I discovered the most delicious way to spruce up a chicken thigh recipe with autumn ingredients: a sweet and savory apple cider sauce. This recipe is an homage to fall flavors. It features crispy bone-in, skin-on baked chicken thighs drizzled with an apple cider sauce that will make your taste buds sing. You can make the apple cider sauce using my Best Homemade Spiced Apple Cider recipe. Or, if you are short on time, you may use store-bought apple cider. I challenge you to make this dish using the homemade apple cider recipe one day, though. It is truly divine.
This dish pairs perfectly with my Oven Roasted Autumn Vegetables. The apple cider sauce tastes wonderful drizzled on the vegetables, as well. Finally, if you are looking to have a full fall-themed meal, you could end with one of my tasty fall desserts: Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies or my "Hot Toddy" Spice Cake. Both of these recipes are perfect for the season.
As I continue my celebration of the apple this autumn season, I feel it is important to feature this unusual, yet delicious recipe. As you read the name of the recipe, you may have some immediate questions.
Why Bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Thighs?
I choose to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs instead of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for several reasons:
- Bone-in chicken thighs have more built-in flavor than chicken breasts.
- Chicken thighs do not dry out as easily as chicken breasts.
- Chicken thighs have a tasty crispy skin (when the skin and fat are properly rendered).
- Chicken thighs are very rich and stand up beautifully to the acidic apple cider sauce.
Now, if you are a die-hard chicken breast person, this recipe is still for you! Just substitute boneless, skinless (or bone-in, skin-on) chicken breasts and you will still be able to enjoy a delicious fall meal. Can you also substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs? Absolutely! You can use this sauce with any chicken you would like but PLEASE be sure to cook the chicken properly until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. All this being said, my preference is to use bone-in, skin-on baked chicken thighs.
Why Apple Cider Sauce?
I know - apple cider is not a typical ingredient in a pan sauce. However, don't knock it until you've tried it. My apple cider sauce is both sweet and tangy. It has Dijon mustard in it to give it a little kick. I also add some dried tarragon at the end to give the sauce a full-bodied herbaciousness that'll knock your socks off!
Please note, this post contains affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission on the sale of these items at no cost to you.
This chicken thigh recipe is best when you use a 10" or 12" cast iron skillet. Below are a couple of links to highly rated skillets that I recommend. My reason for recommending a cast iron skillet is that you will get a much more even cook on your chicken. Cast iron heats very evenly on a stove and this will help the chicken skin to render evenly and crisp up beautifully. After you brown the chicken, you will transfer it to a sheet pan and finish it in the oven. The bits that cooked onto the skillet will remain in the skillet and be used to flavor the apple cider sauce. So, a cast iron skillet is a very useful tool. If you use a regular pan or a non-stick pan, that is fine, too. Your chicken may need some extra babysitting to ensure even browning.
- Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet With Assist Handle, 10.25", Black
- Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet - Utopia Kitchen (1, 12.5 Inch)
- Utopia Kitchen Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet Set 3-Piece - 6 Inch, 8 Inch and 10 Inch
Also, cast iron is a wonderful tool to have, but it does require some additional care. Here is a link to a video that shows you how to properly care for your cast iron skillet.
Chicken Thighs with the Greatest Apple Cider Sauce
For the Chicken Thighs
- 2 lb. chicken thighs bone-in, skin-on
- 1 TB olive oil extra virgin
- 1 TB butter unsalted
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Apple Cider Pan Sauce
- 1 tbsp. olive oil extra virgin
- 2 shallots minced
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 TB dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. tarragon dried or fresh (chopped)
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and season skin with salt and pepper.
- In a 10" or 12" cast iron skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat.
- Once butter is melted, increase stove temperature to medium high and after 1-2 minutes, add chicken thighs, skin side down. Season non-skin side with salt and pepper.
- Brown the chicken thighs, skin side first for 5-6 minutes until the skin is golden brown and releases easily from the skillet. Flip and brown the opposite side for 4 minutes.
- Transfer chicken thighs onto a sheet pan and roast in 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Apple Cider Pan Sauce
- After you transfer the chicken thighs onto the sheet pan and place them into the oven, discard remaining fat in skillet. Be sure to leave the brown bits on the bottom of the skillet - they add the most flavor to the sauce!
- Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in skillet set to medium heat.
- Add shallots to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent.
- Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Increase the burner to medium high heat.
- Deglaze the skillet with apple cider, bringing up the brown bits stuck to the bottom, using a wooden spoon.
- Add chicken stock and apple cider vinegar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until sauce reduces by half.
- Whisk in dijon mustard, tarragon, and salt and pepper. Whisk in butter and remove from heat once butter is melted.
- Drizzle sauce on chicken thighs right before serving. Don't do this too soon, because the sauce could make the crispy chicken skin soften. Enjoy!