Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
I owe my crock pot, BIG TIME. Not only is it an essential tool in bringing Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore to our table, but it’s also the catalyst for what has turned out to be one of the best parts of life in Milwaukee: “family dinner” with two of our best friends and their two kids.
When Ben and I moved to Milwaukee, I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to make friends. I’d just started blogging full time, which meant that I wouldn’t meet anyone at an office, unless you count our mail carrier. While friendly, she usually is in a bit of a hurry.
Since we don’t have kids, moms’ groups were out, and seeing as I have all the coordination of a baby deer trying to walk for the first time, recreational sport leagues were also not a viable option.
What I needed was a dating app for friends.
What I had was a casual connection to a married couple who also graduated from my same alma mater and an unlimited supply of food blog leftovers.
I sent my then hypothetical friends, now actual friends, a Facebook message that I’d made an entire crock pot full of food (actually, if we are splitting details, it was a crock pot full of Slow Cooker Spiced Wine, accompanied by three other items I’d cooked that week) and would they mind if I swung by to drop it off for dinner, say two hours from now?
We’ve been eating dinner together since!
Crock Pot Mexican Casserole, Crock Pot Chicken and Rice, and Slow Cooker Greek Chicken (among many slow cooker recipes) have all made their way to my friends’ for dinner. Today’s recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore is one of the more recent additions.
I love that we team up to make a full meal (if I bring the main, my friends will do dessert and a side), and it’s so valuable to have extra recipe testers too. This Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore received full approval from all dinner attendees, including the three-year-old. YES.
If you’ve never had chicken cacciatore, it’s an old Italian dish. Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian, and to prepare something alla cacciatora refers to a meal that is prepared “hunter style.” In cacciatore sauce, you’ll find onions, herbs, tomatoes, and sometimes bell peppers. Mushrooms and wine (red or white) are also common ingredients.
I can’t imagine a more fitting meal than “hunter’s stew” for a casual dinner, whether it’s with friends or on a busy weeknight at home. It’s warm and comforting, and its classic, simple Italian flavor profile is accessible and appealing, even to picky eaters.
About This Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore Recipe
Italian chicken cacciatore usually uses a mix of chicken parts and is slowly simmered on the stove.
I wanted to make this recipe as hands-free as possible, so I opted for a healthy chicken cacciatore slow cooker approach. Making chicken cacciatore in the crock pot achieves the same tenderness and depth of flavor as the slow-simmer method, with less hassle.
For the meat, I went for a boneless chicken cacciatore, preparing the recipe with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The recipe would work equally well with chicken thighs. You can also make it with bone-in chicken pieces, though you will need to add to the cook time.
To make this easy chicken cacciatore healthy, I added a generous amount of veggies, including mushrooms.
If you aren’t a fan of mushrooms (or someone in your house is not), you can easily omit them. If your house is a mix of mushroom lovers/haters, because the mushrooms are roughly sliced, they are also fairly simple to pick out. (Chicken cacciatore is a rustic dish; embrace it and keep your vegetables chunky, i.e. quick, easy, and lazy chopping.)
To keep the recipe as streamlined as possible, I omitted the wine, instead achieving a similar brightness with balsamic vinegar stirred in at the end. Don’t skip it.
Finally, for the best chicken cacciatore EVER, build in one extra hour to let the sauce simmer in the slow cooker on high after the chicken has cooked. It’s not strictly necessary, but I was happy I took the time, because it really allowed the flavors of the sauce to develop.
The power of food to bring people together and strengthen relationships, while certainly not an original thought, is deeply real and deeply impactful in my life. Since you are here reading this, I suspect it is for you too.
I hope this comforting Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore brings some joy and togetherness to your table, and I hope it brings some deliciousness to your evenings, both the busy ones and the not-so-busy ones too.
Recommended Tools to Make Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
- I have a 6-quart programmable slow cooker. I love that it switches to “keep warm” at the end of the cooking time so my food rarely overcooks.
- For searing the chicken: a stainless-steel skillet like this one (top of the line and outstanding) or this one (also great)
Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore. Authentic Italian chicken cacciatore, made easy in the crock pot! Boneless chicken breasts or thighs simmered in a richly flavored tomato sauce. Serve with pasta or rice for a family-friendly dinner.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 teaspoons, divided
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar plus 1/2 teaspoon, divided
- 1 can crushed tomatoes 28 ounces
- 1 medium green bell pepper chopped
- 8 ounces sliced baby bella cremini mushrooms
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- Whole wheat pasta brown rice, polenta, rice, zucchini noodles, or baked and shredded spaghetti squash
- Chopped fresh parsley freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Lightly coat a large slow cooker with nonstick spray. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer. Cook on the first side for 3 to 4 minutes, until browned, moving the chicken as little as possible so that it gets a nice sear. Flip and brown on the other side, about 2 additional minutes. Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker.
Reduce the skillet heat to medium. With a paper towel, carefully wipe out the skillet. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. One the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Cook for 1 minute, or until the garlic is fragrant and the vinegar has reduced. Transfer to the slow cooker, along with any pan drippings.
Top the chicken with the tomatoes, green bell pepper, mushrooms, and Italian seasoning. If using chicken breasts: cover and cook on HIGH for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or LOW for 4 to 5 hours, until the chicken is cooked through. If using chicken thighs: cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours on HIGH or 5 to 6 hours on LOW. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker as soon as it reaches 165 degrees F. If desired, chop or shred the chicken (or you can serve the pieces whole).
At this point, you can serve the sauce right away if you are in a hurry, BUT, if time allows, this is what I like to do for the best-ever sauce: Uncover the slow cooker and let cook on HIGH for 1 hour to allow the sauce to thicken and the flavor to further develop. Just before serving, stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Taste and season the sauce with additional salt/pepper as desired. If you've chopped or shredded the chicken, return it to the sauce and toss to combine and warm through. Otherwise, serve the chicken pieces whole with a generous amount of the sauce on top. Serve hot over pasta, rice, polenta, or veggie noodles, with a big extra spoonful of sauce and a sprinkle of parsley and Parmesan.
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