This Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore, which simmers for six hours in a rich red sauce, practically prepares itself and couldn't be more delicious.
Chicken Cacciatore is a classic Italian dish, made easy in the crockpot, is a winner every time. The chicken slow cooks in a sauce made with tomatoes, onion, pepper, mushrooms, and plenty of garlic. Serve it over pasta, Creamy Spinach Polenta, or Ricotta Spaghetti Squash.
When it comes to comforting dishes, chicken cacciatore is at the top of my list. With the deeply rich tomato sauce, tender chicken, and veggies - it's a dish I could eat again and again. And let's be honest, I do. This recipe makes a ton, so there are plenty of leftovers for lunches or to pop in the freezer. I also love using leftovers to stuff peppers with some cooked rice and melted cheese.
What is Cacciatore?
Cacciatore is an Italian word that translates to “hunter” in English. The dish from Northern Italian is essentially chicken braised in tomatoes, wine, or both. It now has numerous regional variations that include different herbs, spices, and vegetables. So if you ask a few folks how to make chicken cacciatore, you’re likely to get different answers. Some use white wine. Some use red. Others opt for chicken stock. Some add peppers, celery, or even potatoes.
What to serve with chicken cacciatore?
I like to serve this dish over spaghetti squash, brown rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice. Recently saw a recipe that suggested serving it over baked polenta cakes, which I will have to try. If you’re wondering how to make chicken cacciatore a decadent dinner, you can pour yourself and your partner a glass of wine and serve the stew over pasta, top it with some freshly grated parmesan, and put out a loaf of warm, crusty bread to sop up all the savory cacciatore sauce. A sprinkling of briny capers or olives really sets off the flavors in the dish for me, but if you have finicky family members, you might want to serve these optional additions on the side.
Is this freezer friendly?
In my opinion, this easy chicken cacciatore tastes even better the next day -- after its flavors intensify. This makes it a great meal for the freezer and it will keep in the freezer for 3-4 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge or over low heat on the stove.
Also, even if all the veggies and chicken are gone, don’t toss the leftover sauce. You can use it in any way you’d use another red sauce or stir it into soups and stews with complementary ingredients.
Can I use frozen chicken?
Since this recipe uses chicken thighs and sauce, I find that it turns out great whether you use fresh or frozen chicken thighs. You can add the frozen chicken directly to the slow cooker with the sauce. You will likely need to add about 1 hour to the cooking time if using frozen thighs. You also may need to reduce the sauce a bit more since frozen chicken releases some extra liquid into the sauce.
Can I use chicken breasts?
This cacciatore recipe works great with chicken breasts as well, and you could even use chicken drumsticks. Just make sure to check the chicken to make sure it doesn't overcook since chicken breast tends to cook more quickly than thighs.
How to thicken cacciatore sauce?
The best way to thicken cacciatore sauce is to simply simmer it until it reaches your desired thickness. This ensures that you don't alter the flavor and by thickening the sauce this way, it deepens the flavors. In the crockpot, the easiest way to do this is by removing the chicken. Then leave the crockpot open and let the sauce simmer for about an hour until thickened.
You can also thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry. Just mix together about one tablespoon of cornstarch with equal parts cold water and stir into the sauce. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
A final option is to toss the chicken in flour before adding it to the slow cooker. This will help thicken the sauce as the chicken cooks.
Recipe Ideas and Tips
- Add potatoes: In some regions, potatoes are always in chicken cacciatore. Simply add your chopped potatoes right into the slow cooker and let them cook in the sauce. For a really easy option, use whole baby potatoes.
- Make it spicy by adding some extra red pepper flakes or Calabrian chili peppers.
- Swap in new veggies like spinach, kale, or even butternut squash. You can also add some zucchini, broccoli, or cauliflower in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
- Change out the protein by using chicken breast, chicken drumsticks, bone-in chicken, or pork in place of the chicken thighs.
- Add capers or olives to add a hint of briny flavor to the dish.
What Makes Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore Healthy?
This chicken cacciatore crockpot recipe’s rich, red cacciatore sauce is packed with flavor and nutrients. For instance, garlic is loaded with vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese. Studies have shown garlic can shore up your immune system, boost bone density, and help protect heart health by lowering blood pressure and LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” levels.
Onions, close cousins to garlic, provide many of the same benefits. Onions also help your body boost its absorption of lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes that could protect against cancer and heart disease while it supports brain, bone, and eye health. So it’s probably not a culinary coincidence that onions and tomatoes taste so good together.
Mushrooms are also packed with antioxidants and may help combat cancer. And, like some of the other ingredients in this chicken cacciatore crockpot recipe, studies have shown they can increase immune function, decrease blood pressure, and cut LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood.
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Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
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- 3 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 14 oz canned diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup red wine (dry or white wine or chicken broth)
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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