This easy braised healthy chicken and leeks skillet is absolutely delicious and perfect for entertaining. The meal comes together in one dish and the lemon butter sauce with whole garlic cloves is straight-up drinkable. Serve it as-is, or add some pesto rice and a house salad with homemade bread for a super impressive dinner!
Braised chicken thighs and leeks in lemon garlic butter sauce, that is. Hello, favorite skillet chicken thigh recipes!
Here's your new favorite quick dinner method:
I see easy recipes for chicken thighs all the time, and for good reason: they're somewhat more affordable than chicken breasts, they have tons of flavor, and the possibilities for cooking them are just endless.
(Since the oven is already on, it's important to note that this chicken is really, really good with twice baked potatoes)
- Recipe Rundown: This chicken leeks recipe is made all in one dish and starts by searing chicken thighs, then building a lemony leek sauce right in the skillet. We cook leeks and whole garlic cloves in the chicken drippings, add the chicken BACK in with some chicken stock and lemon, roast the whole thing, and done. Couldn't be easier, and the leek + lemon garlic butter sauce combo is just unreal.
- Chicken Choices: I generally use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for this recipe. I have on occasion found boneless, skin-ON chicken thighs, and that to me is the mother lode of all chicken cuts, hands down. This is mainly because we still eat dinner every single night on the couch (because Beck goes down before we eat, we're only rotting OUR brains, don't worry) and chicken bones are tough to navigate with one hand. If you use boneless chicken breasts or thighs, reduce the cooking time by about 10 minutes.
- Trick to Crispy Chicken Thighs: The key is to be patient with searing the chicken skin so most of the fat renders out and the skin gets super crispy, then move on with the rest of the dish.
I thought about adding some fancier flavors and other ingredients to this, but the final product with just this short list was so good I decided to not mess with it.
We have bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, leeks, whole garlic cloves (these were frozen leftover from something else), chicken stock/broth, lemon, and butter. Salt and pepper, and that's it! 8 ingredients INCLUDING salt and pepper.
Fancy Toppings Variation: If you'd like, you can add sliced green onions or any fresh green herbs you like on the top of this recipe right before serving. They add a nice bright punch of flavor!
How to Clean and Cut Leeks
Leeks grow in layers up through soil, so they can have sand and dirt in between each of their layers. To clean them, we cut the leeks FIRST, then washed SECOND.
- Take off any dry or very dark green outer leaves. Cut off the top 1-2 inches of the leek, then the bottom root end.
- Cut the leek in half lengthwise to make two long half-moon-shaped pieces.
- Thinly slice each leek half into small half-round slices.
- Place all of the sliced leeks in a large bowl of water and swish the leeks around with your hands.
- Let the leeks sit for a few minutes; as they settle the leeks will float and the grit/drit will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
- Use your hands or a slotted spoon to remove the leeks to a plate or clean kitchen towel, being sure to not disturb the grit as you do so.
- Leeks are prepped and ready to go!
Step By Step Instructions
First, preheat a large braiser or ovenproof skillet (I use my favorite Staub braiser!) to medium heat with some olive oil and butter. Preheat the oven to 400F.
When the pan is hot, sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and add the thighs skin-side down. Let them sizzle and SIT without being disturbed for 8-9 minutes until they're nice and browned and crispy, then flip them.
You can check earlier than this if you think your pan is too hot, but we want a nice medium heat where the chicken sizzles and renders some of its fat (like when you cook bacon!) but isn't burning anything too quickly.
After you flip the chicken, brown it on the second side for 5 minutes then remove it to a plate while you build the rest of the sauce.
To the skillet and chicken drippings, add the leeks and garlic cloves. Stir them for two minutes and sprinkle them lightly with salt.
When the leeks have wilted just a bit, add the chicken stock to the pan and stir to release any chicken bits from the bottom of the pan, then nestle the chicken skin-side up back in the leek mixture.
Cut the lemons in half and put them cut-side up in the skillet as well - the lemons will roast and release some of their juices as they cook.
Transfer the whole pan to the oven and roast uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the lemons have roasted and the sauce has reduced somewhat. You'll still have a good bit of liquid in the pan - this is not a bad thing at all (see: mashed potatoes or mushroom rice please for serving).
Taste the sauce and add a few pinches of salt if you'd like, then swirl a few pats of butter right into the sauce - it should melt quickly and help to thicken the sauce a bit.
What to Serve with Chicken and Leeks
Serve the chicken with the leeks and any other side dishes you'd like, and get to it. You can squeeze any leftover lemon juice into the sauce or serve the lemons with the chicken; the roasted lemon flavor is such a great addition to the sauce.
Here are some side dish suggestions:
Please do not waste the chicken skin, I implore you. If it REALLY stresses you out, google how many calories are added by eating the skin of one chicken thigh one time, and maybe make a decision from there.
Crispy chicken skin that you worked this hard on, though? Priceless.
This is such a lovely, perfect spring dish - the lemons brighten up everything, the whole garlic cloves and leeks are tender and flavorful, and the chicken cooks perfectly in the broth - nothing dry or mealy about this AT ALL.
Leftovers are delicious in the fridge for up to 4 days, just reheat them in the microwave and enjoy! The chicken skin won't be quite as crispy, but will still be delicious.
Braised chicken thighs are wonderful for keeping chicken tender and juicy without worrying about overcooking it since we're using bone-in, skin-on chicken - there's more room for error which is exactly the kind of forgiving food we need to be cooking, always.
PS: for dessert, Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie can be made in advance and chilling in the fridge!
Braised Chicken and Leeks
- 4 tablespoons butter
- olive oil, salt, pepper
- 6-8 pieces bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 leeks (see instructions for prep)
- 1 head garlic peeled, cloves whole
- 2 lemons halved
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- fresh herbs any kind, for serving, optional
- Preheat the oven to 400F and a large skillet or braiser to medium heat.
- While preheating, prep the leeks. Remove any tough outer stems/leaves and cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then thinly slice into half-moon shapes. Add the leeks to a bowl and fill with water. Swish the leeks around in the water and let sit for a few minutes; any grit or sand will sink to the bottom. Remove the leeks carefully to not disturb the dirt and let dry on a clean kitchen towel.
- When the pan is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and two tablespoons of the butter. Sprinkle the chicken very liberally with salt and pepper and add the thighs cut side down to the pan. Let the chicken cook undisturbed for 8-9 minutes until the chicken skin is brown and crispy. Flip the chicken and cook for 5 minutes more, then remove to a plate.
- Add the leeks and garlic cloves to the chicken drippings. Stir for two minutes, then add the chicken stock. Stir to release any chicken from the bottom of the skillet, then add the chicken skin-side up to the sauce. Add the lemons cut-side up to the sauce between the chicken pieces.
- Roast the dish uncovered for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly and the lemons have browned. Remove from the oven and squeeze a bit of the lemon juice in to the sauce. Taste the sauce and add a few pinches of salt to your preference, then swirl in the remaining butter. Sprinkle with any fresh chopped herbs you'd like.
- Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or with crusty bread. Enjoy!
This recipe was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated with more clear instructions to make the recipe perfectly each time. I hope you love it!