Pan roasted tarragon chicken is a French classic and easier to pull off than you might think. Spectacularly flavored with cider vinegar and the subtle licorice-ness of tarragon, it’s easy yet still impressive.
This simple but flavorful dish from France has made its way into American restaurants. But in the recipes that we tried, something was lost in translation. The keys to this French chicken dish turned out to be avoiding soggy skin and taming the astringent vinegar bite. We start with bone-in chicken pieces, cooking them on the stovetop until well browned. Our sauce gets depth from sautéed shallot and garlic and body from just a teaspoon of cornstarch. Honey helps round out the tangy vinegar, which we combine with chicken broth for savory flavor. We return the chicken to the pan, keeping the browned skin above the liquid, and move it to the oven so that the meat can finish cooking gently while the exposed skin crisps. We finish the sauce with tarragon for bright flavor (and a touch of French flair) and butter for a rich, silky texture.–America’s Test Kitchen
*Can I substitute dried tarragon for fresh?
The licorice scented fronds of tarragon are easy to grow yourself but if that’s not your thing, you should be able to find fresh tarragon at the market. Fresh is preferred here because it can stand up to the tangy vinegar sauce but, in a pinch, dry will do. French tarragon is one of the few spices where dried is nearly as good as fresh. Substitute at a ratio of up to 1 for 1 in this recipe if you want a really robust tarragon presence.
Pan Roasted Tarragon Chicken
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half crosswise, drumsticks, and/or thighs) trimmed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil
- 1 (2 oz) shallot minced
- 4 garlic cloves lightly crushed and peeled
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon*
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Adjust the oven rack to upper-middle position.
- In a liquid measuring cup, dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons broth. Whisk in the vinegar, honey, and remaining broth.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
- In a 12-inch (30-cm) ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil until just smoking. Cook the chicken, working in batches if necessary, skin side down, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Move to a plate, skin side up.
- Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant and shallots are just beginning to look translucent, 30 to 90 seconds.
- Whisk the broth mixture to redistribute the cornstarch and carefully add it to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to boil and return chicken to skillet, skin side up, along with any accumulated juices.
- Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the breasts register 160°F (71°C) and drumsticks and thighs register 175°F (79°C), 12 to 22 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: If cooking both leg and breast pieces, your drumsticks and thighs may be cooked through before the breasts are done. Remove them, and let the breasts continue to cook until done.
- Arrange the chicken on a platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest while preparing sauce.
- Return the skillet to medium-high heat (the skillet handle will be hot), bring to a boil, and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, tarragon, and any accumulated juices from platter into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This recipe for pan roasted chicken parts with vinegar tarragon sauce produces very succulent chicken with a wonderfully unique sauce—the tarragon really makes it, in my opinion, as it rounds out the sharp vinegar and shallot combination beautifully and makes me want to experiment more with tarragon in general (it is one of my less often used herbs by far).
I sprinkled some extra salt directly over the chicken at service, as well as the lovely yellow tarragon flowers that happened to come with the bundle of herbs I bought for this recipe. I served it with a shaved Brussels sprouts and beet salad on the side.
My oven door decided to break off the hinge right as the timer went off for the chicken, and although this was far from ideal (in fact, it was quite anger inducing), I was able to regain composure upon finishing off the sauce and tasting it with the chicken.
I ripped through my first piece like a cavewoman, dipped it right into the sauce in the cast-iron skillet, and my anger subsided into a moment of joy. The oven may have been on my shit list tonight, but this delicious pan roasted chicken parts with vinegar tarragon sauce recipe is now on my list of rotating go-to meals to make. The chicken was juicy, the skin crispy and the sauce addicting. I love how tangy it is and it went surprisingly well with the red curry risotto I made earlier, too.
I will definitely be making this again, as soon as my oven door can close properly…
Recently I made a test recipe that featured fresh tarragon, so I was interested in this recipe as tarragon was (again) the leading star. The other star is cider vinegar, it works really well with the tarragon. I don’t think the recipe would work well using another vinegar. Cider vinegar is a staple in this household, being used in salad dressing and even pastry. It adds a great depth of flavor. If you don’t have it in your pantry, pick some up the next time you are shopping.
This recipe easily comes together. I made it with bone-in chicken breasts, but I think I’d prefer it with bone-in chicken thighs. This recipe for pan roasted chicken parts with vinegar tarragon sauce can be served with any number of things. I made mashed potatoes and I heated up some frozen peas. Everything worked well together and made for a really tasty meal.
I love a fresh take on an old standby and that’s exactly what this recipe is. Roast chicken thighs (or legs, or any bone in- skin on cut) couldn’t be more week night friendly and this pan sauce is a very manageable extra to take them from box standard to special.
I was a little concerned when tasting the pan sauce as it was very sharp on its own so I held back a little bit when spooning over the chicken. There was no need to hold back! Paired with the very rich dark meat, it was a perfect accompaniment.
This was my kind of weeknight chicken dinner—simple ingredients, straightforward cooking method, and superb results. That said, why save this for purely weeknights? The fragrant addition of tarragon in the luxurious sauce easily makes this the perfect dish for impressing at a gathering as well. My only suggestion would be to double the ingredients for the sauce; it was so tasty but for this amount of chicken, I think the sauce was stretched a bit too thin. And my cooking times were a bit longer than stated.
That said, I had some homemade chicken stock in the fridge already so that is what I used. I used an organic unfiltered honey and for the chicken, I used 3 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (this was 8 medium-sized thighs). I cooked my thighs skin-side down for 10 minutes over medium-high heat which resulted in a lovely browned skin. At this heat, the shallots and garlic were fragrant after 30 seconds, but once I moved the chicken and sauce to the oven my chicken took 18 minutes in the hot 450°F oven to reach 175°F internally. I seasoned the sauce with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 3 good grindings of black pepper.
I served this with a homemade macaroni and cheese and some roasted broccoli with mushrooms and lemon. Overall a very memorable chicken dish—and we can’t wait to enjoy the leftovers again tonight.
I used two sheet pans for chicken thighs with baby Yukons, fennel wedges, carrots, and I had a leek in the vegetable drawer so I chopped it up and scattered it around the pans. I didn’t pan sear the chicken, I simply made a sheet pan dinner with double the amount of cornstarch/stock mixture.
I didn’t have any honey so I used maple syrup. Roasted in a 375°F oven for 50 minutes, the chicken was crunchy and golden and the veggies were perfect; the leek was deliciously caramelized on the edges. The sauce became almost syrupy on the pans (I’ll use more stock and vinegar next time) so I just scattered the tarragon over everything and gave it all a gentle toss. The vinegar gave a subtle zing to the flavors. This is an easy and delicious sheet pan dinner that I will make again.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This beautifully fragrant pan roasted chicken parts with vinegar tarragon sauce came together quickly and easily, and was quite impressive. I would make this for dinner party guests or on a weeknight.
I was a bit concerned about the cider vinegar as I thought it might be too acidic but it was just fine and it settled in nicely with butter and tarragon. I served this beautifully fragrant chicken with roasted asparagus and rice pilaf. Lovely.