Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore (Gluten-Free, Paleo, Whole30)
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.
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 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.
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. If you love tomatoes, don’t miss this Ultimate Guide to Tomatoes!
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Remove Skin: I removed the chicken skin to save on calories from fat.
- Add Spices: 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.
- Add Olives: Next I layered on chopped olives. The Joy of Cooking calls for olives so I tried that and loved the flavor it gave everything.
- Add Vegetables For Health: 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.
- Don’t Stir: 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.
- Remove Chicken: At the end I pulled the chicken out, and mixed in some fresh rosemary and mixed the vegetables and tomato all together.
- Thicken Sauce: If you like a thicker sauce, you can simmer the sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop for 5 minutes to reduce it. Then add the salt and rosemary.
Step By Step Photos For This Recipe
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 Dressing 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.
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 veggies 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.
MORE SLOW COOKER RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
- Slow Cooker Chicken and Okra
- Healthy Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
- 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 free weekly email newsletter for healthy recipes delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~KatiePrint
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, 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.
- 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