Rich broth, sweet caramelized onions, bubbly melted cheese make French onion soup a comforting classic. Add French onion chicken to your weekly rotation and bring those flavors into a hearty, quick, easy meal that will warm you all the way through.
French onion soup is so decadent and rich that as much as I love it, a little cup is usually enough. But nobody in my house is going to let a little cup of anything pass for dinner. Skillet French onion chicken lets me have the flavors I love in a chicken recipe that works as a main dish. The pan-seared chicken is moist and tender, and the dish is as easy to clean up as it is to make.
This is one of my all time favorite ways to make chicken. Last year I spent several weeks in France, and could not stop eating the “onion soup”. Every little cafe I sat at, every restaurant, I would try the onion soup, and in my mind call it the “French onion soup” and just let it sit on my tongue. I would save that cartelized onion, rich nutty cheese, and deliciously flavored broth.
Then I would be hungry an hour later. Hahah. Making this skillet chicken was the perfect compromise. All the delicious flavor, with a great protein base to help it carry me through a little longer.
The flavors are insane, especially since you deglaze the pan, and really take advantage of all the seared on brown bits. combined with the richly caramelized onions, and that cheese. Well you can see why it is my favorite.
What does it mean to “deglaze”?
Deglazing is the process of adding liquid to free the brown bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan as you caramelize or sear meat and vegetables. If you’re using a nonstick pan—especially a nice new one—you don’t get those brown bits, which is where the most intense flavor develops. So for skillet French onion chicken, use a regular (non-nonstick) pan if you can. Here’s how to deglaze:
Slowly add broth, wine, water, or juice to the hot skillet (or baking dish, if you’re preparing something else) after the food you were browning has been removed.
Scrape and stir the browned bits from the bottom of the pan until they’re all loose.
Continue cooking and stirring until they’re all melted into the liquid.
If the recipe directs, reduce or thicken the liquid.
What should I serve with French Onion Chicken?
Let’s not mince words: French onion chicken is rich. The deeply browned onions, the beef broth, the cheese—finding the right side dish is important. If it’s too starchy the whole meal will just be heavy. If it’s too mild the other flavors will overwhelm it. If it’s too sweet it’ll compete and neither flavor will work. The right side dishes will be simple, clean flavors, and a dash of acid won’t hurt. Try these:
- Apple Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinegar Dressing
- Escarole, Roasted Tomato and Wheat Berry Salad
- Roasted Vegetables
Can I use chicken thighs for French Onion Chicken?
Folks in lots of countries are baffled by the Americans’ taste for chicken breasts. They consider the white meat dry, preferring to use the dark meat of chicken legs and thighs.
So yes, in most chicken recipes you can just use the meat you prefer, and if chicken thighs are your preference, you can certainly use them for French onion chicken.
HOWEVER, chicken breasts lend themselves to pan seared chicken recipes better than softer thighs do, and with the rich cheese and the deeply flavored beef broth, the firm, mild meat of chicken breasts does seem to work better. Besides, with this cooking method, dry is the last thing you will think about this chicken. It will be moist and delicious.
The Skillet Makes the Skillet Meal
I know. You already have a skillet. You don’t need a skillet. But…maybe you need a skillet. When it comes serious cooking, the tools make a difference.
There are some really amazing skillets out there, amongst my favorite are: Staub, Lodge, and All-Clad.
For this recipe I used a cast iron skillet–lodge, and it makes such a fantastic pan sauce, and helps make this tasty meal extraordinary. So, if you decide you need a new skillet, here are five delicious, quick-cooking, one-skillet meals to make you sing the praises of your new pan:
- One-Skillet Pork Tenderloin and Peaches
- Skillet Teriyaki Chicken
- Chicken Sausage and Peas Alfredo Pesto Skillet Pasta
- Skillet Garlic Lemon Chicken with White Wine Sauce
- Thai Peanut Skillet Chicken
Skillet French Onion Chicken
- 3 cups thinly sliced yellow onion approximately 2 medium onions
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2-3 Tbs beef broth
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts pounded to even thickness (approximately 2 lbs of chicken)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1 1/2 cup beef broth
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/3 cup white wine optional
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ cups gruyere cheese
- fresh thyme or parsley and black pepper for garnish
- In a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat, melt 3 Tablespoons butter. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes.
- Add 2 Tablespoons beef broth at 20 minutes, or when needed if onions are sticking, and continue cooking onions down until browned and extremely tender, another 10-15 minutes.
- Remove onions from the skillet, and set aside. But do not clean out the pan.
- While onions cook: mix salt and pepper, rosemary, sage, and thyme together in a small bowl. Then prepare your chicken by patting it dry, and seasoning it with the salt and pepper herb mixture.
- Once onions have cooked and are removed from the skillet, add a Tablespoon of butter to the skillet, and increase heat to medium high. Cook chicken for 4-5 minutes per side until browned on both sides, but not necessarily cooked through.
- Transfer chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Add a little beef broth or the white wine to the skillet to deglaze it, using a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits off.
- Return the onions to the skillet.
- Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook while continuously stirring for 1 minute over medium-high heat.
- Add remaining beef broth, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and worcestershire sauce to the skillet and continue to cook, stirring continuously, until mixture comes to a boil.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Finish the dish
- Return chicken to skillet and spoon a little sauce over each piece of chicken.
- Top each pieces of chicken with 1/4 of the gruyere cheese.
- Transfer skillet to your preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through (internal temp of 165 degrees) and cheese is melted.
- Spoon onions and sauce over the top of the chicken, garnish with thyme or parsley and black pepper, and serve immediately.
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