Juicy and flavorful, my pineapple chicken is simmered in a delicious sauce infused with pineapple juice, a whisper of BBQ sauce, plus lots of caramelized onions. It's delicious served over rice to soak up that abundant sweet and savory sauce!
Pineapple Chicken, a Recipe Inspired By Love
One of the first meals that my precious hubby Michael cooked for me was his great-grandmother Irene's “BBQ chicken” recipe.
It was a classic sort of "Americana-style" recipe most likely dating back to the 1950's, one that called for chicken thighs to be simmered in a sauce made from a combination of some apricot preserves, and the ever-present, in every pantry, French onion soup mix.
If memory serves me correctly, there wasn't any actual BBQ sauce in the dish, but I believe that it got its name because the chicken would bake in the oven until deeply browned and the sauce became dark, thick, and slightly sweet, almost like a BBQ sauce.
As the chicken cooked it became scrumptiously tender and deliciously juicy, absolutely brimming with lots of sweet and savory flavor from the rich, glossy sauce.
I utterly love saucy meals, especially the ones that I can spoon over top of some simple white rice to sop up all that sauce! And, I absolutely love dishes that make use of flavorful chicken thighs! So this little meal was right up my alley!
When I recently began thinking about developing a new, delicious and easy chicken recipe to share, one that makes use of the perfectly sweet and abundant fresh pineapple in the markets right now, I couldn't help but think of great-grandma Irene's chicken recipe as an inspiration.
My pineapple chicken recipe is saucy and wonderfully sweet-savory as well, but it has a hint of tang and smokiness from pineapple juice and an actual kiss of BBQ sauce, plus the addition of chunks of fresh pineapple folded in at the end.
It has now become a new favorite weeknight chicken recipe of ours, and I think great-grandma Irene would approve! 😉
How to Make Pineapple Chicken Stovetop
While often times I'll braise chicken in the oven, for this pineapple chicken I like to keep things stovetop.
The combination of ingredients simmers gently together until the chicken is cooked through and tender and juicy, and the sauce thickened and glossy.
Here's a little overview of how I prepare my pineapple chicken recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- I opt for tender and juicy chicken thighs for this recipe, and season them liberally with a hefty sprinkle of salt, pepper, paprika, and a bit of granulated onion and garlic before searing them off skin-side down in the hot braising pan.
- To create that deliciously flavorful sauce that's a bit sweet yet just a tiny hint smoky, I start with a good amount of sliced onions and caramelize those for flavor, then add in some garlic, a small amount of smoky BBQ sauce, some pineapple juice and some chicken stock.
- The browned chicken thighs get nestled back into the liquid, then things are simmered for roughly 45 minutes, until cooked through and saucy.
- Fresh pineapple chunks are folded in during the final 10 minutes of cooking, as this allows them to warm through and gently incorporate without falling apart completely and melting into the sauce.
- I garnish the chicken with cilantro and/or green onion, and serve over rice with extra onions and sauce.
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 493 calories
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
• 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
• 1 teaspoon granulated onion
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
• 6 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
• Black pepper
• Avocado oil
• 2 small onions, sliced into semi-circles
• 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• ½ cup BBQ sauce (a smoky one is nice)
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 2 teaspoons flour
• 1 cup chicken broth/stock
• 1 cup pure pineapple juice (not from concentrate, and no sugar added)
• 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
• Sliced green onions or cilantro leaves, for garnish
• Rice, to serve alongside (optional)
- To a small ramekin, add the paprika, granulated onion and granulated garlic, and mix to combine.
- Place the chicken thighs on a work surface, sprinkle with a couple of good pinches of salt and black pepper, then season each piece generously and evenly with the paprika/onion/garlic mixture.
- Place a large braising pan, cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of the oil; once the pan is very hot, add the seasoned chicken thighs into the pan skin-side down (work in batches if necessary) and sear the chicken for about 3-4 minutes until the skin is browned, then flip and sear for another 3 minutes; remove the browned chicken thighs from the pan, and hold on a plate.
- If there is excess oil, carefully spoon or pour it out, leaving about 2-3 tablespoons in the pan; add the sliced onions along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and saute those for about 8-10 minutes until golden and caramelized.
- Add in the garlic and stir to combine, and once aromatic, add in the BBQ sauce and the tomato paste, and stir to incorporate those into the onion mixture.
- Next, sprinkle over the flour as evenly as possible, and stir that in to combine; whisk in the chicken broth/stock, followed by the pineapple juice, and bring to a vigorous simmer.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and return the chicken thighs back into the pan, nestling them into the sauce; cover partially with a lid, and allow the chicken to simmer gently in the sauce for about 35 minutes, basting it with the sauce every now and again.
- Add the fresh pineapple chunks into the pan, and nudge them into the sauce with a spoon so they warm through and become softened; continue to cook the chicken with the pineapple for another 10 minutes until cooked through (making the total simmering time of the chicken roughly 45 minutes).
- Check the seasoning to see if additional salt/pepper is needed, then finish the pineapple chicken by sprinkling over some green onions or some cilantro leaves, and serve with rice, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my Pineapple Chicken recipe:
- Chicken thighs, or a combo: Chicken thighs are terrific for this recipe; however, you can use a combination of thighs and drumsticks if you prefer, or even just drumsticks.
- Fresh pineapple is best: While you can absolutely use good quality canned pineapple chunks in a pinch, fresh pineapple, when in season, really brings a bit of brightness and texture to the dish. You can purchase pre-cut fresh pineapple chunks in the prepared foods section at the market, or cut up a whole pineapple yourself.
- A kiss of BBQ sauce: A little splash of smoky BBQ sauce adds a bit of savory depth to this pineapple chicken, but if you're not a fan, you can simply leave it out and proceed with the rest of the ingredients.
- Prepare ahead for easy pineapple chicken: This recipe can be prepared a day or two ahead of when you'd like to serve it, if you'd like. Allow the prepared dish to completely cool before placing into the fridge; then, when ready to serve, very gently reheat stovetop until the chicken is warmed through and the sauce hot.
- Accompaniments to serve: My favorite accompaniment with this pineapple chicken is white basmati rice; but plain white rice, brown rice, quinoa or even couscous is delicious!
Hungry for more saucy chicken recipes? Check out this Chicken Cacciatore, these Braised Chicken Thighs, this Teriyaki Chicken, or this Chicken Stroganoff!
Hi! I’m looking forward to trying this, what type of bbq sauce do you use for the smokey flavor? I usually get a honey bbq sauce, but I don’t know if it will be too sweet with all the pineapple.
The Cozy Apron
Hi Lisa, I just use a bbq sauce from Trader Joe's, but you can use whatever kind you'd like that's more smokey or mesquite in flavor.
For me, the sauce was not too sweet, as only 1/2 cup of bbq sauce is being used, and with the addition of chicken broth/stock and the onions, I'd say it's sweet-savory.
And here's a tip that might be helpful if you're not sure which sauce to use: look at the sugar content on the label, and choose one with less sugar for a less sweet sauce. 😉
Hope you enjoy the recipe!
I suspect it’s all about what bbq sauce you use. Following the recipe exactly, it still tasted mostly like bbq sauce - so apparently the kind I used is overpowering. The braised chicken thighs, pre-sauce, smelled good - I may try again with way less bbq sauce , or maybe even none
The Cozy Apron
Hi Jen, you bring up a great point about the type of bbq sauce used. I've also found certain brands to be stronger in certain flavor profiles than others, many of which I'm not a fan of; so it ends up being a bit of trial and error in terms of your preference.
It is normal to have some bbq flavor, of course; but with only 1/2 cup called for in the recipe, it really should not be overpowering.
I'm not sure if you have a Trader Joe's near you, but their more smoky/savory sauces can be nice. And as you mentioned, if you're not having luck with the flavor quite hitting for you, then I'd go with 1/4 cup of sauce instead, or just a couple of tablespoons.
Hope this helps a bit!