Cranberry-Orange Chicken Thighs

published Aug 30, 2021
Cranberry Chicken Recipe

Cranberry chicken may feel like a festive holiday dish, but can be enjoyed all year round.

Serves2 to 4

Prep10 minutes

Cook30 minutes to 35 minutes

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Cranberry chicken in a cast iron pan, on a wooden tabletop with a burlap napkin next to it.
Credit: Tara Holland

Although it may look and sound like a festive holiday dish, cranberry chicken can be enjoyed year-round, thanks to frozen cranberries. This version has a slightly summery feel with the bright flavor of fresh basil. A large sprig is infused into the sauce, then discarded and replaced by fresh basil at the end. And because cranberry and orange have always been a match made in heaven, I added fresh zest and juice; the citrus warms the tartness of the winter berry. Caramelizing the onions lends additional sweetness and umami, and a slight kick from red pepper flakes rounds it all off.

This tart-yet-sweet sauce is a cross between chutney, fruit compote, and onion jam. Want it more saucy? Whisk in up to one cup of water when it comes out of the oven and simmer for one to two minutes on the stovetop over medium heat. For more wintery vibes, replace the white wine with red, and rosemary for basil.

What Cut of Chicken Should I Use?

Skin-on, bone-in chicken is best. Beginning the process by cooking the chicken skin-side down is essential, as the rendered fat flavors the base of the sauce and kickstart the onions.

Should I Use Whole Cranberries or Canned?

Whole fresh or frozen cranberries are preferable because you can control the sweetness. Plus, canned whole cranberries can be surprisingly difficult to find. If you used canned cranberry, increase the acidity by adding more vinegar and skip the sugar.

Credit: Tara Holland

What to Serve with Cranberry Chicken

Cranberry Chicken Recipe

Cranberry chicken may feel like a festive holiday dish, but can be enjoyed all year round.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 35 minutes

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2

    medium yellow onions (about 7 ounces each)

  • 1

    small orange

  • 4

    skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (6 to 8 ounces each)

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons

    packed light or dark brown sugar, divided

  • 2 cups

    frozen cranberries (about 6 ounces)

  • 1 cup

    dry white wine

  • 1/2 cup


  • 1 tablespoon

    balsamic vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 3 large sprigs

    fresh basil, divided


    1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375℉.

    2. Halve and thinly slice 2 medium yellow onions (about 4 cups). Finely grate the zest of 1 small orange until you have 1 teaspoon zest, then juice the orange until you have 2 tablespoons.

    3. Pat dry 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs with a paper towel, then season all over with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large cast-iron or ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken skin-side down and sear until golden brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

    4. If not a lot of fat has rendered from the chicken thighs, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add the onions and cook, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for 2 minutes. Add 2 packed tablespoons of the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened and slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes more.

    5. Add 2 cups frozen cranberries, 1 cup dry white wine, 1/2 cup water, 1 packed tablespoon of the brown sugar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1 large fresh basil sprig. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until cranberries soften and liquid thickens, about 5 minutes. Return the seared chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, setting the chicken on top of the cranberry and caramelized onion sauce.

    6. Bake until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, 12 to 20 minutes.

    7. Remove and discard the basil sprig. Add the orange zest and 1 tablespoon the orange juice, and stir into the sauce around the chicken pieces. Taste and season with up to 1 tablespoon orange juice and packed 1 tablespoon brown sugar if the sauce is too tart. If the sauce is too thin, transfer the chicken to a clean plate, then simmer the sauce over medium heat until reduced and thickened to your liking, 5 to 10 minutes.

    8. Pick the small leaves from the remaining 2 fresh basil sprigs until you have 1/4 cup. (Alternatively, tear the larger leaves into smaller pieces.) Sprinkle over the chicken before serving.

    Recipe Notes

    Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.