classic, you might also be a fan of these recipes too!
Mom’s Easy Chicken Cacciatore (Hunters Style)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 6 skinless chicken thighs
- 1 28 oz diced, whole, or crushed tomatoes with the juices
- 2 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4-5 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 pint white mushrooms, cleaned and diced very small
- 1 red bell pepper diced small
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 teaspoon (each) fresh rosemary and sage, chopped
- 2 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon salt divided (plus more salt for seasoning the chicken)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Brown the chicken: Season both sides of the thighs with a healthy pinch of salt and black pepper. Then brown them in a pan with oil and brown for 3 minutes on each side. Then remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate for later.
- Saute vegetables: In the same pan as the chicken (without cleaning it), saute the onions, celery, carrot, and pepper for 3 minutes with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Then add the diced mushrooms and garlic, and cook until soft (about 3-4 minutes).
- Add the remaining ingredients: in the same pan as the vegetables, add the can of tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons tomato paste, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 2 teaspoons sage, 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, and a healthy pinch of black pepper. Stir the ingredients together and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom of the pan, removing any bits from the bottom that will add flavor.
- Add the chicken and bake: Then add the browned chicken thighs, nestle them into the tomatoes and vegetables, and spoon some of it over the thighs. Cover and bake at 350F for 50 minutes, then uncover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle with more fresh basil and fresh parmesan cheese!