Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore

The scientific name for the tomato is Lycopersicon esculentum,
which means "wolf peach."
"Cacciatore" is Italian for "hunter," so chicken cacciatore is "hunter's" chicken. I'm not really sure if the idea was that hunters would make the dish while they were out hunting, or if their wives were supposed to have the dish ready when they came home. Either way, it's a pretty solid meal to have if you've been tramping through the woods after an animal all day. One source I found suggested that chicken cacciatore comes originally from renaissance Italy, but I find that hard to believe, given that a lot of Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous at the time. If the original really was a renaissance dish, I suspect that the ingredient list was drastically different.

Regardless, modern chicken cacciatore has many variations in both ingredients and technique. Chicken is a constant, and tomatoes are pretty standard, but the supporting vegetables and herbs are all over the place. I needed to make a dish for a potluck dinner, so I came up with a recipe that fit my needs. First, it's easy. It's made in a crock pot out of ingredients that need very little preparation. Second, it makes a lot at once. This recipe was easily 8-10 servings. You could cut it in half without too much trouble if you're not making it for a group.

Canned tomato products are a lifesaver for any dish that you're going to cook a long time.


1 medium onion
1 green bell pepper
4 cloves of garlic
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 8oz. package of sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp dried Italian herb blend
1 tsp salt
2 6oz. cans of tomato paste
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes


Crock Pot
Medium Bowl

Start by chopping the onion into large pieces. Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper and chop it into large pieces as well. The pieces should be about the size of your fingertip.

Do not include any actual fingertips in the dish.

Finely mince the garlic cloves.

The finer you mince garlic, the more flavor it adds to a dish, so go nuts.

Cut each chicken thigh in half, and remove any large pieces of fat or skin that may still be on the meat.

You don't have to worry about removing smaller pieces of fat from the chicken.
Just try to get rid of any chunks of fat that have their own zip code.

Add the chicken, onion, pepper, garlic, and mushrooms to the crock pot. Also sprinkle 2 tbsp of dried Italian herbs and 1 tsp of salt on top of the meat and vegetables.

Before you add them, check your mushrooms just to make sure they don't have any dirt on them.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the diced tomatoes (with their liquid) and the tomato paste. Stir them together so that they form a thick sauce.

"Sauce" might be a little generous at this point, but this stuff will really improve while the dish cooks.

Add the tomato sauce to the crock pot. Try to evenly distribute the sauce across the top of the chicken and vegetables.

The juices from the other ingredients will mix with the sauce, thin it out, and make it delicious.

Cook everything in the crock pot on low for about 8 hours. When it's done cooking, gently stir everything to even out the sauce.

I put mine in a casserole dish for transport to the potluck.
Big mistake - it was too full and I got sauce everywhere.

  • A lot of recipes for chicken cacciatore want you to brown the chicken in olive oil before braising it. I think that's a waste of time when making it in the crock pot, because any browning gets basically dissolved over the extremely long cooking.
  • I used some cremini mushrooms for this dish, but regular white button mushrooms work just fine. You could also change things up with some more exotic types if you wanted.
  • You can use other pieces of the chicken in this recipe, but I find that boneless, skinless chicken thighs are generally the best performers in the crock pot. White meat dries out too much, and I think drumsticks have too much connective tissue.
  • I went with some packaged items in this recipe because I needed something I could throw together before work without a lot of hassle. You could certainly use fresh tomatoes instead of the canned diced tomatoes, and you don't have to buy your mushrooms pre-sliced. If you want to use fresh herbs, go for it. I'm pretty sure that Italian herb blends are mainly oregano and basil, with maybe a little thyme thrown in.
  • If your sauce is really watery after you stir everything up, you can try adding about a tablespoon of arrowroot powder to thicken it up. Sprinkle it on top (to help avoid clumps) and then stir it in very gently. Let everything cook on low for another 15 minutes, and the sauce should get thicker.


  1. I re-created your recipe for my family, and they instantly began talking about all the family and friends we had to share this dish with. We added a side of zucchini noodles to the dish to scrape up the extra sauce because it was too yummy not to eat :) thankya!

  2. Kelsey - Thanks for letting me know how it turned out. I'm so glad your family liked it!

  3. I LOVE this recipe! So easy and my favorite to take to potlucks! No one believes that it's "paleo"