Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives

A simple but delicious recipe for perfect crisp-skinned chicken, cooked with briny olives, lemons that turn sweet and jammy, and of course, garlic. It's one of our all-time favorites.
Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives

If you follow this blog at all, I have a pretty good idea what you’re thinking. And yes, I admit it. I make pan-roasted chicken a lot. Like, a lot a lot.

Examples: Chicken With Lime, Garlic And Cilantro / Chicken With Lemon, Garlic And Basil / Skillet Chicken With Wine, Shallots And Mustard.

But it’s not just because I’m boring. It’s also because this method is a simple and fool-proof way to get perfect chicken with crispy skin and tender meat, every time. Luckily, it happens to be extremely versatile so though the method may be similar, the flavors are completely distinct.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives
I love the color of the bright green olives with the dark onions and lemons.

A quick and slightly strange aside: A couple of weeks ago, Matt and I went to the Garlic Festival in Saugerties, New York. We had planned a fews days away and it happened to coincide with our schedule so we thought, what the hell, it’ll be a fun stinky little adventure. Little did we know that this thing is HUGE. In fact, it’s the second largest garlic festival in the country (curse you, Gilroy, CA. CURSE YOU.) and people take it very, very seriously. We saw more than one person in a garlic costume. There were stands where you could taste slices of raw garlic. There was garlic ice cream (actually delicious). There were, I kid you not, Morris dancers (not sure how they were garlic related but hilarious, nonetheless). Here’s a few shots, if you’re interested.

My version is adapted from a Tasting Table recipe by Marco Canora (of Hearth in NYC). I brought down the amounts so that it’s now a perfect recipe for two (generously), or four if you have a few sides (though it’s easily scaled back up if you want more). I also swapped out thyme for the oregano because I love it with both chicken and onions, and I also added a bit of stock to make it just a little bit saucy (nudge nudge, wink wink).

It’s still not going to have a lot of liquid but the onions become sweet and almost jammy and give the chicken great flavor and moisture. My absolute favorite part of this dish are the roasted lemons. Oh my god, are they good. The slow cooking eliminates almost all the bitterness so they turn into almost a savory marmalade. Absolutely delicious.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives
The roasted lemons become soft, almost like savory marmalade.

You could use whatever type of olives you like best but I would avoid the canned black ones because they just don’t have enough flavor.

Here’s a nerdy fact for you: the reason canned black olives taste … like they do (horrible) is because they are actually unripe green olives that have been piped with oxygen which turns them black, then soaked in lye which softens them enough to make them edible (debatable). Then once they’re canned, they are heated to a very high temperature in order to prevent botulism. Sounds tasty, right?


  • Julia Child was wrong, don’t wash your chicken! Just use a clean cutting board, dry it well on paper towels, and cook it to the proper temperature (165º F / 75º C).
  • Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you plan to cook it.
  • A heavy cast iron or enameled cast iron pan helps you get a really dark, even sear on the chicken. Whatever pan you use, make sure it’s oven-safe.
  • I think chicken cooked on the bone has more flavor (and the crispy skin is omgdelicious) but you could substitute skinless, boneless breasts or thighs. If using breasts, be very careful not to overcook them or they’ll be dry.
  • You could use a Greek olive mix or any kind of cured and jarred olive you like. Kalamatas would be delicious.
  • Dried herbs are much stronger than fresh so use about 1/3 less if you’re substituting (for example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, use only 1 teaspoon of dried, since 3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon).
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4.41 from 15 votes

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives

A simple but delicious recipe for perfect crisp-skinned chicken, cooked with briny olives, lemons that turn sweet and jammy, and of course, garlic. It's one of our all-time favorites.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: Chicken, Citrus, olives
Servings: 2 -4 servings
Author: Emily Clifton – Nerds with Knives (Adapted from Tasting Table)


  • 4-6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (or breasts)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves peeled but whole
  • 1 large yellow onion thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1/2 cup olives pitted (mixed Greek, Kalamata, or Cerignola)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 lemon juiced


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180ºC
  • Dry the chicken well and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Set a large, oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat (the pan should be large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer). Add the oil and place the chicken, skin-side down, and leave it alone until the skin is deep golden brown, 7-9 minutes. Flip the chicken and scatter the garlic cloves into the pan. Cook until garlic is brown is spots and beginning to soften (don’t let garlic burn), 2-3 minutes. Remove the chicken and garlic from the pan and set aside.
  • To the same pan, add the onions, lemon slices and thyme, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions have softened and turned golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and lemon juice. Add back the thighs (skin-side up, including any accumulated juices) and scatter in the garlic and the olives. Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 25-35 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (165º F / 75º C on an instant read thermometer).


UPDATE:This recipe has been updated. We’ve lessened the amount of chicken stock by a 1/2 cup because a few of you felt the dish had just a bit too much liquid. Thank you for your feedback!
Tried this recipe?Mention @NerdsWithKnives or tag #nerdswithknives!

29 thoughts on “Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives”

  1. This is a great recipe. When I made it 1 cup of stock was way too much and resulted in a much soupier end product than intended. Depending on how much liquid your chicken, lemon, and onions put out, I’d suggest cutting the broth in half (or even less).

    • Thank you so much for the feedback. I’ve updated the recipe to cut the chicken stock in half. If cooked in a large pan (where the chicken had quite a bit of room), the liquid should mostly cook away. A smaller pan, where thing are packed tighter, may result in more liquid because there’s less evaporation. Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to give notes!

  2. Thanks for this!! Any thoughts on how long you’d cook this with boneless breasts? I want to do both thighs and breasts in the same pan so want to add the breasts towards the end.

    • Hi Millie! I’d start checking the breasts after about 15 minutes in the oven, depending on their size. You could probably put breasts and thighs all in together and just pull out the breasts a little earlier and keep them warm under foil. 🙂

      • 4 stars
        This is perfect for thighs…just saying. They stay moist and serving size perfect and aesthetically so pleasing to the eye
        Might use a little dry white wine to “deglaze” instead of chkn stock tho

  3. This recipe turned out so perfectly I can hardly believe I made it myself. I upped the quantity to 8 thighs without really adjusting the recipe and it still worked. They are PERFECTLY cooked and the lemons are delicious. Like others I finished with a lot of liquid, but it’s flavorful and turned my salad greens into a fabulous wet mess. Next time I’ll probably add a little less liquid or crowd the pan less. Thanks!

  4. Delicious recipe. I substituted homemade preserved lemon (finely minced), for the lemon. Then I added cauliflower rice with the onions and preserved lemon, and an extra half teaspoon of dried thyme, cooking these an extra 8 minutes, before adding the broth, chicken and garlic back to the pan, and baking. It was rich and satisfying.

  5. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe so many times and live it! Sometimes, I add capers or mushrooms. I even swapped out the lemon for sliced kumquats, once. That was super delicious. A little tip if you like your chicken skin extra extra crispy, sprinkle a little cornstarch and pat it on before you fry the chicken in the garlic scented oil.

  6. 5 stars
    this is an amazing recipe which has wowed everyone i have made this for. I found that at the end, if you stick it under the broiler you can crisp up the skin of the chicken and it adds the perfect touch.

  7. 5 stars
    This was delish! I added marinated artichoke hearts and pearl tomatoes. I like a lot of vegetables in my dishes.

  8. 5 stars
    This was so delicious! I am putting it in my regular recipe rotation. It was easy to prepare, a one pot dish, and the lemon, onion, garlic, and crispy chicken blend was perfect. My husband gave it a thumbs up after one bite.

    • Hi Lisa, so glad you like it! Yes, you can definitely finish it on the stovetop. Keep the heat on the medium-low side once everything is in the pan and keep your eye on the liquid as it may evaporate faster than in the oven. You can also partially cover the pan, though the steam will soften the skin slightly 🙂

  9. 5 stars
    This is one of my absolute favorite recipes! The one my husband refers to as “the good chicken” I make it over and over and have shared it with friends and family who have thanked me for the delicious meal, so in turn, I thank you! I like to deglaze with about a quarter cup of vermouth before adding the stock. Goes great with a gin martini with a lemon twist. Cheers!


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