French Onion-Skillet Chicken

French onion-skillet chicken is a mash-up of French onion soup–beef broth, bread, tons of caramelized onions, and a wicked lot of cheese–with skillet-seared chicken thighs. Simple and amazingly good.

French onion skillet chicken in a copper frying pan with a person lifting out a serving

The first time I had French onion soup I was in seventh grade. Our teacher, Mrs. Pelletier, took our French class to a restaurant in Seekonk, MA. I can’t imagine it was fancy-schmancy, it was Seekonk, after all, but to me, it was the height of franco-elegance. We had French onion soup, beef bourguignon, and chocolate mousse. I was dead certain I was drunk after hearing it was flavored with brandy. I was a lightweight even then.

After that, I was hellbent on trying every marvelous, classic, obscure, obscenely expensive French dish I could get my hands on. And on that journey, which took me to many countries, I favored the flamboyant over the simple. Well, age has a wicked weird way of bringing you right around to where you started. (Could be laziness, I haven’t fully decided.) These days, it’s the simple that I seek. French onion soup is right up there. So are one-skillet dinners. (Told you I was lazy.) When you put them together, you get French onion-skillet chicken. I think the 13-year-old me would have swooned over it.

David Leite's signature

French Onion-Skillet Chicken FAQS

How can I make this if I am lactose intolerant?

Does cheese tie your stomach in knots? Fear knot. Try our dairy-free version. Simply omit the cheese, and you’ll still have a mighty fine-tasting dinner.

French onion skillet chicken with caramelized onions and chunks of bread tucked around the thighs

Can I make this the French onion skillet chicken ahead of time?

You certainly can. Make the recipe up to step 8. Let the skillet and its contents cool, cover with foil, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, slowly heat the skillet over low until the chicken is warmed through then continue with the recipe.

Do I really need to caramelize the onions?

Absolutely. Taking the time caramelizing the onions deepens the flavor of the dish, adds a bit of sweetness, and makes the sauce that much more complex.

Is there a shortcut for this recipe?

Indeed there is. One thing you can do is caramelize a large pot of onions and store them in a resealable container in the fridge. Any time a recipe calls for caramelized onions, just scoop them out of the container and into your pot. Badda bing, badda boom!

French Onion-Skillet Chicken

French onion skillet chicken in a copper frying pan with a person lifting out a serving
Take the elements of French onion soup–beef broth, a hunk of bread, tons of caramelized onions, and a raft of cheese–and mash it up with perfectly seared chicken thighs, and you have French onion-skillet chicken. Sounds weird, I know, but I swear it works.
David Leite

Prep 20 mins
Cook 1 hr 5 mins
Total 1 hr 25 mins
Entree
American
4 to 6 servings
781 kcal
5 / 9 votes

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
  • 6 (about 2 pounds) skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (all approximately the same size)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 large (2 pounds) onions cut in half and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup store-bought low sodium beef broth or homemade beef stock plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups day-old bread torn into 2-inch (5 cm) chunks
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère Emmental, or Swiss cheese, or a combination of all three

Directions
 

  • Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat until hot. Add the oil.
  • Meanwhile, generously season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Working in batches, if needed, sear the chicken, skin side down, until deeply golden brown, about 8 minutes. Flip and sear the other side until brown, about 5 minutes. Move to a plate. Drain the fat from the skillet.
  • Lower heat to medium, add the butter and let it melt.
  • Strew the onion, garlic, and bay leaf in the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally until the onions are softened, about 15 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking and stirring until the onions are deeply golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes more.
  • Pour the sherry or wine into the skillet, scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to coat. Cook for 30 seconds.
  • Pour in the beef stock, sprinkle in the thyme and sage, and stir to combine. Add the cider vinegar. Bring to a boil.
  • Nestle the chicken into the skillet. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through, and has an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), about 15 minutes. Stir in additional stock if the sauce becomes too thick or reduces too much.
  • Meanwhile, crank up the broiler.
  • Tuck the chunks of bread around and between the chicken thighs. Top the chicken and bread with the cheese. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the top.
  • Slide the skillet into the oven and broil just until the cheese is browned and bubbly, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Garnish with more thyme leaves. Serve immediately.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 781kcal (39%)Carbohydrates: 63g (21%)Protein: 34g (68%)Fat: 42g (65%)Saturated Fat: 20g (125%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 98mg (33%)Sodium: 959mg (42%)Potassium: 429mg (12%)Fiber: 5g (21%)Sugar: 8g (9%)Vitamin A: 992IU (20%)Vitamin C: 4mg (5%)Calcium: 852mg (85%)Iron: 5mg (28%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Yes to this French onion-skillet chicken recipe! It turned out beautifully and was worthy of the French onion in its name. It’s got the ingredients. It’s got the techniques. It’s got the flavors. I often mix beef and chicken broths when I make French onion soup, and combining the chicken flavor from the seared and simmered thighs with good beef stock is a genius move.

My husband and I sometimes differ in our assessment of dishes but not on this one. We both felt this was a TC all the way. While he can be averse to skin-on chicken, he raised no objections to this treatment.

The chicken was served with a green salad and buttered green beans.

This French onion-skillet chicken dish was delicious!  It was rich and flavorful. Easily put, it tasted like chicken in onion soup but better. Because the “soup” cooked down into a rich and caramelized chutney of sorts, it was thick and hearty. I brought some to my Mom and she just loved it, as did my significant other. How can you not, as long as you enjoy French onion soup and chicken.

If you like French onion soup, this French onion-skillet chicken is really just tender, golden chicken bathed in French onion soup. The entire process takes a bit of time, but the result is a rich, filling dish. And your kitchen smells divine while you are cooking this. It doesn’t need much accompaniment. I added the bread cubes, which I thought were excellent because they soaked up the delicious sauce. It would be just as good without them, especially if you serve the dish with some sort of bread to soak up the sauce. (Obviously, I think the important thing is to soak up the sauce!)

I highly recommend adding extra broth when you add the chicken back to the skillet to simmer–so you have more sauce.  I’d also recommend not skimping on the salt and perhaps adding a bit more thyme.

This would be four to six servings, depending on the size of the thighs (and the eaters!) I served it with a Caprese salad and some sourdough bread.

Originally published October 17, 2021

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness!! My local store had thighs on sale and I saw this posted on An Oregon Cottage so…voila! This was absolutely fantastic and since I’m keto I made it without the flour and bread–it was perfect!

  2. 5 stars
    I kid you not, I made this dish for dinner three times in two weeks! First made for my family and loved it. Then served it for company, and finally brought it to a neighbor who really needed a meal. I often just bookmark recipes and then forget about them. This one will be printed out and filed away in my go-to recipe binder! For more of a hands off approach when serving company, prepare the dish up to the point where everything is in the pan, and instead of simmering on top of the stove place it in the oven and finish that way. I had everything prepared about an hour ahead of my guests arrival, and then popped it into the oven for an absolutely delicious stress-free meal. Thanks for a fine recipe!

    1. What a great idea, Linda M! Wonderful that this fabulous recipe served as a vehicle for your hospitality and kindness.

  3. 5 stars
    This was excellent. Perfect for a night in on a rainy night in Vancouver. We didn’t have any safe but we did use a combo of Swiss and Emmental cheeses. It’s like a rich French onion soup casserole with chicken…almost.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish