One taste of this chicken puttanesca and you will fall in love with it. Crispy chicken thighs simmer slowly in the savory tomato, olive, and anchovy sauce, making them utterly tender and irresistible. Made with just a few basic pantry staples, the puttanesca sauce forms the perfect richly-flavored base for the chicken.
Why This Chicken Puttanesca Recipe Works
When it comes to weeknight dinners, we all seem to have our own list of recipes we return to over and over. Friends, this chicken puttanesca is going to be top on that list from now on! It is so easy to prepare and (besides the chicken and basil) is made entirely from pantry staples.
We also love the fact that it only takes about 15 minutes of actual prep work to get it into the oven! That means while the chicken gently simmers in the tomato, anchovy, olive, and caper sauce you can fold laundry or play with the cat!
While puttanesca sauce is typically served with pasta, we think this version with tender bone-in chicken thighs will become a new classic! The key to this recipe is browning the chicken, then cooking it in the sauce with the skin exposed which yields crispy-skinned chicken. And the chicken meat soaks up the richly flavored sauce while it cooks making it ultra tasty!
Serve it with fresh bread or spoon it over linguine. Or to keep it grain-free, pair it with spaghetti squash. And the leftovers are possibly even better because the chicken really takes on the flavor of the sauce!
Ingredient notes for this recipe
- Kosher salt: To season the chicken, use coarse kosher salt. If you do not like to use much salt you can wait until the dish is completed to season with salt at the table.
- Bone-in chicken thighs: Look for bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs weighing a total of about 3 pounds.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: You'll only need one tablespoon as the chicken lets off a bit of fat, too.
- Garlic: We recomend freshly chopped garlic for the best flavor.
- Anchovy: The anchovies give this recipe subtle umami flavor but they do not make this taste fishy at all.
- Crushed red pepper flakes: This gives the sauce a slight kick without being too assertive.
- Canned diced tomatoes: We tried this recipe with whole canned tomatoes, crushed by hand, as well as crushed canned tomatoes, and by far we preferred the taste and texture of the diced tomatoes. If you can find them we love the way fire roasted diced tomatoes taste. They add a bit of smokiness to the puttanesca sauce.
- Tomato paste: To thicken up the sauce and help it cling to the chicken you'll need a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce.
- Sugar: This is optional, but recomended. It helps to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Dried oregano: this gives it classic flavor.
- Pitted Italian olives and capers: Look for an Italian variety of olives if possible for the most authentic taste, but Greek or Spanish can be substituted if unavaiable. You will also need two tablespoons of capers. Make sure to drain them well before adding them to the sauce
- Basil: The added chopped basil adds a welcome freshness. You can also use fresh oregano or parsley if you prefer.
Step-By-Step Instructions for Chicken Puttanesca
To make this recipe, essentially you brown the chicken in a skillet. Then remove it in order to make the sauce. Once the sauce is simmering, add the chicken back in and bake it until it's tender and done. Here are the detailed instructions and step-by-step photos.
- Step 1: Sprinkle the chicken with kosher salt. You will also want to preheat your oven.
- Step 2: Heat the oil over high heat until shimmering but not smoking then add the chicken and cook until the skin is golden. Flip it over and let it cook for a few minutes more then remove it from the pan. (It will continue cooking in a later step.)
- Step 3: Reduce the heat then breifly saute the garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flakes.
- Step 4: Next it's time to add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, dried oregano, olives, and capers. Make sure to scrape up any tasty browned bits from the bottom of the skillet!
- Step 5: Then nestle the chicken into the sauce and transfer the skillet to the oven to finish cooking.
To serve this recipe, let the chicken cool in the sauce for several minutes. Sprinkle on some basil, parsley, or oregano then lift the chicken out of the sauce with a slotted spatula and transfer it to a plate. Spoon the sauce around it.
Full recipe in the recipe card below.
Chicken Puttanesca FAQs
We tested this with chicken breast and we favored the texture of the crispy-skinned chicken thighs over boneless breast. In our tests, the breast meat became tough and dry in the acidic sauce. Chicken thighs are hard to overcook, and they get more tender as they simmer in the sauce. We also love the way the chicken skin becomes crisp!
Yes! You can make this with skinless thighs, but make sure to add a little olive oil to the skillet after you brown them for cooking the garlic and anchovy. They will also bake faster so check to see if they are cooked through after roasting for 10 to 15 minutes.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken in a resealable storage container. Chill and then seal. Alternatively, you can pick the meat from the bone and mix it into the leftover sauce. (This is particularly yummy tossed with pasta.) Store in a resealable container. Enjoy within four days.
To reheat the bone-in thighs, microwave them in the sauce on 50% power for about 4 minutes or until steaming hot. The skin will no longer be crispy, so it can be discarded. If you picked the meat off the bone and stirred it into the sauce it can also be microwaved to reheat, or you can simmer it on the stovetop in a small saucepan. Serve it tossed with pasta!
Chicken puttanesca pairs well with crusty bread, pasta, or soft polenta. There is quite a bit of sauce so pairing it with a starch is recommended.
You can also serve it over spaghetti squash or zoodles to keep the meal grain-free.
More recipes to try
- If you like chicken thighs and you're a fan of Italian cooking, try this Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore!
- You can use the rest of your tin of anchovies to make this recipe for Eggs in Purgatory with Spaghetti Squash.
- This Chicken Provencale is a one-pot wonder and it is a great meal prep recipe!
- This Tomato Lentil Soup has with lots of veggies and spices and finished with a little spinach, a splash of cream, and olives.
- If you haven't yet, make sure to check out our Italian Potato Salad recipe we shared earlier this year. It is mayo-free!
Thanks so much for reading! If you make this recipe, please let us know by coming back to leave a star rating and review! Happy Cooking! ~Katie
If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!
- ¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 6 large bone-in chicken thighs, about 3 pounds
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 5 fillets anchovies, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons sugar, optional
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ cup pitted Italian olives, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons drained jarred capers
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, parsley, or oregano, to serve
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle salt all over the chicken.¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt, 6 large bone-in chicken thighs
- Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook until the skin is browned, 5 to 6 minutes. With a thin spatula, flip the chicken over and cook on the other side until browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate; it will continue cooking in a later step.1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- If the skillet is smoking, remove it from the heat until it stops smoking. Reduce heat to medium, and add in the garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flake, stirring constantly. Cook until the garlic starts to brown, about 30 seconds.3 cloves garlic, 5 fillets anchovies, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Add the tomatoes (use caution as they may splatter), tomato paste, sugar, dried oregano, olives, and capers and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.28 ounce can diced tomatoes, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ cup pitted Italian olives, 2 tablespoons drained jarred capers
- Nestle the chicken into the sauce in the skillet, skin side up. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the chicken is very tender and the skin is crispy and browned. An instant thermometer should read at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted into the thighs without touching the bone, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve sprinkled with basil, parsley, or oregano.1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, parsley, or oregano