This Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore is the latest in the series of healthy re-makes of the best classic comfort food recipes. 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 week-night) 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 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.
How I Made This Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore More Healthy
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 removed the chicken skin to save on calories from fat. Then I mixed a super flavorful combination of Italian spices, red chili pepper flake, coarse salt and smoked paprika and dusted the thighs with the spices. (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 made them so savory tasting.
Next I layered on chopped olives. The Joy of Cooking calls for olives so I tried that and loved the flavor it gave everything. Next, without stirring, I added on the vegetables. I used a whole onion, a whole pepper and mushrooms to really bulk the serving size up.
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.
At the end I pulled the chicken out, and mixed in some fresh rosemary and mixed the vegetables and tomato all together. The sauce is nice and thick and so delicious! You can serve this with whole grain pasta, mashed potatoes or with 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.
This healthier version of Chicken Cacciatore is made in a slow cooker with lots of extra-vegetables. It has plenty of flavor from spices, herbs and olives.
- 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
- 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.