Creamy Tuscan chicken thighs inspired by Olive Garden ~ crispy chicken in a creamy sauce is a 30 minute chicken thigh recipe the family loves!
when it comes to chicken thigh recipes, Tuscan chicken is king!
This creamy Tuscan chicken thighs recipe is the kind of meal that draws people like a magnet…they wander into the kitchen from all directions, noses high in the air, begging to know what smells so delicious. What cook doesn’t live for those moments? And it all comes together in about 30 minutes…check it out!
Tuscan chicken was a cult favorite pasta dish at The Olive Garden, and it’s been copied a lot because it’s so mouthwatering. Leave it to a large chain restaurant to come up with such an irresistible combination of ingredients ~ they know what people want. My version ditches the pasta and uses chicken thighs, but there’s no reason you can’t put it over pasta if you crave that.
chicken thighs are best for this recipe
I like to use bone in, skin on, thighs. Why? Thigh meat is fattier, more tender and flavorful than other cuts. I use bone-in thighs because cooking chicken with the bone adds even more flavor. However you can use whatever part of the chicken you like, including chicken breasts, or a whole fryer chicken cut in parts, it all works.
TIP: if you use skin on thighs you’ll want to keep that skin out of the sauce until serving, so it stays crisp. If you use skinless chicken you can submerge it in the sauce.
how to build a quick pan sauce for chicken thighs
Just like with your Thanksgiving turkey, the gravy is everything in this recipe. I love to sauté minced shallots and garlic in those drippings before adding the Marsala wine to deglaze the bottom and really grab up every bit of flavor. You’ll brown whatever chicken you’re using in some olive oil until both sides are nice and golden. You can either cook the meat right on the stove top, or pop it in the oven to finish cooking while you make the sauce.
The sauce finishes with chicken stock and heavy cream. It gets more flavor, color, and texture from sun dried tomatoes, and fresh spinach. I threw in a few chopped cherry tomatoes because they were sitting on the counter. Good move.
the right pan matters for perfect Tuscan chicken thighs
A wide shallow cast iron casserole with a lid (sometimes called a braiser) is perfect for this dish. These can range from pricey, to not so pricey, and there are lots of choices. I think every kitchen needs one, they cook evenly and make a beautiful stove or oven to table presentation.
If you cook from my blog you might recognize this pan from these other chicken recipes:
- CHICKEN THIGHS WITH WHITE BEANS AND WILTED GREENS
- LEMON CHICKEN BIRYANI
- CHICKEN WITH CRACKED OLIVES AND HERBS
Creamy Tuscan Chicken Thighs
- 6 bone in/skin on chicken thighs
- olive oil
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup Marsala wine (or Vermouth, or dry white wine)
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, jarred, in olive oil
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (go for the good stuff!)
- 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped (I like to use baby spinach)
- 1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes, or any good red tomatoes
- parsley or fresh thyme for garnish
- Coat the bottom of a large shallow cast iron skillet or braising pan with olive oil and heat on medium heat until hot. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and then brown, skin side down for about 15 minutes, until the skin is nice and crisp. Flip the chicken and cook for another 15 minutes, or until done. The meat should read 160F on an instant read thermometer. Set aside on a plate and cover with foil, or put in a warm oven while you make the sauce.
- Add the shallot and garlic to the pan and saute, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes. Then add the Marsala wine and let it bubble down while you scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chicken stock, heavy cream, and sun dried tomatoes, and cook the sauce for a few minutes until it starts to thicken, stirring frequently. Scrape up everything from the bottom and sides of the pan into the sauce. NOTE: This isn’t a super thick sauce, but it will thicken somewhat as it cooks.
- Add the cheese and stir until incorporated. Add the chopped spinach and fresh tomatoes to the pan, and cook until the spinach has wilted. Add the chicken back into the pan and heat through before serving, garnished with fresh parsley or thyme.
- My husband’s a dedicated thigh man, hence I used thighs, but this recipe is just as good with any chicken parts, and you can make a super quick meal with chicken cutlets, which are thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts.
- Use chopped chicken instead of the whole thighs, and serve this over pasta. The pasta absorbs all that creamy sauce and it’s fantastic.
- Cut calories and fat by using a little more chicken stock and less cream. Let the chicken stock reduce, and you can thicken the sauce with a little Wondra flour.
- I use the sun-dried tomatoes that come in oil, in a jar, but if you only have the dry kind, re-hydrate them in warm water before using.
- For no-alcohol version replace wine with chicken stock, although be aware that some of the alcohol evaporates off, and the flavor payoff is huge. Even a tablespoon or two will make a difference in the flavor of this sauce.