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Simple Chicken Cacciatore (Italian Hunter Style Recipe)

A gloomy fall day is the perfect day to make this Simple Chicken Cacciatore or Pollo alla Cacciatora.  Actually, any day is a good day to make this delicious falling-off-the-bone, tender chicken! Cacciatore combines simple ingredients; onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and wine, to create a wonderfully aromatic sauce for the chicken to simmer in.  

A white plate with chicken cacciatore with peppers and onions in a tomato sauce surround by sliced bread and thyme sprigs.

This easy Chicken cacciatore is an Italian classic our whole family loves.  It is hearty, flavorful, and really simple to prepare. So it sits at the top of our list of favorite chicken recipes along with Mediterranean Chicken, Chicken Spezzatino, Nonna’s Chicken Cutlets and Simple “Agrodolce” Sweet and Sour Chicken.

What is Chicken Cacciatore

The word “cacciatore” in Italian means ” hunter”.  At one time this rustic dish would have been prepared after a successful hunt.  Originally it would have been made with small game, such as rabbit and it would have included onions, mushrooms, and herbs. This would all have been combined to create a tasty stew.  

Tomatoes were added to the dish after their introduction in Italy during the 15th or 16th century and are considered a southern influence.  Sometime later, wine was added to develop the version we are familiar with today.  There are numerous variations of the dish depending on what was readily available in different regions of the country.

Ingredients for chicken cacciatore and variations

Ingredients to make chicken cacciatore

There is no definitive formula or list of ingredients that makes a “Cacciatore” but this is what I think makes a tasty flavor combination.  

Chicken is by and far the most popular meat used today.  But you can use any fowl, rabbit, pork, etc.  I prefer bone-in chicken pieces such as legs and thighs because they cook quickly and the dark meat provides a lot of flavor. You can take the chicken skin off or use white meat, such as chicken breasts if you are concerned about the extra fat in the dish.

Dried Basil and Oregano are available all year long and always in my pantry, but you can also change the herbs you use based on what you have on hand or what you like.  I have seen versions of this dish that call for tarragon, thyme, or oregano.  If you are using fresh herbs, you should double the amount called for in this recipe.

Canned whole tomatoes in puree will create a thicker sauce than tomatoes in juice, but you can use either one in this recipe.

White wine adds richness and depth to this rustic Italian stew.  I have made this with red wine in the past and it is also delicious, but the wine intensifies as it cooks and the flavor can overpower the other ingredients, so I prefer to use white. You can use any wine you have but remember to use something that you enjoy drinking.  

Sweet Bell Peppers, onions, and garlic are a traditional flavor combination in this classic Italian dish.  I like to cut the peppers and onion in chunks so they stand out, but I mince the garlic cloves so they melt into the sauce. 

Other ingredient options

In some forms of the dish you will also see the addition of olives which will add a lovely briny saltiness.

Mushrooms are also a common vegetable in cacciatore that I love but my family doesn’t so I have conceded and left them out.

Capers can also be found in many cacciatore recipes and also add a lot of flavor.

A parmesan cheese rind added during the last 20 minutes of cooking makes for a delicious sauce! Just make sure to remove it before serving.

I think that you get the idea that there really is no right or wrong way to make a “cacciatore”. It all depends on what makes your taste buds sing!

How to make this simple chicken cacciatore

Golden brown chicken pieces in a Dutch oven.

Step 1:  Brown the chicken in a Dutch oven or a large skillet.  Browning the chicken creates a fond, (bits of chicken on the bottom of the pan), that adds a lot of richness to your dish. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate.

Step 2:  Sauté the onion and garlic. 

Step 3:  Add the wine and allow it to reduce by half.

Step 4:  Add the tomatoes, herbs, and chicken and cook covered for 20 minutes. 

Step 5:  Add the peppers and parmesan rind if you are using it, then cook for an additional 20 minutes.

A pot of chicken in a tomato stew.

Tips for best results

  • Salt and Pepper your chicken generously before browning.  I use all of the salt and pepper called for in the recipe at this stage and do not need to add any more while it’s cooking.
  • Don’t overcrowd the chicken while browning.  It will end up steaming rather than developing a nice crust.  
  • You can coat the chicken in flour before browning if you like.  The flour will help create a thicker sauce. I would recommend doing this if you are using canned tomatoes in juice rather than puree.  I have found that I don’t need to do this when I am using the puree.  The sauce thickens up quite nicely without it.
  • Make sure that you use a wine that you enjoy drinking.  The flavor of the wine will intensify while it cooks so if you use a wine you don’t like you will just end up disappointed.
  • I let the stew rest uncovered for a few minutes while I get everything else ready.  This resting time also helps to thicken the sauce a bit.  
A plate of chicken cacciatore with bread and a glass of red wine.

What to serve with this hearty chicken dish

I love this recipe because I don’t have to think about what to serve with it.  Pasta such as wide egg noodles, white rice, polenta, or a loaf of crusty bread make a great accompaniment for the savory cacciatore sauce.  Add a crispy salad and your dinner is complete.  Want to make this a gluten-free or low-carb meal?  Serve it over zucchini noodles! This dish proves that a great dinner does not need to be complicated.  

FAQ’s

Can you make chicken cacciatore ahead of time?

Yes you can and it tastes even better the next day! Properly stored in an airtight container, it will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Just reheat it on the stove top and serve!

Can you freeze chicken cacciatore?

This is a great dish to freeze. Stored in an airtight freezer container, this can be frozen for up to 3 months.

What wine should you pair with chicken cacciatore

A red wine like a chianti or pinot noir pairs very nicely with this dish and enhances the flavors of the tomatoes and chicken.

Can you make this in a slow cooker?

Absolutely! This recipe works well in a slow cooker. Brown your chicken first. Then add all of the ingredients in your slow cooker and set it on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

A plate of chicken in a tomatoey stew with bread and a glass of red wine.

Suggestions for other Italian dishes

If you are looking for other Italian recipes, then you have come to the right place! Some of our most popular recipes are Nonna’s Chicken Soup with Pastina, Roasted Branzino and Flank Steak Pizzaiola.

If you tried Chicken Cacciatore or any other recipes on my website, leave me a comment below to let me know how you liked them.  I love getting your feedback.

You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest for more recipes your family will love!

A plate of chicken in a tomatoey stew with bread and a glass of red wine.

Simply Delicious Chicken Cacciatore

A rustic Italian chicken stew made with peppers, onions, tomatoes and wine. The chicken is fall off the bone tender and full of robust flavors.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 533 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 4 Chicken leg quarters separated, 8 pieces
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper
  • 2 Sweet Peppers Green, Red, or Yellow, cut into thick strips
  • 2 Onions medium, cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 tsp Basil dried
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 cup White wine dry
  • 28 oz Tomatoes, canned peeled and in puree

Instructions
 

  • Salt and Pepper the chicken thighs
  • Heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy sauce pan or a Dutch oven
  • Brown the chicken on both sides. About 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  • Sauté the garlic and onion in the same pan until the onion is just tender
  • Add the wine and stir, scarping up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, oregano and basil. Stir well.
  • Add the chicken back in to the pan stirring to make sure the chicken is coated with the tomato mixture.
  • Bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the peppers. Bring back to a boil and cover. Cook on low heat for another 20 minutes.

Nutrition

Serving: 4servingsCalories: 533kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 28gFat: 32gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 142mgSodium: 1544mgPotassium: 1142mgFiber: 6gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 2415IUVitamin C: 99mgCalcium: 114mgIron: 4mg
Keyword Chicken, Tomatoes, Peppers, wine
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2 Comments

  1. I absolutely love this recipe! I‘ve always used red wine in the past but I’m loving the white too!! And the meat always falls right off the bone which leaves you wanting more with every bite. Sooooooo delicious!!

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