Cast iron chicken thighs with cherries is the perfect one-pan dinner. It's easy to make and perfectly balanced in flavour - and you’ll LOVE the extra crispy chicken skin! A great dish to use fresh cherries at the height of the season!
At this time of year, we love cherries - like LOOOOOVE cherries. They are totally the best thing ever. The ultimate summer fruit. Do you agree? We love having them for breakfast in these Cherry Bakewell Quinoa Breakfast Parfaits, or in desserts like these epic Dark Chocolate Cherry S’mores Bars or this Cherry Almond Polenta Cake which is super popular right now! So, I think it’s about time I shared a savoury cherry dish with you. I've actually been making this recipe for a couple of years now, so I was excited to shoot and write up the recipe!
Growing up, I never mixed sweet and savoury foods together. That was such a no-no in my mind. Anyone else? But ever since I got married, my husband helped open up the world of sweet and savoury (especially fruit and meat) and now I just love it. So this is a celebration of cherries, but paired with the most beautiful, tender chicken thighs with the crispiest skin, roasted garlic, lemon and thyme all perfectly tied together with a sweet, tangy and savoury sauce that begs to be mopped up with lots of crusty bread. Or maybe you'll skip the bread and just lick your plate... no judgement here!
Cast iron chicken thighs with cherries is such an easy dish to put together and I love that it only uses one pan. I mean, who else hates washing up?! ?♀️ I can’t wait for you to make this, so let's get straight to it!
What ingredients do I need?
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs - get the best quality ones you can find for your budget. I used 6 large chicken thighs which weighed 1 kg (2.2 lbs) before the excess skin was trimmed. If your chicken thighs are slightly larger or smaller, you might need to adjust the cooking time a little.
Olive oil - use standard olive oil rather than extra virgin to start off the wonderful browning of the skin.
Garlic - a whole head of garlic seems like a lot but the cloves caramelise in their skins as they roast and taste delicious and sweet. You can squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and make any leftover sauce into a dressing with them.
Lemon - brings another dimension of acidity to the dish which pairs wonderfully with cherries. Make sure to use unwaxed, or just scrub them well if you can only find waxed ones.
Fresh thyme - a match made in heaven with chicken, lemons and thyme. If you get a plant from the supermarket and look after it, it will last a long time.
Fresh cherries - the absolute hero of the dish, buy them in season for the best for sweetness and depth of flavour. If they're not in season for you, you can substitute frozen, but I would recommend thawing and draining them before using, otherwise the sauce might be too watery.
Pomegranate molasses - such a wonderful ingredient; sweet and tart at the same time, it an adds another layer of complexity to the dish. If you can get hold of it, use it! We use this pomegranate molasses. If you can’t get hold of or don't want to use it, up the honey to 2 tablespoons and add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar instead.
Honey - helps create a glaze and adds sweetness to balance out the acidity and tartness that comes from the lemon and pomegranate molasses.
Salt & pepper - always season well, food is to be enjoyed and salt brings out the flavours from each ingredient so much more!
How to put it all together
- Firstly, tidy up your chicken thighs, removing excess skin and fat if needed. If the skin is folded under the thigh, it will just go soggy in the juices produced whilst cooking.
- Season the thighs with salt and pepper and place skin side down in a preheated cast iron skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes until golden and crispy. Don’t be tempted to move them during this time - let them crisp up really well and turn beautifully golden.
- Turn the thighs so that they're skin side up and arrange evenly in the pan.
- Place the thyme (toss the sprigs in oil first to prevent burning), garlic cloves and lemon slices in and around the chicken thighs and place in the preheated oven (200C/400F) for 10 minutes.
- Take the pan from the oven and scatter over the cherries, tucking them in and around the chicken.
- Drizzle over the honey and pomegranate molasses and then scatter over the lemon zest. Season the cherries with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
These cast iron skillet chicken thighs with cherries are really as simple to make as that. In just a few simple steps, with a few lovely ingredients, soon enough this will be your tasty dinner! I mean, come on, just look at that perfect golden, crispy skin!
How to keep it and what to do with leftovers?
If you're lucky enough to have leftovers (we usually do as there's only two of us at home) here's a bonus mini recipe for you to use them up, always a win as we're all trying to be less wasteful! #loveyourleftovers
Once cooled down, store everything (including all those precious juices!) in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days and then follow these steps for a quick throw together salad:
- leftover cast iron chicken thighs with cherries (keep all the juices but discard the lemon slices!)
- mixed salad leaves
- sliced radishes and mini cucumbers
- fresh cherries, pitted and halved
- your favourite packet of grains, we love these Glorious Grains from Merchant Gourmet
- a few crumbles of feta cheese
- some water and salt/pepper as required to adjust seasoning
- Peel off the skin from the thighs, you can crisp this back up in a frying pan or under a grill/broiler.
- Shred the chicken off the bone and throw in a bowl with salad leaves, sliced radishes and mini cucumbers, fresh cherries, grains and feta.
- Make the dressing by putting all the juices, including the caramelised garlic cloves (skin removed) in a blending jug with a splash of water and blend until smooth. Toss with your salad and season to taste. Enjoy your incredible leftover salad!
Frequently Asked Questions
The number one rule is that you need to ensure your cast iron skillet is well seasoned! If it’s patchy and has rusty areas you need to spend some time giving it some TLC. Check out this video on how to restore, season and clean your cast iron skillet. Once seasoned correctly, place your skillet on a heat source and preheat over a medium to high heat, until it is hot, then add your oil - don’t preheat with the oil as it’ll potentially burn. Place your chicken thighs skin side down and don’t touch them for a few minutes. If you try to turn them too early, they will potentially stick.
Make sure you pick an appropriate sized skillet for them to fit in with a little space in between; we recommend using a 10 inch cast iron skillet and preheating it over a medium high heat. Swirl a little oil in the pan and place your patted dry seasoned chicken thighs, skin side down and don’t move them for about 5-7 minutes. Flip them over and they should be lovely golden brown and crispy. Follow the rest of the recipe to make the cherry dish or if you just want to cook thighs on their own, place the skillet in a preheated oven (200C/400F) for 40 minutes. They will no longer be pink around the bone and read an internal temperature of 165F or 73C.
A couple of reasons:
1. Your cast iron pan is incorrectly/poorly seasoned. How to restore, season and clean your cast iron skillet, Seasoning builds over time too, don’t ruin it with incorrect washing of your skillet
2. Your cast iron pan was not preheated enough, ensure it is preheated so when oil is added it shimmers and spreads easily over the base of the pan, then add your food.
3. Fat, ensure you add some fat to aid heat transfer contact between the food and pan, also fat makes things tasty and it aids polymerisation which in effect is when fat is baked onto the cast irons surface building up the seasoning.
Ensure your pan is preheated over a medium-high heat; we recommend a cast iron pan but any oven-safe pan should work.
Once the pan is hot, add a small amount of oil and swirl around the pan. Place the seasoned chicken, skin side down in the pan and leave for 5-7 minutes. Don’t be tempted to move the chicken, start checking at 5 minutes and see how it is progressing. You want a uniform golden brown colour all over the skin. Once ready, then you can flip the chicken over and continue cooking in the oven.
Want more recipes with chicken?
If you haven't had enough of this cast iron skillet chicken thighs recipe then make sure to check out these too!
- Smoky Pineapple Chicken Kebabs
- Creamy Chicken Sausage Skillet with Asparagus and Peas
- Slow Cooker Chicken Corn Chowder
- Crispy Chicken Tacos with Beetroot & Apple Slaw
- Superfood Chicken Quinoa Salad with Turmeric Tahini Sauce
I hope you love these cast iron chicken thighs with cherries as much as we do. If you make them, be sure to leave a comment, rate the recipe and tag me on Instagram! I love to see your creations!