Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
This Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore is one of our fan-favorite recipes here at Healthy Seasonal Recipes. It is made with chicken thighs slowly simmered with tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, olives and spices. After cooking in the crockpot on low for six hours, the chicken becomes meltingly tender and the vegetables make a delicious savory sauce to spoon over it. It is naturally gluten-free, paleo and whole30 approved.
This post contains affiliate links. This post was originally published on October 25th, 2016. I have updated it to share it with you again today.
Table of contents
- What Is Chicken Cacciatore?
- Ingredients For Chicken Cacciatore
- How to Make Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
- MORE SLOW COOKER RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
What Is Chicken Cacciatore?
Chicken Cacciatore is an Italian-inspired dish that roughly translates to hunter-style chicken. When I was researching how to take-on this classic chicken recipe (and make it healthier and easy enough for a weeknight) I discovered that Chicken Cacciatore has so many variations, nobody really agrees what it is exactly.
Apparently, it hails from Italy and the original dish was something hunters would have made out in the field (or woods) and therefore would be very simple. The chicken would be cut into parts and cooked with herbs and mushrooms.
But here in the states, I know it to have red wine, tomatoes and peppers as well. I also looked in the Joy of Cooking, like when I was working on the Chicken a la King, and their version does not have peppers.
To make things more confusing, some of the recipes I found online didn’t have tomatoes or peppers at all in them.
Eventually, I just decided that it was totally fine to take some creative license. As long as the dish tastes delicious, is healthier, and can be made for a weeknight, I’m okay with breaking the rules.
Ingredients For Chicken Cacciatore
For full measurements see the recipe card below.
- Canned diced tomatoes: I recommend looking for fire-roasted tomatoes. I like the ones that Muir Glen makes. Canned crushed tomatoes also work in a pinch.
- Tomato paste: Look for one that is just tomatoes. Or tomatoes and salt. No need for sugar or corn syrup!
- Smoked paprika: One of my favorite ingredients ever. Look for it in the spice section of good supermarkets. It adds a nice smoky taste to the cacciatore! I use it to make this Roasted Butternut Squash taste addictively good, and it’s the secret ingredient in my vegan shiitake bacon.
- Italian Seasoning: If you’re a regular here, then you’ll know that I am a huge fan of dried Italian seasoning. Basically it is a blend of the most popular Mediterranean herbs in one mix, so it’s a great time saver! I love it for Italian recipes like this Cacciatore, Stuffed Shells or Beef Lasagna with Spinach.
- Crushed Red Pepper: This is also called Red Pepper Flake. It adds a bit of heat to the chicken, but it is not too overpowering. Just a tiny kick. If you dislike spicy food, you can leave it out entirely or simply use black pepper instead.
- Coarse kosher salt: I find it’s easier to sprinkle coarse salt by hand. If you want to sub regular table salt, read this post about the ratio for subbing regular salt for kosher salt.
- Bone-in chicken thighs: I call for thighs because they become tender in the slow cooker and don’t dry out the way chicken breast does after long cooking times. The bones help hold them together. Note: You’ll have to remove the skin.
- Olives: I like to use black Italian Olives, but if you can’t find them you can sub in Greek olives such as Kalamata olives. You can also use green olives like Spanish Olives without the pimentos in them.
- Onion: This gives the Chicken Cacciatore flavor and adds healthy veggies for bulk. You can use yellow, white or red. You can read more about onions here. I use a french cut to slice the onions.
- Red Bell Pepper: This adds more healthy veggies and bulk to the veggie sauce. They become meltingly tender!
- Crimini Mushrooms: Criminis are also known as baby bellas because they are immature portabella mushrooms! You can sub in white mushrooms if you prefer.
- Rosemary: Adding in fresh rosemary really makes the sauce pop! It’s added at the end so it has the most flavor!
How to Make Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Step 1: Combine Tomatoes in The Bottom of The Slow Cooker
First of all, most Italian hunters probably don’t have slow cookers out in the woods, so right there you know we’re off into new territory. I use a Large crockpot for this one. Stir diced tomatoes and tomato paste together in the bottom of a large slow cooker.
Step 2: Mix Seasonings
Stir together smoked paprika, Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper in a small dish. (All of which is virtually calorie-free flavor.) Without the chicken skin, these chicken thighs are still very rich and flavorful tasting. The smoked paprika will make them so savory tasting.
Step 3: Season The Chicken
I removed the chicken skin to save on calories from fat. Lay chicken on a sheet of parchment. Sprinkle all over the chicken turning pieces to coat completely.
Step 4: Add Seasoned Chicken Thighs To Slow Cooker
Arrange chicken in the sauce in the slow cooker. Pour any extra spices from the parchment on top.
Step 5: Add in Peppers, Mushrooms, Onions and Olives
Layer olives, onion, bell pepper and mushrooms on top. The Joy of Cooking calls for olives so I tried that and loved the flavor it gave everything. Make sure to add these veggies and olives without stirring.
I didn’t stir the mixture because I wanted to make sure that the chicken stayed coated in the smoked paprika combination. I found that the vegetables released just enough juice, and it dripped down and mixed with the tomato, so that the chicken simmers and becomes completely tender.
Step 6: Slow Cook 6 Hours
Cover and set slow cooker to low for 6 hours.
Step 7: Remove Chicken Thighs
When timer goes off, carefully pull chicken out of the cooker. Note that the chicken will be falling off the bone and very tender, so try your best to keep the thighs intact if possible.
Step 8: Finish Sauce
Stir rosemary and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt into the vegetable mixture. Serve the vegetable mixture and sauce with the chicken.
If you like a thicker tomato sauce, you can simmer the sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop for 5 minutes to reduce it. Then add the salt and rosemary.
FAQs and Expert Tips
The sauce is full of veggies and so delicious! You’ll want to serve this with a starch of some sort. You can serve this with whole grain pasta, mashed potatoes or with soft polenta.
It is naturally gluten-free and paleo, so if you want to keep it low-carb you could serve it with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice would be good too.
You could also make Minestrone for a first course, and then have this Cacciatore as your secondi!
The flavors of Caesar Salad would be amazing with this Cacciatore! Add a loaf of Italian bread and dinner is served!!
For a sweet ending you could make Healthy Tiramisu with Greek Yogurt.
We love the bone-in chicken thighs in this recipe, but there are other options! Boneless thighs will work well, but they will kind of fall apart. The texture will be more shredded. Just take care to try to lift them out of the slow cooker in one piece if possible. I recommend thighs over chicken breast because they tend to overcook and dry out. If you do not like thigh meat, you can substitute breast meat, but note that it may seem too dry.
The bell peppers and mushrooms in this recipe really cook down and release a lot of liquid to form the sauce. If you prefer a thicker sauce, you can reduce it. Do so before adding the rosemary in step 8. Lift the chicken out of the sauce as directed in step 7 and then transfer the sauce and veggies to a saucepan. Simmer until the sauce is the desired consistency.
Yes it is okay to put the uncooked chicken in the slow cooker because it will cook through and the high heat will kill any food-born pathogens that may be present. It is important not to overfill the slow cooker so make sure to check your user instructions.
You sure can. You’ll need 2 cups. One caveat: make sure to omit any additional salt, as these sauces are already seasoned. Once the dish is finished cooking, taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper to taste.
You can cook on high for 4 hours instead of 6 on low. This recipe is very forgiving!
MORE SLOW COOKER RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
- Slow Cooker Chicken and Okra is an old favorite we have been loving for more than 20 years.
- Healthy Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy is a take on the classic beef stew. This one is updated for the crockpot.
- This healthier Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup is a budget-friendly meal to prep ahead for busy nights.
- An all-time favorite around here is this Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili. It is creamy and hearty and will be one of your go-tos once you try it.
- This Crockpot Butter Chicken looks incredible!
- Our Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese is quickly becoming a new staple around here.
Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!
Happy Cooking! ~KatiePrint
Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore Recipe
- Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
This Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore is perfect for weeknights. It is made with chicken thighs, rich tomato herb sauce, olives and lots of extra vegetables to make it healthy.
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
- 3 tablespoons pure tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- pinch crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
- 6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
- ½ cup chopped olives, such as pitted black Italian olives
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Stir diced tomatoes and tomato paste together in the bottom of a large slow cooker.
- Mix smoked paprika, Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper in a small dish.
- Lay chicken on a sheet of parchment. Sprinkle all over the chicken turning pieces to coat completely.
- Arrange chicken in the sauce in the slow cooker. Pour any extra spices from the parchment on top.
- Layer olives, onion, bell pepper and mushrooms on top.
- Cover and set slow cooker to low for 6 hours.
- When timer goes off, carefully pull chicken out of the cooker, keeping thighs intact if possible.
- Stir rosemary and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt into the vegetable mixture. Serve the vegetable mixture and sauce with the chicken.
- In step one, do not stir the vegetables into the chicken. They will soften and release their juices and drip down over the chicken, basting it and create a lovely sauce!
- If your sauce is too thin for your preference, transfer it to a sauce pan and reduce it on the stove until it is the desired thickness. Then stir in the salt and rosemary.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 6 hours
- Category: main course
- Method: slow cooker
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: 1 chicken thigh, and 3/4 cup sauce
- Calories: 206
- Sugar: 5 g
- Fat: 11 g
- Saturated Fat: 2 g
- Carbohydrates: 10 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 16 g
Keywords: slow cooker chicken cacciatore,chicken cacciatore,healthy chicken cacciatore,easy chicken cacciatore
This was SOOOO Yummy!!
Love this and have made twice. Could I freeze it?
This looks good! I notice the option to scale the recipe to either double or triple it. If you double the recipe, will it still fit in a standard 6 quart crock pot? Thank!
Hi Theresa, That scaling option is a helpful function of the recipe card widget I use site-wide. I cannot turn it on and off for a single recipe, unfortunately. In the case of slow cooker recipes, it is best to only do a one times batch. Otherwise, you can have too much food in the pot and it won’t come up to temp in a safe amount of time. Hope that helps! Thanks for asking too! I appreciate it!
I have this cooking right now and the taste of the sauce is amazing.
I didn’t have Italian seasoning so I made made up the quantity with a mixture of mixed herbs, thyme and oregano
Oh that’s great! I have done that myself. Though I do like to keep it on hand now because it has become one of my go-to ingredients. It is so convenient to use one herb instead of many. I am so glad that you’re trying this recipe and so far you are liking the way it tastes. Thanks so much for coming back by.
Hi! Can this be made with frozen boneless thighs? How would you adjust the time?
I have not tried using frozen whole thighs before. I’d warn against it because I worry it won’t come up to temp fast enough and will stay in the “temperature danger zone” (41-135 degrees) for too long. It would be better to defrost the thighs in the fridge overnight before using them.
Did not disappoint! I was looking for a relatively simple slow-cooker recipe for Chicken Cacciatore and I found this recipe. A slight bit of prep work (as opposed to throwing everything into the pot at once), but coating the chicken first and laying it on the tomato base was a good idea. I didn’t have smoked paprika or fresh rosemary, but I substituted hot Hungarian paprika and dried rosemary leaves instead. I had to look up cremini mushrooms because my grocery didn’t have any, but I found they are just a slightly more mature version of white button mushrooms, and they had baby bella, which I gather is just another name for the same thing.
The choice of chicken thighs over breasts was a pleasant surprise, as I tend to favor light chicken over dark. But in this case, the dark meat was moist, flavorful, literally falling off the bone.
I have a couple of thighs left over, so I’ll see what else I can do with them, but I had a great experience — and a great meal (served over some thick spaghetti) — cooking this recipe!
I am so happy you tried the recipe, Fred. And I really appreciate that you came back to review and rate. That’s kind of you to do so.
Would adding other vegetables such as diced zucchini, squash, carrots, etc. to the chicken dish make a difference to the dish flavor for better or worse?
Not at all, but they will add more liquid as they cook, so you will want to follow the instructions for simmering the sauce to reduce it.
So good even the teens loved it and I doubled the amount of smoked paprika!
I am so happy to hear it. Thanks for coming back to rate and review!