Chicken Champions

We Tried Olive Garden’s Popular Chicken Marsala Recipe and Did Not Expect These Results

published Mar 1, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones; Design: The Kitchn

Olive Garden’s chicken Marsala is right up there with their breadsticks and chicken gnocchi soup. It’s a fan favorite! And unlike most recipes from restaurant chains, there’s no guessing as to how to re-create it: Olive Garden actually has the recipe published on their website!

So, when planning which recipes to include in our chicken Marsala celebrity recipe showdown, we knew we had to include this cult-favorite version from Olive Garden. One glance told me that it would simple to make: It had the shortest ingredient list of the four recipes in the battle. It also uses the most Marsala wine. Here’s how it went when I tried it at home.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones; Design: The Kitchn

How To Make Olive Garden’s Chicken Marsala

Ready your arm muscles: You’ll start this recipe by pounding the chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness (and no, you will not slice them in half first). You then season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, and sear, in oil, over medium heat for about three minutes per side.

Without removing the chicken from the pan, you’ll add the mushrooms, followed by the Marsala wine, then cover the pan and simmer for five minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, place it on a serving plate, and swirl several tablespoons of butter into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken and voila! You’ve just made Olive Garden’s chicken Marsala.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

My Honest Review of Olive Garden’s Chicken Marsala

I’m going to cut right to the chase: I really did not like this recipe. It was very easy to make, but that’s the only praise I can offer. It was my least favorite of the four recipe I tried — by far.

The first big issue is with the chicken itself. While most recipes instruct you to slice the chicken breast in half crosswise before pounding it thin, this recipe simply asks you to pound the chicken. Not only does this add more time to the recipe, but it destroys the meat in the process. Then there’s the fact that the recipe doesn’t call for the chicken to be dredged in flour before cooking — which ultimately leads to a thin sauce with a soupy consistency that slides right off the chicken.

The sauce, which consists of Marsala wine, olive oil, and butter, desperately needs help in the flavor department, whether that’s from a couple cloves of minced garlic or shallot, chicken broth, or a small splash of balsamic vinegar added at the end of cooking.

Credit: Kelli Foster

If You’re Making Olive Garden’s Chicken Marsala, a Few Tips

1. Slice the chicken in half crosswise before pounding. Before pounding the chicken breasts, cut each piece in half crosswise. This will reduce the amount of pounding, which means you’re less likely to destroy the meat.

2. Dredge the chicken in 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour. Dredging the chicken in flour before searing helps thicken the sauce. Add 1/3 cup all-purpose flour to a large plate, season the chicken with salt and pepper, then coat each piece of chicken with flour, shaking off any excess.

3. Use a 10-inch skillet or larger. A 10- to 12-inch skillet is the right size for this recipe. It’s large enough to hold about half the chicken at a time, so plan to cook in two batches.

4. Cook the chicken over medium-high heat. The recipe calls for cooking the chicken over medium, which doesn’t allow the skillet to get hot enough to actually brown the chicken. Cook the chicken over medium-high heat instead.

5. You’ll need at least 6 ounces of mushrooms. The ingredient list calls for mushrooms by volume (two cups worth), but that’s not helpful when grocery shopping. Two cups is about the equivalent of six ounces of mushrooms. That said, you can certainly use a full 8-ounce package.

Rating: 5/10

Have you ever made Olive Garden’s chicken Marsala? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones; Design: The Kitchn