On my Wisconsin bucket list: visit a cranberry bog, then use said cranberries to make Cranberry Chicken.
One of the dozens of things I didn’t know about Wisconsin when Ben coerced me to move here was that, for the past 20 years, Wisconsin has led the nation in cranberry production.
Sure, the Massachusetts bogs of cranberry juice commercial fame are picturesque, but it’s plaid-clad Wisconsin that grows the largest haul.
So, in addition to the state’s fabulous selection of cheese and beer, Wisconsin can boast cranberries too, and I’m glad.
These tart little jewels give me happy holiday tingles and provide much-needed brightness on winter evenings when the sun sets at 4:30. Why does daylight savings time need to end again?
5 Star Review
“Delicious! Will DEFINITELY make this again!”— Keisha —
Why I Love This Cranberry Chicken
Fresh cranberries receive the most attention at Thanksgiving in the form of cranberry sauce. (Some free advice: skip the can and make this homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce instead).
Cranberry chicken, however, proves that fresh cranberries also deserve a spot in your weeknight dinner rotation all fall and winter long.
- Juicy chicken thighs coated with a sticky cranberry glaze are sweet, tangy, and bursting with color (and flavor)
- Forget about roasting a turkey or whole chicken for hours. This holiday-worthy recipe is ready in 30 minutes.
- PLUS, this one-pan chicken recipe offers easy preparation and clean-up.
I’d call that a win!
How to Make Cranberry Chicken
Chicken thighs seared until golden and crispy on the outside and sweet and juicy on the inside are slathered in a sweet, sticky, savory glaze made from fresh cranberries.
- Chicken Thighs. Boneless skinless thighs cook quickly and remain moist and tender when seared over high heat.
- Cranberries. These little red jewels are packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber they’re one superfood I cannot get enough of during the holidays.
- Shallots. Adds some savory onion flavor and zip to the sauce.
- Honey. Cuts through the tart cranberries and balances the vinegar.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Helps break down the cranberries and adds additional acidity.
- Ginger. For some bite that compliments that tart cranberries and sweet honey.
- Allspice. A warm earthy spice that deeply flavors the cranberry glaze.
- Thyme. Finishes the dish with a savory woodsy aroma and flavor.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper.
- Sauté the shallot until fragrant, then add the cranberries, water, apple cider vinegar, and honey.
- Cook and reduce the sauce, smashing the cranberries so they burst, then stir in the ginger, salt, and allspice. Transfer the finished glaze to a bowl.
- In the same skillet, sear the chicken on both sides until fully cooked.
- Spoon the cranberry glaze over the chicken, let rest, then serve. ENJOY!
- To Store. Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Freeze. Freeze the chicken and cranberry sauce in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming.
- To Reheat. Warm in the microwave, in a covered skillet over medium-low heat, or a slow cooker until heated through. You may need to add a few tablespoons of water to the sauce to rehydrate it before heating.
What to Serve with Cranberry Chicken
- Rice. To make the meal complete, I served our chicken with a side of wild rice. This Crockpot Wild Rice Stuffing would be tasty.
- Vegetables. Our favorite Crock Pot Baked Potatoes, Balsamic Brussels Sprouts, or crispy Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts are all delicious options.
- Salad. Winter Salad with Kale would be scrumptious with this chicken too.
Another title Wisconsin holds? The state with the most cranberry chicken devoured under one roof (by yours truly).
Frequently Asked Questions
I have not personally made this recipe with fresh or frozen cherries, however, readers have reported doing so with success. Feel free to experiment and report back.
I would recommend sticking with boneless chicken thighs to ensure they cook thoroughly before serving. If you choose to experiment with bone-in chicken, I would suggest finishing the chicken thighs in the oven after searing until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Yes. This recipe for cranberry chicken is entirely gluten free.
For the Chicken
- 1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
For the Cranberry Glaze
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 3 tablespoons minced shallot
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries rinsed (or frozen and thawed)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey (or more to suit your taste preferences)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme for serving
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and place it on a plate or tray. Season with salt and pepper and let come to room temperature while you prepare the glaze.
- In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and sauté until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the cranberries, water, cider vinegar, and honey. Cook until the berries soften and begin to lose their shape, 5-8 minutes. Stir often so that the berries cook on all sides and much of the liquid cooks away.
- Once soft, roughly smash the berries with the back of a wooden spoon so that they burst, then stir in the ginger, salt, and allspice. The mixture will be very thick. Transfer the cranberry glaze to a bowl.
- With a paper towel, carefully wipe the skillet clean, then heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot and shimmering, add the chicken thighs in a single layer, seasoning-side down. Let the chicken cook for 5-7 minutes undisturbed, until the first side is golden brown and does not stick to the pan. For the best browning, try not to move the chicken around in the pan as it cooks. Flip the chicken over, then cook it an additional 4-6 minutes, until the juices run clear and a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 165 degrees F.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and spoon the cranberry glaze over the top. Let rest 5 minutes, sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme, and serve with extra cranberry glaze for dipping.
- TO STORE: Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze the chicken and cranberry sauce in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming.
- TO REHEAT: Warm in the microwave, in a covered skillet over medium-low heat, or in a slow cooker until heated through. You may need to add a few tablespoons of water to the sauce to rehydrate it before heating.
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This looks fabulous! I am thinking that this might be nice instead of turkey this year for Thanksgiving. How do you think it would work in the oven, and baked in a casserole for a party of 10??
Hi Marcia! I’ve never tried the recipe this way so it would be an experiment for you. I’d suggest finding a great recipe for baked bone-in chicken thighs (bone in = juicier; I’m worried the boneless thighs might dry out), then spoon the cranberry sauce on top of it once it’s baked. That sounds like a fun idea for Thanksgiving!
This dish sounds wonderful. One pot is always a winner (just ask my husband…), and I like the sound of your dinner. I’d probably do just plain roasted Brussels sprouts. It just occurred to me that this could be a great Thanksgiving dinner when there are only two people, who don’t want a lot of leftovers
I love that idea Susan. Thanks and I hope you enjoy!
I don’t have ginger will it alter the recipe?
Hi Kimberly, I haven’t tried it, so you’d be experimenting, but I think it would be fine to go ahead and make the recipe without ginger. The flavor will be a little different, but it should still be tasty!
Erin, thanks to you, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. We had the cranberry chicken, your vanilla bean sweet potato casserole and a chard and persimmon salad from another blog. This is a dinner I could definitely do again, although I will have to put a bit more honey in the cranberries because they were too tart for my husband’s tastes. Not for mine, though. Hope you and Ben have had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Susan, I can’t say enough how honored I feel to have my recipes as a part of your Thanksgiving dinner. I hope you had a wonderful evening, and a very happy Thanksgiving to you as well!
Delicious! I did not make any modifications to this recipe, except that I had to cook my chicken thighs a bit longer. I served this with Uncle Ben’s wild rice and a side of butter-sautéed Brussels Sprouts. Will DEFINITELY make this again!
Hooray, Keisha! I’m so glad to hear this recipe was a winner for you! Thanks for taking the time to leave this awesome review and for sharing what you served it with!
Could I use bone in chicken for this recipe
I’d recommend sticking to boneless to make sure they cook all the way through. You could try experimenting with starting on the stove then finishing the chicken in the oven, but for the safest option, use boneless (this is the only way I’ve tested the recipe). If you do try it, I hope you love it!
Can you use leftover thanksgiving turkey instead of chicken thighs as the meat?
Hi Robyn, I have not tried the recipe this way, but you could experiment with it. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!
I’m eager to try this recipe but none of my local stores carry cranberries – neither fresh nor frozen! What do you think about subbing in cherries?
Hi Nicole! I’ve never tried this recipe with cherries, so it would be a complete experiment. If you decide to play around with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Gave it a shot and it turned out well! Since cherries are a bit sweeter I think I’ve circumvented the overly-tart potential.
Thanks for reporting back Nicole!
Absolutely delicious! As Erin said, it will have a rotation in our regular go-to meals. Leftovers are great for a healthy lunch. Made with slightly salted brown rice and roasted veggies. Thanks for the easy and healthy recipe Erin!
Hi Erica! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
The apple cider vinegar I calculated as 60 ml, that was too much in it. Other than that it is a very easy and nice recipe. I used more honey but that’s just a preference. Next time I will use much less vinegar and it will be perfect.
Thanks for the feedback Johanna!
I would rate this just OK. I was looking for a more colorful red to the cranberries and it seemed to be more brownish, I would not use so much vinegar. It made it really bitter. Not the taste I was looking for. I would use maybe a tablespoon. Sorry, just not what I was looking for.
I’m sorry this recipe wasn’t to your tastes, Shelly. I (and many other readers) have truly enjoyed it, so I wish you would’ve too!