This easy baked cranberry chicken recipe is your ticket to a comforting and festive show-stopping dinner that takes little effort to prepare! You'll love the bold flavors from fresh minced garlic, rosemary, citrus, and tangy-sweet fresh cranberries all in one pan.
Baked cranberry chicken with a Mediterranean twist
You can't go wrong with a comforting baked chicken dinner, especially when seasoned with piney rosemary. But if you're looking to kick things up a few notches and give your chicken a bit of a festive personality, add cranberries!
This baked cranberry chicken brings the wow factor with such little effort!
The flavor stars in this chicken recipe are decidedly Mediterranean: garlic, rosemary, and citrus – complemented by fresh cranberries. Once baked, the cranberries soften to a luscious, tangy-sweet topping for the chicken. The perfect pop of color and flavor! (Between us, like my roast turkey breast, this chicken could easily stand in as the centerpiece of a holiday table with far less work than a whole turkey).
This baked chicken dish is fairly simple to put together. It starts with seasoning the chicken and macerating the cranberries in a mixture of brown sugar and white wine vinegar. (This helps break the cranberries down by softening the skin and accentuating some of their natural sweetness). Then the seasoned chicken, cranberries, and chunks of onions and celery are baked together until the chicken is cooked through to fall-apart tender (about 40 minutes).
Here’s what you need to make this holiday-worthy baked chicken:
- Fresh cranberries: The star ingredient that lends a festive touch, while also adding brightness and flavor.
- Bone-in, skin-on chicken: I used two chicken breasts and four thighs, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Use a little to brown the chicken, and the rest to marinate the chicken, vegetables, and lemon halves.
- Fresh garlic: There’s nothing like fresh garlic rubbed onto chicken! I like to rub it both on and under the skin for maximum flavor.
- Seasoning: Sweet paprika and fresh rosemary
- Lemon: Lemon adds that citrusy yumminess that always goes so well in a chicken dish. Once you use the juice, hold on to the used lemon halves!
- Yellow onion and celery
- White wine vinegar
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar and white wine vinegar work together to cut the tartness of fresh cranberries, and to bring out some of their sweetness.
- Chicken broth or water
How to prepare fresh cranberries for this recipe
Fresh cranberries are ideal for this baked chicken recipe. And luckily for us, they are typically available at grocery stores in the fall and through December for all sorts of holiday cooking. Keep these tips in mind as you prepare cranberries for cooking:
- Select good cranberries: Choose cranberries that look plump and have a rich, dark color to them. They should also be firm to the touch. Throw out any berries that look shriveled or rotten with brown spots. (By the way, quality fresh cranberries will keep well in the fridge in a tight zip-top bag for up to 2 months.)
- Rinse and dry: Be sure to give the cranberries a good rinse in water to clean them off. Remove any stems that might be still attached. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel before using in this recipe.
- Macerate the cranberries: To cut the tartness of fresh cranberries, macerate them. Macerating is a technique that is similar to marinating. It refers to soaking fruits in a liquid and sugar mixture to help break down the fruit a bit. In this case, you'll use brown sugar and a little white wine vinegar. This will help to soften the tough skin of fresh cranberries, as well as draw out some of their natural sweetness. Let them sit for about 10 minutes.
How to make cranberry chicken: step-by-step
Making this simple, wholesome one pan chicken dinner requires little prep. Here is the step-by-step guide for how to make it (Printer-friendly version is below.)
- Prepare the cranberries: Combine the berries with brown sugar and vinegar and allow them to sit for about 10 minutes while you prepare the chicken. This helps to break down their tough skins.
- Season and marinate the chicken. I like to rub the fresh minced garlic underneath the chicken skin, which gives the meat so much more flavor. Rub the salt, pepper, rosemary, and paprika all over the chicken, again applying some underneath the skin. (You can use fresh rosemary here or a smaller amount of dry rosemary.)
Prepare a large bowl or deep dish with extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar and lemon juice. Add the seasoned chicken along with celery and onions. Let it marinate.
- Brown the chicken. Before baking, brown the chicken pieces in a skillet with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Giving the chicken a bit of a crust before baking will help to seal in juices and keep the pieces nice and moist.
- Bake the chicken. Arrange the chicken with the celery, onions, and lemon halves in a large baking dish. Add about ½ cup chicken broth (or water) and top with the sugared cranberries.
Bake in a 425 degrees F heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken registers 165 degrees F.
What to serve with it
If you're using this cranberry chicken as the centerpiece for a special dinner, there are many sides and salads that can go along with it. I'll share a few favorites:
Additional recipe FAQs
At 425 degrees F, bone-in chicken will take about 30 to 35 minutes. Check after 25 minutes or so, using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken to check its temperature. Cooked chicken will have an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
You absolutely can. One of our readers, Christopher, tried it with boneless chicken and it worked out well for him. I recommend chicken thighs in this case. Start by browning the chicken for a couple minutes or so on each side, and then baking for around 25 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. If you're not sure that your cranberries will cook down well enough in this amount of time, you can go ahead and bake them for a few additional minutes before adding to the chicken.
If you can't find fresh cranberries, frozen cranberries will also work in this baked cranberry chicken recipe. To prepare them, thaw them out ahead of time and be sure to drain them very well. You will not need to use white wine vinegar with frozen cranberries, but you do still need toss them in some brown sugar before using in this recipe.
Used in this recipe
- Special ingredients: Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil & all-nautral sweet Spanish paprika
- Equipment: Bayou Cast Iorn 9" x 13" Pan
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Baked Cranberry Chicken with Rosemary
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 2-3 tablespoon white wine vinegar more for later
- 6 pieces bone-in skin on chicken (I used 2 chicken breasts and 4 thighs)
- 6-8 garlic cloves minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 ½ teaspoon dry rosemary
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ⅓ cup Extra virgin olive oil I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO
- 1 lemon juice of (do not discard used lemon halves)
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 3 celery stalks chopped
- ½ cup chicken broth or water
- More fresh rosemary for garnish
- In a small bowl, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, and white wine vinegar. Set aside for now.
- Pat the chicken pieces dry. Rub the chicken with the minced garlic on both sides (make sure to apply some of the garlic underneath the chicken skins). Season well with salt and pepper. Combine the rosemary and paprika then apply to the chicken pieces on both sides and again underneath the skin.
- In a large bowl or deep enough dish, mix the olive oil, lemon juice and 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar. Now add the chicken, celery, onions, and used lemon halves. Work everything together with clean hands. Set aside to marinate just for 15 minutes or so.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Place the chicken skin side down to brown on medium-high for 5 minutes. Turn over and brown on the other side.
- Place the chicken, onions, celery, lemon halves and any liquid from the marinade in a lightly oiled baking pan. Add ½ cup water or chicken broth, then add the sugared cranberries.
- Bake in the 425 degrees F heated-oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked through. Serve hot with Lebanese rice and your favorite salad.
- If you like, brown the chicken before baking to seal in juices and keep the chicken moist
- To use boneless chicken instead, I recommend chicken thighs. Begin by browning them for a couple minutes on each side. Adjust baking time; boneless thighs will take about 25 minutes to bake in the oven
- Frozen cranberries option: If you can't find fresh cranberries, frozen cranberries will also work in this baked cranberry chicken recipe. To prepare them, thaw them out ahead of time and be sure to drain them very well. You will not need to use white wine vinegar with frozen cranberries, but do still toss them in some brown sugar before using in this recipe.
- Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils and spices.
* This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2019, and has been recently updated with new information for readers' benefit.