Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Some recipes are truly special. Not only are they delicious and comforting (a must!), but they also have a way of bringing people together in a meaningful way. This Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore is one of those recipes. It’s easy enough for a healthy weeknight dinner, special enough to serve for a dinner party, and is a recipe that, for me, is filled with happy memories.
I made this dish for new friends when we first moved to Milwaukee. We were new in town, struggling to meet people, and I reached out to two college acquaintances with the hope that (if I bribed them with a crock pot full of Italian food), they might entertain the possibility of being friends with me.
Five years later: we’re still gathering around the table together, this time as close friends.
It’s not hard to bond over the cozy, richly flavored sauce and moist, tender chicken breast pieces in chicken cacciatore. The best part? It takes 15 minutes of prep work. Thank you, slow cooker!
Today’s recipe, along with other healthy crock pot chicken recipes on my site like Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie, Crockpot Chicken and Potatoes, Crock Pot Mexican Casserole, Crock Pot Chicken and Rice, and Slow Cooker Greek Chicken (among many of my other slow cooker recipes), are a wonderful way to bring the people you care about around the table, while keeping your own prep work fuss free.
Whether you want to make this chicken cacciatore recipe for a delicious, family-friendly, easy weeknight dinner or as a main course for your next dinner party, I feel certain that you will be met with nothing but praise and requests for seconds.
About Chicken Cacciatore
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.
- Chicken. I opted for a boneless chicken cacciatore with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You could also use boneless chicken thighs or bone-in chicken pieces, though you will need to add to the cook time. If using bone-in chicken, remove the skin first so that it does not become soggy.
- Garlic. For depth and classic Italian flavor.
- Balsamic Vinegar. For brightness and balance. Don’t skip it.
- Crushed Tomatoes. An easy way to create the base for our sauce.
- Veggies. To make this easy chicken cacciatore healthy, I added a generous amount of veggies, including onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms.
- If you aren’t a fan of mushrooms (or someone in your house is not), you can easily omit them.
- Italian Seasoning. I love using this spice blend, as it’s an all-in-one way to add a variety of Italian herbs and spices with one scoop.
- To Serve. I love my chicken cacciatore over whole wheat pasta noodles with a sprinkle of fresh parsley. See below for other yummy ideas.
- Season the chicken and brown both sides in a skillet.
- Add the onion, garlic, and vinegar, cooking until fragrant. Add everything to the slow cooker with the pan drippings.
- Add the vegetables and seasoning. Cook until your chicken reaches 165 degrees F, then remove it. This is when you can chop or shred the chicken as desired.
- Let your sauce simmer uncovered in the crockpot to thicken. Stir in the vinegar and reserved chicken, then season to taste. Enjoy!
How do you Thicken Chicken Cacciatore?
- My Tip: To thicken my chicken cacciatore, I remove the chicken meat, and let the sauce simmer in the slow cooker uncovered on high. After about an hour, the sauce will thicken, and the flavors will develop nicely.
- You could also add a cornstarch slurry to thicken your sauce. Remove your chicken, and whisk together 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon of your sauce. Then, stir this mixture into the slow cooker and let simmer until thickened.
What is the Difference Between Chicken Cacciatore and Chicken Parmesan?
- In chicken parmesan recipes, the meat is typically breaded and then fried or baked (like in my Baked Chicken Parmesan recipe). Afterwards, a large piece of cheese (generally mozzarella or provolone) is melted over the top of the chicken pieces.
- Chicken cacciatore resembles a stew packed with vegetables, tomato sauce, and lots of yummy seasoning.
- This is a boneless chicken cacciatore recipe, but many times it will be made with bone-in meat. Chicken Parmesan uses boneless chicken.
What is Traditionally Served with Chicken Cacciatore?
While this dish can be served as is, here are some ideas for what sides go with chicken cacciatore:
- Pasta or Rice. I love to serve this dish is over a bed of whole wheat pasta noodles, brown rice, or Crockpot Spaghetti Squash noodles. It’s also delicious over the polenta from this Creamy Polenta with Zucchini and Tomatoes recipe.
- Salad. A simple salad like this Caesar Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Crispy Chickpea Croutons allows the flavors of this dish shine.
- Bread. Sop up the delicious sauce with Crock Pot Bread or a loaf from your favorite bakery.
Recommended Tools to Make Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
- Programmable Slow Cooker. I love that it switches to “keep warm” at the end of the cooking time so my food rarely overcooks.
- Stainless-steel skillet. I like this one (top of the line and outstanding) or this one (also great).
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.
Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
- 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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