This cranberry chicken recipe is baked in the oven for a festive, show-stopping dinner that takes little effort to prepare! Garlic, rosemary, and tangy fresh cranberries bring boldly aromatic and savory-sweet flavor you’ll love.
This cranberry chicken recipe, with its vibrant red cranberries and golden-brown chicken, boasts the wow-factor of holiday roasts like leg of lamb or whole chicken. But it comes together in under an hour and requires very little tending to. It’s a beautiful centerpiece for a holiday party, but easy enough to add to your weeknight dinner rotation.
To get the best color and flavor, I quickly sear the chicken on the stove. It may seem like an added step (and you can skip it if you’re short on time) but the crispy skin is worth the extra dish. From there, I layer in a baking dish with carrots, celery, and a bright and savory mix of garlic, lemon, rosemary, and paprika.
Simply throw it in your oven and wait as the chicken bubbles, making a delicious sauce with the chicken’s drippings. The cranberries soak up all the flavor, becoming tender and so juicy. Make sure to spoon plenty of sauce over top, and serve with crusty bread or rosemary focaccia for dipping.
Table of Contents
Ingredients for Cranberry Chicken
This cranberry chicken recipe uses easy to find ingredients and pantry staples for a festive holiday dish that doesn’t cost a fortune. Here’s what you need:
- Cranberries: The star ingredient that lends a festive touch, while also adding brightness. I prefer fresh for the best flavor and texture, but you can use frozen cranberries if you’d like.
- Brown sugar: Candies the cranberries, balancing their harsh tartness.
- White wine vinegar: Adds a burst of acidity for a depth of flavor, both in the marinade and the candied cranberries. You can substitute with Champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar if that’s what you have on hand.
- Chicken: 6 pieces bone-in skin on chicken (I used 2 chicken breasts and 4 thighs)
- Flavor-makers: Garlic, rosemary and sweet paprika bring a bold amount of sweet, savory, and aromatic flavor to the meat. Salt and black pepper enhance the flavor.
- Olive oil: Enriches the marinade. Use a full bodied, high quality extra virgin variety. Any of the oils from our shop would work well, but I especially love the richness and subtle peppery notes of our Greek Private Reserve with this recipe.
- Lemon: I use the whole fruit, with the juice adding acidity and the rind adding an aromatic, slightly bitter quality.
- Fresh vegetables: Onion and celery make for a nice foundational flavor for the broth and aromatics as teh chicken bakes. It’s the same concept as a classic (or Mediterranean-style) chicken soup.
- Broth: ½ cup of liquid in the pan evaporates into steam, tenderizing the chicken as it bakes. Chicken broth (homemade or store bought) will add a fuller flavor, but water works well too.
How to Make This Cranberry Chicken Recipe
Perfectly sweet and tangy cranberries, piney rosemary, and a bold amount of garlic builds loads of flavor without much fuss. Here’s how you make cranberry chicken:
- Make the sugared cranberries. In a small bowl, combine 2 cups of cranberries, ⅓ cup of brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar. Set aside to soften.
- Season the chicken. Pat the chicken pieces dry, then rub on both sides with 6-8 minced garlic cloves, 1 ½ tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 ½ teaspoons dried), 1 teaspoon paprika, and a good pinch or two of salt and pepper. Lift the skin and push the seasoning underneath the skin.
- Make the marinade. To a large bowl or deep dish, add ⅓ cup olive oil, 3 chopped celery stalks, 1 chopped onion, and 2 tablespoons of the white wine vinegar. Slice a lemon in half and squeeze in the juice, then add both of the juiced lemon halves.
- Marinate the chicken. Add the chicken and use your hands to work everything together. Set aside to marinate just for 15 minutes or so.
- Get ready to cook. While your chicken marinates, preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken.
- Sear the chicken. When your oven is hot and the chicken has marinated for at least 15 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook until the skin releases from the pan and turns golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Do this in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, adding the seared chicken to the prepared baking dish as you go.
- Layer. To the baking dish with the chicken, add the onions, celery, lemon halves and any liquid from the marinade. Pour in the chicken broth or water, then top with the sugared cranberries.
- Bake and enjoy. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot.
What to Serve With Cranberry Chicken
If you're using this cranberry chicken as the centerpiece for a special dinner, kick off the party with blood orange cocktails with vodka and rosemary.
From there, try classic holiday sides with a fun Mediterranean Dish-twist! I would stick to savory dishes to complement the sweet and tart notes of the chicken. Shaved brussels sprouts salad, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and stuffed onions with fragrant rice and pine nuts all come to mind.
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Baked Cranberry Chicken with Rosemary
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, divided
- 6 bone-in skin on chicken pieces (I used 2 chicken breasts and 4 thighs, about 2 ¼ pounds in total)
- 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary), plus rosemary sprigs for garnish
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for searing the chicken
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 lemon
- ½ cup chicken broth or water
- Make the sugared cranberries. In a small bowl, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar. Set aside to soften while you prepare the chicken.
- Season the chicken. Pat the chicken pieces dry, then rub on both sides with the garlic, rosemary, paprika, and a good pinch or two of salt and pepper. Make sure to lift the skin and push the seasoning underneath the skin.
- Marinate the chicken. To a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken, add the olive oil, celery, onions, and remaining 2 tablespoons of the white wine vinegar. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze in the juice, then add both of the juiced lemon halves. Add the chicken and use your hands to work everything together. Set aside to marinate just for 15 minutes or so.
- Get ready to cook. While your chicken marinates, preheat your oven to 425°F.
- Sear the chicken. When your oven is hot and the chicken has marinated for at least 15 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook until the skin releases from the pan and turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side, about 3 minutes more. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, adding the seared chicken to the baking dish as you go.
- Bake. Top the chicken with the sugared cranberries and any accumulated juices, then pour in the broth or water. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Serve. Garnish with a few rosemary sprigs, if you’d like, to dress it up a little before serving. Serve hot, spooning the juices and vegetables over top.
- To use boneless, skinless chicken: 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: I love the flavor of fresh cranberries, but feel free to use frozen if you have them on hand.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.
* This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2019, and has been recently updated with new information for readers' benefit.