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Roasted Cranberry Chicken

This easy Roasted Cranberry Chicken recipe has crispy, tender chicken thighs with a sweet cranberry-orange balsamic sauce that is to die for. It’s simple yet impressive to serve!

When fresh cranberries are paired with orange and balsamic it’s wonderful thing. Just a few ingredients combine to make such a major flavor impact!

This easy Cranberry chicken recipe is equally suited for a weeknight or Christmas dinner. It’s versatile, healthy, relatively cheap, and will impress everyone!

A cast iron skillet with cranberry chicken thighs just out of the oven

Cranberry Chicken Ingredients

The dish is packed with amazing fall flavors and protein.

  • Cranberry chicken thighs: Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs add a juicy, rich flavor to this dish.
  • Fresh cranberries: Cranberries are not too tart and not too sweet while also adding a festive holiday touch. Use frozen cranberries if that is what is available.
  • Balsamic vinegar: The balsamic tenderizes the chicken thighs so it can absorb the flavors of the marinade.
  • Orange Zest: The orange zest adds a citrus flavor to this recipe.
  • Olive oil: The olive oil browns the chicken and gives it a rich, flavorful taste. Vegetable oil can be substituted.
  • Butter: Along with the herbs and spices the butter flavor gets baked right into the chicken.
  • Brown sugar: The balsamic vinegar and brown sugar combine to cut the tartness of the fresh cranberries and draws out their sweetness.
  • Garlic: The savory garlic is rubbed onto the chicken and the cloves are cooked with the chicken marinade. The cloves can be used as a garlic spread on crusty bread and dipped into the cranberry marinade sauce.
  • Seasonings: Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, woodsy thyme and rosemary enhance the taste with an herbaceous flavor.

(Scroll down to the bottom for the printable recipe card with exact measurements and recipe instructions.)

How to Make Cranberry Chicken

  1. Season the chicken: Rub the top and bottom of each thigh with chicken and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Brown the chicken: Seal in the juices and brown the chicken thighs in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil.
  3. Create the cranberry marinade: Combine add the cranberries, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and orange zest and let simmer.
  4. Bake the chicken: Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the chicken is completely cooked through.
A closeup of cranberry chicken thighs with some halved roasted garlic, orange slices, and sprigs of thyme

Can chicken breasts be used in this Cranberry Chicken recipe?

I use chicken thighs in this recipe for a few reasons. One, they’re small enough so you can fit more pieces into a skillet. Two, chicken thighs are my favorite so they’re my go-to when creating a new recipe. And third, they don’t dry out as easily as chicken breasts in the oven.

Having said that, you can absolutely use chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs if that’s what you prefer. Or use a whole cut-up chicken for a mix of both. If it can fit in your skillet, you’re good to go.

Can frozen cranberries be used instead of fresh?

The short answer is YES, you can use frozen cranberries in this recipe instead of fresh if that’s what you have on hand. That said, I’ve tried it with frozen just so I could answer this question and it doesn’t work quite as well as fresh. Oh, it will still be good, but the flavor is just a bit better with fresh.

You also may have to simmer the sauce a minute or two longer since there’s more liquid to evaporate. But hey, use what you’ve got! Just please, make this Cranberry Chicken recipe, no matter what kind you use.

What To Serve With Cranberry Chicken

A cast iron skillet with cranberry chicken thighs just out of the oven with a balsamic cranberry orange sauce and fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs

Make Ahead

To make a day in advance, brown the chicken and prepare the marinade. Cover the skillet with a lid, foil or plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight. When ready, bake the cranberry chicken in the oven and serve.

Storage, Freezer & Reheating

  • To Store: Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To Freeze: Once cooled, store in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming.
  • To Reheat Leftovers: Warm in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish at medium heat for 30 seconds bursts, or a slow cooker, until heated through. If needed, add water to the sauce to rehydrate before heating.
A closeup of cranberry chicken thighs with some halved roasted garlic, orange slices, and sprigs of thyme

Roasted Cranberry Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 38 minutes
Total Time: 48 minutes

This Roasted Cranberry Chicken recipe features juicy chicken thighs with a sweet cranberry-orange balsamic marinade. An amazingly simple, easy to prepare dinner.


  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries (reserve a few for garnish, if desired)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 large orange, zested then sliced
  • 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs


  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Pat the chicken dry and rub the exposed garlic cloves all over the top and bottom of each thigh. Season with the salt and pepper.
  3. Place a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it's shimmering, add chicken skin-side down. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the skin is nicely browned. Remove the chicken and set it aside.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter and, when it's melted, add the cranberries, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and the zest from the orange. Simmer for about 7-8 minutes until it starts to thicken, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet to get up any browned bits left from frying the chicken.
  5. Place the chicken thighs skin-side up in the skillet and place the herbs, garlic halves and orange slices between the chicken, nestling some underneath if necessary.
  6. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked through and it reaches an internal temp of 165F.
  7. Serve with some crusty bread for spreading the roasted garlic and sopping up the delicious sauce.


Rinse and dry the cranberries before using in this recipe.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 712Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 30gCholesterol: 348mgSodium: 1091mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 62g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix.

Still looking for more cranberry recipes? Here you go!

Kristy Bernardo
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