beer and onion braised chicken

beer braised chicken

I guess we turned the corner on the winter frost, but it’s not exactly shorts and summer dresses from here on out. I woke up this morning to see a gray scene unfolding outside my window. Trench coats, umbrellas, rain boots, temperatures in the low 40s, though I’ll take 40s any day over below freezing, especially after the snowy winter we’ve had. But I hear we’re not quite out of the forest yet – Andrew tells me there might be some snow come mid-March? If only we could pack-up that word along with all the sweaters and scarves and hats until next winter. Who’s with me?

pre-braise browning browning that chicken on all sides

On days like these, I just want to play indoors. I have endless cups of tea to keep me warm and cozy. I like to busy myself in the kitchen rummaging in the fridge and making soups and braise on these gray days because, frankly, that’s all I want to eat when it’s so monochromatic out. To me braising is cooking magic – the pixie dust of transformative power of cooking. You put raw ingredients into a pot, add some liquid for flavor: beer, wine, even water will do; add a few seasonings — and put a lid on the pot. And then, and this is an important step here, so pay attention, you walk away. The walking away part is key here – it’s precisely when you’re not hovering over the pot, that magic (inside the pot) happens. Things yield from tough to tender, grow soft, caramelize, sometimes they even start to disintegrate (never a bad thing). A few hours of slow, patient, gentle cooking – and you have something so fragrant, so meltingly-delicious, that you actually are grateful for days like these, when there’s nothing else to do but make a stew.

onions, my love
carrots, turnips, bay leaves

I’ve been playing around with beer braises all winter long. Lagers, pilsners, ales, stouts – depending on how strong a braise I want, what I’m braising – I switch things around as I feel out flavors. And lately I’ve fallen, hook, line, and sinker, for the dark lagers – like the one in the picture here. McSorley’s offers this malty, caramely flavor, but unlike a stout, it’s lighter and less imposing. It goes perfectly with the the dark meat of the chicken. Now, chicken braised in beer might not be the most traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal, but why not give it consideration? The onions, potatoes, turnip,s and an Irish beer more than make up for the absence of corned beef and cabbage on your plate. Speaking of McSorley’s, I once spent a St. Patrick’s Day there and I can tell you that besides having the most fantastic time, saltines with cheddar, mustard, and onions are the most perfect accompaniment to beer – really!

dark lager. yes, it exists.

I know that sunny, spring-like days are just around the corner – that jeans and blazer weather is almost upon us. But for now, I’ll savor the grayness, the clouds, the rain, and a bowl of this stew for dinner. It’ll pass the time quite nicely, I think.


Beer and Onion Braised Chicken

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or olive oil
4 large chicken thighs with skin and bones
3/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2-3 medium onions, halved from root to stem, and thinly sliced
3 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar, divided
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup beer: ambers and dark lagers shine here (for a gluten-free recipe, use gluten-free beer)
1/2 cup beef stock
1 to 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1/2 pound small creamer potatoes
1 medium turnip, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
2 scallions, white parts only, chopped, for garnish


1. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and allspice. Add chicken to skillet and sauté until brown, about 4 minutes per side; transfer to plate.

2. Add onions and 2 teaspoons brown sugar to skillet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sauté until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Mix in bay leaves, mustard, and remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar. Add chicken, skin side down, then beer, broth, and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Bring to boil.

3. Reduce heat to medium. Add carrots, potatoes and turnip. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Uncover skillet and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens, turning chicken occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and more vinegar, and garnish with scallion, if desired.

Serves 4.


  • Molly

    This stew is perfect for March. Filling and warm, but it won’t weigh you down like a meaty one made in January or February would. I almost want a storm this weekend so I can make this!

  • Kimberley

    Grey days tend to keep me cozily indoors too. I’ve never braised chicken with beer, which is a shame. (To be rectified!) This looks ridiculously good.

  • Nicole

    This looks so good I swear I can smell it! I’m still looking for some St. Patty’s Day recipes. Might have to check this one out.

  • Elizabeth

    This looks wonderful! Unfortunately, it’s rare to have a gray day in San Diego. You’re probably appalled that I’m complaining, but it means that we don’t really have proper occasion to make glorious soups like these. It looks perfect on a cold end-of-winter’s day!

  • Masha

    Looks fantastic! Although you mint want to take off the kosher tag since the recipe calls for butter and chicken in one pot.

  • Sara

    We had this tonight; my husband said the same as the first commenter Molly–perfect meal for March. Great despite me accidentally using 2T of sugar rather than 3t. USed a cut up whole chicken rather than just legs, since that’s what I had–turned out fine. Any suggestions on selecting turnips? I often seem to pick the bitter ones. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • kamran siddiqi

    My grandmother makes an amazing beer chicken. It’s prepared in a much different way than this is prepared, but oh my gosh- I can just smell and taste this now… Looks scrumptious and very appetizing.

  • Radish

    Kamran – I’d love to get your grandmother’s recipe. Perhaps you can do a post and we can cross-link – I think it’ll be good for readers to get a different recipe too! :)

  • Andrew

    I made this last week and it was really good, thanks for the recipe! I ended up adding some paprika and extra pepper near the end because it was a little sweet for my taste, but still delicious.

    I used a pretty high-alcohol Belgian trappist ale for the beer, nice strong flavours but not overpowering.

  • Jennifer

    I stumbled upon your blog when I googled how to make a pantry more useful. I then rummaged through your blog and found this recipe and despite the weather being “hotter than hell”, I thought I could still do this and make this on the side burner that is on my grill outside. So even though I did not get what I googled for, I got something even better-a fellow make from scratch friend! I cannot afford to always go green or eco friendly or even organic, so I try to make everything from scratch and save on the prepackaged costs. Since I did stumble upon your blog and you seem pretty resourceful, maybe you have some ideas on how I can better utilize my pantry-it is a small closet that you can barely walk into and has white wire shelves throughout-I have to stand on a chair and reach, risking my life to put things on the back shelves and higher shelves. I end up putting things on the floor, which just is a mess. HELP!!!!

  • Radish

    Jennifer – first of all, thank you for your kind comment. Secondly, you hit the nail on the head – doing the best you can. I realize that going organic can cost more, so it’s better to make something from scratch that might not be organic, but you know the ingredients that went into it. Insofar as going eco friendly – some of the best, most effective stuff around the house IS eco friendly AND is easy to make from scratch. Wanna take a few pics and email me your pantry? My email is on the “About” page – and we can brainstorm together. Hard to advise having not seen the space. Anyway, shoot me an email and we’ll go from there!

  • Tina

    I recently discovered your blog and I love it. Your recipes are fantastic and I love that you have so many “comfort” dishes (I’m in the Midwest and the snow has been falling!) I have this dish simmering away on the stove and it is smelling delicious. Turnips aren’t a vegetable I’m super familiar with so I didn’t have any on hand. How would you describe their flavor? I thought about adding some cauliflower but I wasn’t sure if that would break down too much. Thanks for the wonderful site!

  • olga

    Tina – turnips are root vegetables and while they look humble, they’re nice and earthy – perfect for chilly evenings. They’re hard to describe, but they have a texture like that of a carrot or parsnips perhaps, but sweeter and more mellow. They are hardy and store well and are actually, if you ever come upon them, glorious when shaved raw in a salad with a little lemon juice and olive oil and salt. I hope the dish turned out okay. If you ever need a sub, just use potatoes, carrots, parsnips – whatever good root vegetable you have on hand. Oh, and thank you for being a reader!

Leave a Comment