Caramel Chicken

Chicken is an item that appears on my menu at least once a week.  Maybe twice.  Maybe three times if I have sent the Southern husband out to the grill to make buttermilk rosemary grilled chicken, which we grill in giant batches because it is addictively good. The point is that I am forever on the hunt for new and interesting ways to cook a chicken, and this sweet, spicy, tangy caramel version is my new fave…and doesn’t involve sending people out into the dark cold snowy night to grill it.  Here’s what it DOES involve!

It starts off all innocently as a basic pan-roasted chicken recipe, with bone-in piece of chicken seared golden brown in a little oil.  But once the chicken is browned, here’s where the fun begins.  A little water and some brown sugar get together in that same skillet until it thickens up into a sweet caramel sauce.  And just when things are getting very sweet, you add some vinegar, some fresh ginger, some soy sauce and some garlic.  It turns into a fair fight between sweet and the salty, and that concoction is what your chicken is going to simmer in until it is tender and sticky and perfect.

I served it on a bed of rice with some chopped scallions on top for both color and a little kick, and it was just the right amount of different and delicious.

And because I am me, there were a few leftover pieces that we had as a cold chicken lunch a day or two later.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.  It’s enough to make me stop sending the Southern husband out to do this.

Although I think he looks kind of happy and industrious.  Maybe I’ll just get him some mittens.

Slightly adapted from Bon Appetit


Caramel Chicken
Serves: 4-6 servings
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2½ pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, cut in quarters
  • Coarse salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 slices ¼"-thick slices peeled ginger
  • 1 cup chicken broth (I like the Pacific and Imagine varieties)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Cooked white rice
  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and cook until golden brown and crisp, 6–8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  2. Add garlic to pot and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove to the plate with the chicken.
  3. Add ½ cup water to pot and stir, scraping up the browned bits. Add brown sugar and stir until mixture thickens and turns a deep amber color, about 4 minutes. Carefully add vinegar and stir again.
  4. , Add ginger, broth, and soy sauce, then add chicken, skin side up, and garlic. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20–25 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and cover with foil.
  5. Bring caramel sauce to a boil and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Return chicken to pot and turn it with tongs until it is coated with the sauce.
  6. Place hot cooked rice on each plate, top with a chicken piece or two, scatter scallions on top and serve!


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  1. Sarah says

    Please tell me what to do differently in order to make this with Boneless/Skinless breasts, because I have a freezer chock full of them due to an amazing sale and I really want to make this, it looks a-ma-zing! I just don’t want to go buy even MORE chicken just if I can help it – the hubs would have MY skin! LOL :)

    • Kate says

      Ha! I hear you. I would sear the chicken breasts just a minute or two over high heat until they are brown, and then in the simmer stage cut the time down to 10-15 minutes until they are cooked through (you should probably cut into one of them just to make sure all the pink is gone). I haven’t ever made them with boneless chicken, so if you try it and it works will you come back and tell us? It should be fine, I think!

      • Sarah says

        I have chicen already thawed in the fridge for tonight, and all other ingredients on hand so this is Officially On The Menu! I’ll let you know how it turns out, for sure :)

        • Sarah says

          Well. I’ll have to report back on a night when my “screw it up” is a little less at the forefront. We ended up with inedible chicken and ate fast food, because apparently following a recipe was beyond me tonight.

          • Kate says

            That happens to the best of us! Definitely try it again – I know you will make the boneless variety work!

          • Sarah says

            you, miss, are officially and completely awesome in my book. Thanks for the “buck up” note even when a) you didn’t have to a and b) what I probably really deserve is a smack on the head. I’ll be trying again for sure, probably next week sometime when Picky Son is home to try it too (after all, if he likes it, it ALWAYS goes straight into rotation so it’s best to have him try everything!)

          • Sarah says

            ok so notes

            1) used 20oz of boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in 4 pieces of roughly equal-ish size. Browned in 2 Tbsp canola oil for 4 minutes per side in my wok, came out looking awesome.

            2) 8 cloves of garlic, peeled, equals roughly 27g or, dang close to 1 ounce. For anyone who’s counting calories this time of year 😉

            3) I don’t know if my choice of cooking vessel was at fault, but I used my wok and HOLY SMOKE when I added the water (step 3, after cooking the garlic and prior to adding the brown sugar) the cracking and popping and splattering that went on! Shoo!! I am glad I wore my apron. I am clearly not an experienced cook – was I supposed to turn down the heat before adding the water? Drain the oil? Something I obviously didn’t do? Do you think it would have been different if I was using my dutch oven?

            4) After getting all that under control and adding the rest of the sauce ingredients, and putting the chicken back in, I simmered it in the sauce for 12 minutes, then removed it as instructed. It was perfectly cooked.

            5) Thickening the sauce went smoothly! ha! I did strain the garlic and ginger pieces out of it before drizzling it over the white rice, just thought that was probably the intent LOL :)

            It is a delicious recipe, my picky son said he “actually kind of likes it” so it’s a winner in my book!

          • Kate says

            Hi Sarah! I’m so proud of you for hanging in there! Not sure about why the water went crazy. I’ve never cooked with a wok, but a Dutch oven is very thick and distributes heat evenly, so that might be the difference. I think it’s fine to use the wok going forward – I’d just turn the heat down a little before adding the water so things aren’t so dramatic. :) As for the ginger and the garlic, I like to leave ’em in there, but of course totally fine to strain them out – I’m a BIG believer in customizing recipes to exactly the way you like them! And MOST importantly, YAY about the picky son! I have a picky Southern daughter so I know exactly where you are coming from. :)

  2. says

    This looks so good! I’m going to try this soon, with gluten-free soy sauce. I’m going to have to wait until the bbq isn’t covered with snow before I can get my hubby out there I think!
    Thanks for sharing. Your photos are beautiful! Oh, and thanks for spelling caramel right! :)

  3. Brandi says

    Hey! I just wanted to say that I came here from @RecipeGirl and I fell in love with this recipe from first sight. I wanted to make a new recipe for a new year, & this fit the bill. I’m so happy to have found your blog! This dish was awesome! The only change I made was to use boneless, skinless tenderloins, because that’s all I had on hand, and I did not want to wait to make it. Thanks for a great recipe,it’s a new favorite!

  4. Joyce says

    This on the menu for Wednesday. I am currently unemployed, and the highlight of every day is cooking new, frugal meals. I bought chicken thighs for this, and can’t wait to try it. I’ll be checking back with the results.

    Love your website; it’s always ‘up’ on my screen…and I have a number of your recipes as my ‘go to’ meals. Thanks much!

    • Kate says

      Thanks Joyce! Do tell us how it worked with the chicken thighs..and I am glad you are getting happiness with your cooking. It’s one of the best parts of my day, too!

      • Joyce says

        Well, this didn’t exactly work for me the way you described, and I expected. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked skin-on chicken on the stove, only in the oven. Instead of getting ‘golden brown and crisp’, the skin stuck to the bottom of my dutch oven. When it came time to boil the sauce until it thickened… never thickened, even after 15 minutes. I added a bit of cornstarch slurry, which fixed that problem.

        It wasn’t as pretty as your picture, unfortunately. It was pretty tasty though!

        • Kate says

          Sometimes chicken skin will stick if you try and turn it before it is crisp enough (I’m always tempted to turn it too soon myself!) so that could have been it. The tastiness is the most important part though! :)

          • Joyce says

            Thanks for the suggestion for the crispy skin. We agreed to give it another try, because it tasted sooo good!

  5. Eudrecka says

    This was a hit. I used skinless boneless chicken breasts and reduced the cooking time. I did have to make a cornstarch slurry to thicken it. Great dish! This would also be excellent with boneless skinless chicken thighs too.

  6. Roxanne says

    I’ll be trying this tonight with skinless thighs as that’s all that looked good at the store. I’ll miss the skin but want to try this so badly that I’m willing to take the risk!

    • Roxanne says

      Well, it worked beautifully and was delicious with skinless and boneless thighs! Well, my husband and I thought so. My toddlers did not agree :(. I had about 4 pounds of boneless skinless thighs; I multiplied the sauce recipe by 1.5 and it was perfect. My husband gobbled it up and proclaimed it delicious while thanking me for making it earnestly. My 3.5yo almost gagged and my 2yo refused to swallow more than a nibble. Wah! I loved it though!

  7. says

    Found your chicken recipe on foodily and made it tonight. I give this chicken recipe 100 stars. It was amazing. My husband loved it too. Excellent! I even posted the recipe on my facebook page because everyone needs to make it…and eat it.

    • Kate says

      100 stars!! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten 100 stars before! :) Glad you liked it, and thank you so much for the Facebook share!


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