Bake Cranberry Chicken Thighs this fall and winter for a fancy-feeling and wonderfully delicious centerpiece to any dinner. Made with fresh or frozen cranberries, these baked chicken thighs are perfect for a weeknight meal or a dinner party with friends. Makes 4-6 servings.
We always ate boneless skinless chicken breasts and tenders when I was a kid. To the extent that I couldn’t tell you if I ever ate a part of the chicken that wasn’t one of these until well past college.
I liked what I liked, OK?
I purchased my first chicken thighs at the farmer’s market and was told to bake them, so I did.
I’ve been a fan ever since.
Why I love this recipe:
And this year, I wanted to branch out with my chicken thigh recipes, so today, I’m bringing y’all one my family has been LOVING for the last two months: this Cranberry Chicken recipe.
These chicken thighs with cranberries and thyme are amazingly delicious and easy to make for a weeknight dinner.
You’ll need some fresh (or frozen) cranberries to make this happen, not cranberry sauce or dried cranberries.
These chicken thighs are ready in an hour or less, and goodness gracious, are they perfect for this season.
Recipes that pair with these chicken thighs: Roasted Green Beans | Mediterranean Scalloped Potatoes | Parmesan and Pine Nut Broccoli | Cranberry Feta Brussels Sprout Salad with Candied Pecans and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette | Bourbon Butter Sweet Potatoes
Looking for another cozy entrée to feed the family this season? Check out my Dinners recipe index for inspiration!
What you’ll need to make Cranberry Chicken Thighs
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Let’s talk ingredients!
In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Avocado oil—or another high smoke point, flavorless oil like vegetable or refined coconut
- Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs—while we love boneless, skinless meat in our household, you get the most flavor out of these and that delicious crispy skin
- Seasonings—you’re going to need kosher salt and black pepper, as well as fresh thyme sprigs to season this delicious chicken
- Chicken bone broth—or just chicken stock if that’s what you have
- Cranberries—these can be fresh or frozen, but you cannot substitute dried cranberries for the fresh ones
- Lemon—we’re going to juice this to give our chicken and sauce just a pop of acidity from the lemon juice! It really makes a difference, so please don’t skip this part.
How to make Cranberry Chicken Thighs
First and foremost, preheat the oven because these chicken thighs will finish off in the oven!
Season the chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper.
A note on seasoning chicken to taste
Personally, I like to add about ¾-1 teaspoon of salt per pound of chicken. I like to use about the same amount of pepper, but I know many people like less pepper than I do, so go with your gut here.
If you’ve never tested how much you like, I suggest measuring out ¾ teaspoon of salt per pound and seeing how that tastes for you once this recipe is done. If you want more salt, know to try it with a teaspoon per pound next time or sprinkle some on at the end.
Next, place your cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
When the pan is hot, add the avocado oil.
When the oil is simmering, add the chicken to the pan, skin-side down.
Sear the chicken—and don’t move it!—for about 4-5 minutes before flipping.
The skin should be golden brown when you flip it. Once it’s flipped, cook for another 4-5 minutes without moving the chicken thigh.
Once you’ve cooked both sides, remove the chicken thighs from the pan.
Pour in the broth, and scrape the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon. This will deglaze the pan, so keep the heat on as the liquid bubbles. We’ll cook it for 5-10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half.
Next, squeeze in the lemon juice.
Place the chicken skin side up in the pan, so it can get nice and crispy. Don’t forget to pour in any juices the chicken thighs have released on the plate. That’s flavor!
Turn off the heat from the stovetop.
Measure in the cranberries and thyme. Stir some of ‘em into the juices so they’re not just on top of the thighs.
Transfer your cast iron skillet to the preheated oven. (Make sure your pan is oven-safe. If it’s not, transfer everything from the pan into a baking dish before it goes into the oven.)
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken thighs’ internal temperature reaches 165°F.
When the thighs reach temperature, remove them from the oven. Serve with your favorite side dishes!
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips
Entertaining with something as simple as chicken thighs? Y’all know I’m all about the easy entertaining, which means it doesn’t have to be fancy or stressful.
And in my opinion, the cranberries add a little bit of flourish and fanciness to a delicious (but simple) baked chicken thigh.
Here are a few things I recommend when entertaining with this dish:
- Double or triple the recipe to share with friends. We did this the night that I photographed the recipe, when Madison and her family were in town. It took two pans instead of one in the oven, but that was the only difference. Just be sure not to overcrowd your pan because the chicken skins won’t get a crispy.
- Sear the thighs in advance. If you’re looking to make this faster in the evening, sear the chicken in advance (like, the morning of.) When the chicken is done, place the thighs in a baking dish with the juices, cranberries and spices, and cover with plastic wrap. When it’s time to bake them, uncover the thighs and bake ‘em for the time specified in the recipe.
- Serve ‘em with your favorite sides. We’re partial to Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potato Casserole and Brazilian rice with these thighs because they sop up the gravy. But you do you and serve a side dish that you and your people adore!
Frequently Asked Questions
Overcooked chicken is dry chicken, and we all know that dry chicken is sad.
In my opinion, chicken thighs are one of the most forgiving cuts of chicken because they have more fat than the chicken breasts do. When cooking them with the skin on and the bone in, you get extra flavor, too!
This recipe calls for searing on the stovetop, and then cooking in the oven. I’ve found that they’re generally done in 30-40 minutes in the oven, but to know when they’re done, I recommend using an instant read meat thermometer* (affiliate link) to confirm the chicken’s internal temperature reads 165°F.
You probably can, but I don’t know how that would change the cook time. Also, part of the specialness of this recipe is the crispy skin of the thighs, as seen in all these photos, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you?
No. Dried cranberries have added sugar. Their texture is also different.
If you can’t find fresh cranberries at your grocery, you can oftentimes find frozen ones. (There are also several cranberry packagers who sell frozen cranberries year-round. I know this because I had to order 10 lbs. of the fruit in August for recipe testing…)
Quick tips for making Cranberry Chicken Thighs
- Double or triple the recipe for a crowd! These thighs make for a delicious and colorful dinner, so invite friends. Just be sure to do them in batches because if there are too many thighs in your pan, they won’t get as crispy.
- No fresh thyme? You can use the dried type, but use half of what this recipe calls for because dried thyme is more potent than the fresh.
- Substitution alert: Frozen cranberries are awesome! Dried cranberries do not work. If you don’t have chicken bone broth, chicken broth or stock works. (We like bone broth because it doesn’t have any added sugars.)
What cab I can serve with these chicken thighs?
- Toasted Pine Nut Green Beans
- Easy Roasted Potatoes with Dijon Dressing
- Winter Vegetable Hash
- Easy Rice Pilaf
Bake Cranberry Chicken Thighs this fall and winter for a fancy-feeling and wonderfully delicious centerpiece to any dinner. Made with fresh or frozen cranberries, these baked chicken thighs are perfect for a weeknight meal or a dinner party with friends.
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 2 ½ lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on (5-6, depending on size)
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 2/3 cups chicken bone broth
- 1 ½ cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ lemon, juiced
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the avocado oil.
Season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper while the avocado oil heats.
- Place the chicken thighs, skin side down, into the skillet. Sear, about 4-5 minutes, and do not move the chicken around the pan, before flipping.
- Cook the other side of the chicken thighs for another 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown, and then remove from the pan.
- Pour the bone broth into the skillet and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, squeeze in the lemon juice, and then turn off the stovetop. This will take 5-10 minutes, depending on your stovetop.
- Add the chicken thighs back into the skillet, skin-side up, along with the juices they release while on the plate.
- Measure in the cranberries and thyme, stirring some into the juices so the cranberries can burst in the gravy and add extra flavor.
- Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. (If your skillet is not oven safe, please transfer all the ingredients to a baking dish instead before putting it in the oven.)
- Bake 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken’s internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately with your favorite sides.
Substitutions you can use in this recipe:
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme for the fresh thyme sprigs
- Chicken stock or broth for chicken bone broth. (We choose to use bone broth because there is no added sugar, which many stocks and broths have these days.)
- Frozen cranberries for the fresh cranberries. However, do NOT use dried cranberries in place of the fresh cranberries, as they will make this recipe too sweet and mess with the texture.
You can double or triple the recipe for a crowd because they're great for sharing! These thighs make for a delicious and colorful entrée for dinner, so invite friends to dine with you. Just be sure to do them in batches because if there are too many thighs in your pan, they won't get as crispy.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 677Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 30gCholesterol: 364mgSodium: 843mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 71g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.