Golden Chicken


This chicken dish combines elements from three of my favorite chicken recipes: chicken curry, chicken tagine, and a Creole-style smothered chicken. The braising liquid is rich and delicious, getting its yellow golden color from turmeric and saffron and its intense flavor from a low-and-slow simmer. Serve over buttery mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles. Ladle the sauce over top, and garnish with sliced green onions and minced jalapeños.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
2 hrs 10 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 25 mins
4 servings

Not all recipes have names. Sometimes you just throw a bunch of stuff together, and eat it without even considering what it would, or should, be called, which is not a problem unless you also film the dish and plan to post it online. It's this exact set of circumstances that led to a little something called "Golden Chicken." Oh yeah, with a name like Golden Chicken, you know it's got to be good. Or at least golden. And this is both.

This started out as a quick and dirty curry. But after everything was simmering in the pan, it started to remind me of a tagine, as well as (thanks to the "Holy Trinity") some sort of creole-ish chicken stew. Combining all those words into a recipe name seemed too hard, so I simply called it what it looked like. So that covers the almost literal meaning, but the name also worked figuratively, at least according to a cook I used to work with in college.

I can't remember his name, but he was the first person I'd ever come across that used the word "golden" as a synonym for "great," "awesome," "lucky," "nice," "fine," "perfect," and about two dozen other similar words. If you asked him how he was, he'd say, "I'm golden." If you asked him how the dinner prep was going, he'd say, "We're golden." And, I'm pretty sure if he made it, and you asked him how this chicken dish was, he's say it was "golden." I couldn't agree more. Which is why I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Chicken leg in a golden sauce served over mashed potatoes in a white bowl
Golden Chicken. Chef John


  • 4 (12 ounce) chicken leg quarters

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 cup diced onion

  • ½ cup diced celery

  • ½ cup diced jalapeño pepper

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander

  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

  • 2 ½ cups cold water

  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

  • 1 teaspoon dried currants

  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon base


  1. Place chicken leg quarters on a work surface with the skin facing up. Make a cut into the thickest part of each drumstick, all the way down to the bone. Then make two cuts, about 1 inch apart, right in the center of each thigh. Season both sides generously with 2 teaspoons kosher salt.

  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and sear until skin is nicely browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and sear for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat and remove chicken to a plate, leaving any rendered fat in the skillet.

  3. Turn the heat back on to medium; add onion, celery, jalapeño, and a pinch of salt to the skillet. Sauté until onion turns translucent and veggies have softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, and garlic; cook and stir until garlic has cooked a bit and spices are toasted, about 2 minutes.

  4. Stir in tomato paste, vinegar, water, and saffron. Increase heat to high and stir in currants and chicken base; bring to a simmer.

  5. Add chicken to the skillet, skin-side up, and reduce heat to low. Baste chicken with the liquid. Cover and cook over low or medium-low heat at a gentle simmer for 1 hour.

  6. Flip chicken, cover, and simmer gently until the meat is fork-tender and almost falling off the bone, about 30 more minutes.

  7. Flip and baste chicken again. Increase heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until chicken is very tender and the braising liquid has reduced a bit, 20 to 30 minutes more.

  8. Taste the braising liquid and adjust seasoning if needed before serving.

    Chicken leg in a golden sauce served over mashed potatoes in a white bowl
    Golden Chicken. Chef John

Chef's Notes:

Chicken legs include the thigh and drumstick. This can be made with chicken breasts, but the cooking time will be much less. You'd need to remove the chicken breasts once they were cooked through and set them aside while the liquid cooks and reduces by half. Then add them back in just long enough to reheat them before serving.

You can use green bell pepper instead of jalapeño, any vinegar instead of white vinegar, and chicken broth instead of water and chicken base.

For a thicker sauce, add a tablespoon of flour when you are sautéing the vegetables.

As the liquids are reducing, you can skim off some of the fat if you like.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

707 Calories
45g Fat
9g Carbs
63g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 707
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 45g 58%
Saturated Fat 12g 61%
Cholesterol 283mg 94%
Sodium 1478mg 64%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Protein 63g
Potassium 896mg 19%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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