In this chicken puttanesca recipe, chicken is pan-seared until golden brown and braised until fall-off-the-bone tender. The briny, garlicky tomato sauce bursts with bold Mediterranean flavor in just one pan and 40 minutes. Serve this no-fuss dinner recipe with crusty bread or fresh homemade focaccia

chicken puttanesca topped with parsley, capers and kalamata olives in a cast iron skillet.
Photo Credits: Mariam Hamdy

Chicken puttanesca is a hearty and gluten-free twist on the Italian classic Pasta Puttanesca. This traditional Italian sauce is flavored generously with olives, capers, and anchovies making your weeknight dinner a true flavor party! Puttanesca, perhaps more than any other sauce, proves that simple pantry dinners can create truly exceptional meals! 

Umami-rich anchovies, briny olives, and bright capers turn up the volume on a simple tomato base. The saucy dish gently cooks bone-in chicken thighs until they’re swimming in savory flavor and barely require a knife. 

“Fishy” not your thing? Fear not! When cooked, anchovies mellow and melt into a complex, salty and savory taste. This deep flavor is more akin to a briny, meaty flavor that plays well with the other ingredients. Trust me on this. You're gonna love it.

However, if I’ve failed to convince you, start slow and add only four anchovy fillets. You can always work your way up to eight over time, since I know you’ll be making this one on repeat! 

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredients for Chicken Puttanesca
  2. How to Cook Chicken Puttanesca
  3. The Secret to Crispy Chicken Skin 
  4. What to Serve Chicken Puttanesca
  5. You Need to Eat; We Have Ideas!
  6. Try our Nocellara-Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
  7. Chicken Puttanesca Recipe
ingredients for chicken puttanesca including pieces of bone-in skin-on chicken, salt, pepper, olive oil, italian seasoning, lemon juice, anchovy fillets, minced garlic, whole peeled tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers, red pepper flakes, oregano, and chopped parsley.

Ingredients for Chicken Puttanesca

The beauty of a classic puttanesca sauce is that it uses almost exclusively pantry ingredients. Keep these staples on hand and to have puttanesca sauce at the ready.  

  • Chicken: I use bone-in, skin on chicken thighs and drumsticks because they stay juicy and have the most flavor. If you prefer a leaner cut, go ahead and substitute with chicken breast. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts tend to cook faster, so start checking on them at the 15-20 minute mark. 
  • Flavor-makers: Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and oregano perfume the dish and draw out the authentic Italian flavor. Red pepper flakes and garlic (and lots of it) give the dish a healthy kick. Leave out the red pepper flakes if you don’t like spicy. 
  • Lemon: Freshly squeezed lemon juice brings balance to all the briny flavors.
  • Briney deliciousness: Anchovy, olives, and capers bring the distinct salty, tangy, and sea-like flavors that’s often described as “briny.” These dominant flavors are what makes a puttanesca what it is, so I don’t recommend substituting them. The amount of anchovy can be tweaked based on your preferences (though I promise they’re packed with umami flavor and not fishy!) 
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Use a smooth, buttery olive oil that won’t compete with the strong flavors of this dish. I use Nocellara, our Italian variety. 
  • San Marzano tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes have a rich, sweet flavor that is balanced by their natural acidity. Plus, their meaty texture means they keep their shape when cooked.
  • Parsley: A great big handful of chopped parsley leaves and tender stems adds a welcome freshness to this deeply savory Italian classic. 
chicken puttanesca topped with parsley, capers and kalamata olives in a cast iron skillet.

How to Cook Chicken Puttanesca

Chicken puttanesca builds big flavor quickly in just one pan. This no-fail recipe is served in a few easy steps.

  • Get ready: Mince 5 large garlic cloves. Drain 3 tablespoons of capers and slice ½ cup of kalamata olives, removing the pit if necessary. 
  • Season the chicken: Use paper towels to pat the chicken very dry, then season generously all over with kosher salt and black pepper. Don't forget to rub some salt and pepper underneath the skin as well. 
  • Sear the chicken: In a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken, skin-side down. Cook until the skin is crispy and golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until the second side is golden brown as well, about 5 minutes more. 8 pieces of bone-in skin-on chicken browning in a cast iron skillet.
  • Season and rest the chicken: Transfer the chicken to a large tray and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Juice one lemon over the chicken. Set aside. 
  • Start the sauce: Return the skillet to the stove, leaving the chicken fat in the pan. Turn the heat to medium. If the skillet is dry, add a splash of olive oil and then add 4-8 anchovy fillets. You're going to want to cook the anchovies for 2 minutes or so, pushing them around the skillet and scraping up any brown bits left on the pan. They will break down and almost melt into the oil, infusing it with umami flavor. This is the good stuff!anchovy fillets sauteeing in a cast iron skillet.
  • Finish the sauce: Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Once the scent of garlic fills the air, stir in 28 ounces of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes. Next, add ¼ cup of sliced kalamata olives, and 1 ½ tablespoons of the capers. Finally, add 2 teaspoons of dried oregano and 1  teaspoon of red pepper flakes (if using). Stir gently to combine, then wait as the sauce comes to a simmer. the tomato-based sauce for chicken puttanesca simmering in a skillet.
  • Cook the chicken in the sauce: Nestle the chicken back into the skillet and spoon a bit of the sauce over top. Cover part way, and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked to 165°F and tender. This takes about 25 to 30 minutes depending on how large your pieces are. While the chicken cooks, chop enough parsley leaves and tender stems to yield ½ cup. pieces of browned chicken simmering in a tomato-based sauce.
  • Serve: Top with the remaining ¼ of olives and 1 ½ tablespoon of capers. Sprinkle the parsley and serve. 

The Secret to Crispy Chicken Skin 

Crisping the skin and then braising the chicken in a flavorful sauce is a sure-fire way to get juicy, delicious chicken every time. It's the same technique we use to make Pollo Alle Melanzane, Wine-Braised Chicken Thighs, and too many other chicken recipes to name. It's a great skill to perfect and keep in your arsenal.

Luckily, skin on chicken thighs and drumsticks are an especially forgiving cut of meat. Unlike chicken breast, they tenderize the longer they cook. That means you don’t have to worry about dry, bland chicken! Here are a few tips to make your chicken extra crispy on the outside. 

  • Pat very dry. Moisture is enemy number one when it comes to rendering chicken skin. Make sure the skin is nice and dry so it can crisp up. 
  • Don’t overcrowd. Rendering chicken is like getting a drink at a bar. It’s easier when it’s not crowded! Too many chicken pieces in your skillet will drop the temperature, which makes it nearly impossible to sear. If you have a smaller skillet, brown the chicken in batches. 
  • Don’t force the flip. Patience is your friend! Put on a podcast or some music and let the chicken cook on the skin side until golden brown and crispy. Flipping too soon may cause the skin to stick and tear. As the skin crisps, it releases from the pan. That’s how you know it’s ready. 
two pieces of chicken puttanesca on a plate with a fork in front of a serving platter of chicken puttanesca and a bowl of chopped parsley.

What to Serve Chicken Puttanesca

Chicken Puttanesca is a full meal on its own, but you’ll likely want something to soak up all the sauce. Crispy homemade Rosemary Focaccia, hot and fresh out of the oven is a special treat. Plain noodles tossed with olive oil or crusty bread are also worthy contenders. 

For sides, serve with something understated. You don’t want anything going head to head with puttanesca’s flavor. Your oven will be free, so throw in some Roasted Canned Artichoke Hearts for an easy side dish. Or, serve with a bright salad to compliment the brininess of the tomato sauce, like Simple Lemony Arugula Salad With Avocado.

You Need to Eat; We Have Ideas!

Browse all Mediterranean recipes.

Visit Our Shop

Try our Nocellara-Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

This EVOO is produced from hand-picked, cold-extracted Nocellara olives. High in polyphenols with aromas of fresh tomatoes and vegetables with a mildly bitter and spicy finish.

A bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
5 from 47 votes

Chicken Puttanesca

Suzy Karadsheh
chicken puttanesca topped with parsley, capers and kalamata olives in a cast iron skillet.
In this one-pan recipe, chicken is pan-seared until golden brown and crispy, then braised in a deeply savory, briny, and punchy puttanesca sauce. Serve with a side of crusty bread.
Prep – 5 minutes
Cook – 40 minutes
Total – 45 minutes
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 6
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (I used 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks)
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-8 anchovy filets
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • ½ cup chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Season the chicken: Use paper towels to pat the chicken pieces dry. Season well with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides. Rub some salt and pepper underneath the skin as well.
  • Sear the chicken: In a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook until the skin is crispy and golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is golden brown as well, about 5 minutes more.
  • Season and rest the chicken: Transfer the chicken to a large tray and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Pour the lemon juice over the chicken. Set it aside for now.
  • Start the sauce: Turn the heat to medium. If the skillet is dry, add a little more olive oil. Add the anchovy filets. Cook for about 2 minutes or so, pushing the anchovies around the skillet. They will kind of melt into the oil and infuse it with flavor.
  • Finish the sauce: Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, half of the olives, half of the capers, and the dried oregano and red pepper flakes (if using). Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Cook the chicken in the sauce: Add the chicken back into the skillet, nestling it in the sauce. Spoon a bit of the sauce over the chicken. Cover part way, either with a lid or a splatter guard. Cook until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 25-30 minutes, depending on how large the pieces are. A thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken should read 165°F.
  • Serve: Garnish with the parsley and the remaining olives and capers and serve.

Video

Notes

  • If you have a smaller skillet, brown the chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. This will help crisp the skin.
  • Let the chicken sit, skin-side down, until the skin releases from the pan and becomes deeply golden brown. This takes about 5-8 minutes, and is worth every second.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 470.8kcalCarbohydrates: 9.6gProtein: 31.3gFat: 34.6gSaturated Fat: 8.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 17.6gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 117.9mgSodium: 690.7mgPotassium: 642.8mgFiber: 3.1gSugar: 3.8gVitamin A: 962.7IUVitamin C: 31.9mgCalcium: 104.9mgIron: 3.9mg
Tried this recipe?

Share it with the world

I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
Learn More

Get our best recipes and all Things Mediterranean delivered to your inbox.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How many stars would you give this recipe?




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was SOOO good. I made it for my family and they couldn't stop raving about it and gave it a 10/10. I made it with your focaccia and WOW. Also an easy meal to make. This will definitely be made for others and many more times.

  2. Would it work to sear the chicken as described, then put all the sauce ingredients into a crockpot, add the chicken, and cook on low for a few hours?

    1. Hi, Dee. This isn't something we've ever tested, but I think that would work. I don't believe it would be necessary to sear the chicken first, though, with this method. If you give it a try, please stop back an let us know how it went!

  3. 5 stars
    This has become one of my favorite go to meals. I typically use the anchovy paste instead of whole anchovies. I serve it over pasta with a salad and crusty bread.

  4. 5 stars
    I’m not a fan of anchovies, and not because I’ve never had them but because of the way they look. In fact, I don’t even think I could touch them with my hands. But with that being said, I love puttanesca and have put off making it simply because I can’t get around the anchovies.
    My question is do you know of an anchovy paste I could use instead? I think if it were an unidentifiable paste I could get around my “issue” of the anchovies appearance yet still give the dish the necessary flavor. Or is there a substitution you’d recommend?

    1. Hi, Julie. I totally think anchovy paste could work here as a substitute. Remember, though, anchovy paste is quite potent, so start with a very small amount, taste, and add more as needed.

  5. 5 stars
    Gorgeous dish! I served mine with kale made with garlic, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Will definitely do this again