Southern smothered chicken with homemade gravy is a popular low carb comfort food served in the South.  Traditionally made in a cast iron skillet, it will quickly become a family dinner favorite.  Use drumsticks, thighs, or backs to make this simple meal idea.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
smothered chicken in a cast iron skillet
Chicken, Main Course, Meat

Southern Smothered Chicken

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This post was originally published on April 13, 2018.

Southern smothered chicken is a popular Southern comfort food.  If you’re from the South, you might have grown up eating this dish on Sundays as the special meal of the week.

person holding a cast iron skillet filled with Southern smothered chicken

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You might be used to having your chicken cooked with onions only, or maybe your Mom threw in other vegetables like celery, green peppers or carrots.  Either way, the vegetables you choose play an important part not only in the nutritional value of this dish, but also improve the overall flavor.

smothered chicken in a cast iron skillet

What is smothered chicken?

Smothered chicken is covered with a rich, homemade gravy, which is made from the fat drippings after the chicken has been browned.  I’ve used chicken stock to make the gravy, but if you’d like a white gravy, you can also add in milk.

Traditionally, smothered chicken is made in a large cast iron skillet on top of the stove.  Some cooks say it improves the flavor, but I’ll let you be the judge. 

holding a drumstick above a cast iron skillet

Is Southern Smothered Chicken fried?

Yes, and no.  It is dredged in flour and browned in chicken fat or butter, but then it finishes cooking in a homemade gravy. 

What goes with Southern Smothered Chicken?

Since this recipe makes a gravy, two good choices to serve this with would be mashed potatoes or rice.  I personally like to serve it with a slice of crusty buttered bread to sop up the gravy.  Yum!  Green beans and fresh tomato wedges would also be easy side dishes to round out your meal.

closeup of smothered chicken in a cast iron skillet

How many calories are in Southern Smothered Chicken?

First of all, this is comfort food.  It’s known for how tasty it is, and not for being a low calorie dish.  But for readers who are counting their calories, one piece of chicken is 410 calories.  You can find out more about the nutrition facts for this recipe if you scroll down past the recipe.

person holding a drumstick of Southern smothered chicken

Can you make southern smothered chicken ahead of time?

Yes, you can, but make sure to make a lot of gravy.  Like many recipes, it tastes best when it’s freshly made, but if time is tight, make it earlier in the day.

Can I freeze southern smothered chicken?

Absolutely!  If you have any leftovers, let the chicken cool completely and place in an airtight container or a freezer friendly zip top bag.  It can be frozen for up to 1 month.  When ready to use, thaw overnight in the fridge.  Reheat in a cast iron skillet on the stove top over medium low heat until warmed through.

smothered chicken drumsticks and backs in cast iron skillet

How to make Southern Smothered Chicken

Gather all the ingredients.  Chop up the onion and celery, then mince the garlic.  Place in glass prep bowls for ease.

ingredients for smothered chicken

Rinse the chicken pieces in cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.

Place the flour and seasonings in an 8×8-inch pan, then stir until well mixed.

adding spices to flour

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and shake off any extra flour.  Reserve 1/2 cup of flour for making the roux.

coating the chicken pieces in flour

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in two 10-inch cast iron skillets.  Add 6 or 7 pieces of chicken to each skillet, making sure the pieces don’t touch each other. 

melted butter in a cast iron skillet

After a few minutes, turn the heat down to medium low to prevent the skin from burning.  Brown the chicken pieces for 5 minutes each side.  Carefully turn the pieces over to prevent the skin from falling off.

searing the chicken pieces in a cast iron skillet

Drain the chicken on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet.

draining the seared chicken pieces on paper towels

Leave 4 tablespoons of chicken fat in each skillet.  If you don’t have enough fat, add salted butter.

adding fat into cast iron skillet

Add the divided onion and celery to each skillet, then turn the heat to medium high.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

sprinkling salt and pepper on celery and onion

Sauté the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly.

cooking celery and onions in a cast iron skillet

Lower the heat to medium, add 3 tablespoons of the reserved flour to each skillet and stir it in to the vegetables.

adding flour to cooked onions in cast iron skillet

Cook the flour and veggies for a minute, then slowly add the 1 1/2 cup of chicken broth to each skillet, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps.

pouring chicken stock into cast iron skillet

Cook the gravy for a couple of minutes, until thickened.

whisking onion gravy in a cast iron skillet

Add the browned chicken pieces back to the skillets and coat each piece with the onion gravy.

spooning gravy over smothered chicken pieces

Add the fresh thyme sprigs and the fresh sage leaves to each skillet.

adding thyme and sage to smothered chicken

Cover the skillets with lids or foil to speed up the cooking time and to prevent the gravy from reducing. 

covering cast iron skillet with foil

Cook the chicken over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.  If necessary, remove the chicken and add the reserved chicken stock to have more gravy.  Carefully flip each chicken piece over, cover and cook for another 20 minutes.  Depending on how brown the chicken is getting, you may need to reduce the temperature just a bit if you’re not using a cast iron skillet.

Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer.  It should read 165 F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.

smothered chicken in a cast iron skillet

Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and serve the chicken hot or warm.  Enjoy the smothered chicken with rice, mashed potatoes, or crusty bread to help you eat up the gravy.

holding a drumstick above a cast iron skillet

Pro Tips for Making Southern Smothered Chicken

  • Want a white gravy? Add 1 cup of milk after the gravy has cooked for two minutes, then cook for three minutes.
  • Want more vegetables?  Add green pepper and carrots with the celery and onions.
  • Want other spices? Try garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika.
  • Want some other add ins? Try crumbled bacon and sautéed mushrooms.
  • Want a different garnish?  Substitute fresh chopped parsley for the fresh thyme leaves.
  • Want a golden brown color?  Use a cast iron skillet.  It has even heat distribution.
  • Check halfway through cooking to make sure the gravy isn’t evaporating.
  • Add fresh herbs when the chicken is simmering in the gravy.
  • For the best flavor, use bone in, skin on chicken pieces.

kitchen products used for smothered chicken

Our Go-To Kitchen Tools for Southern Smothered Chicken

Actually, this chicken recipe is an easy version of the French chicken fricassee.  Serve your smothered chicken with Southern sides like our collard greens, skillet cornbread and sweet tea.

Here’s some other delicious Southern food your family will love to round out this meal.

Skillet Cornbread: super-easy cornbread that's moist, crumbly, and slightly sweet. | www.savortheflavour.com Southern Collard Greens: a tasty and nutritious Southern classic flavored with smoked ham hocks. | www.savortheflavour.com Southern Sweet Tea: a super fast and delicious Southern drink. | www.savortheflavour.com

The pleasure of a 5-star review of this southern smothered chicken recipe would be greatly appreciated.

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smothered chicken in a cast iron skillet

Southern Smothered Chicken


  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 13 servings 1x

Description

Southern smothered chicken with homemade gravy is a popular low carb comfort food served in the South.  Traditionally made in a cast iron skillet, it will quickly become a family dinner favorite.  Use drumsticks, thighs, or backs to make this simple meal idea.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 13 chicken pieces with skin (5 backs and 8 drumsticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (180g)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided between two skillets (57g)
  • 4 cups yellow onion, diced (roughly 3 large onions)  (576g)
  • 1 cup celery, diced (123g)
  • 4 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock (reserve 1 cup) (946 ml)
  • 12 thyme sprigs, divided between two skillets
  • 6 sage leaves, divided between two skillets
  • 4 thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Chop the onions and celery, then mince the garlic.  Set aside.
  2. Rinse the chicken pieces in cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.  Set aside on two large plates.
  3. Mix together the flour and seasonings in an 8×8-inch pan.  Coat each chicken piece in the flour mixture.  Reserve 1/2 cup (60g) of the leftover flour for making the roux.
  4. Melt the butter in two large skillets over medium high heat.  Place 6 or 7 pieces of coated chicken in each skillet, making sure they aren’t touching.
  5. Brown the chicken by cooking it for 5 minutes per side, until the skin is golden brown.  After a couple of minutes of cooking, turn down the heat to medium low.  Drain the chicken on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet.
  6. Pour the fat from the two skillets into a bowl, then add 2 tablespoons back into each skillet.
  7. Divide the onion and celery between the two skillets, then turn to medium high heat.  Sprinkle the vegetables with kosher salt and black pepper and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  8. Lower the heat to medium.  Add 3 tablespoons of the reserved flour mixture to each skillet to create a roux.  Whisk the flour with the fat and vegetables and cook for a minute.  Slowly add 1 1/2 cups (354 ml) of chicken broth to each skillet, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Cook the gravy for two minutes, until thickened.
  9. Add the browned chicken pieces back to the skillets and coat each piece with the gravy.  Top with the fresh thyme and fresh sage.  Cover the skillets with lids or aluminum foil to speed up the cooking time and to prevent the gravy from reducing.
  10. Cook over medium low heat for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is falling off the bone.  Turn the chicken after 20 minutes of cooking.  If necessary, add 1/2 cup chicken stock to each skillet to create more gravy.  The meat thermometer should read 165 F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.  If you prefer, you can place your covered cast iron skillet in a 350F oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
  11. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves.  Serve warm over rice, mashed potatoes, or with a crusty bread to sop up the gravy.

Notes

  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this Southern smothered chicken recipe would greatly be appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: southern, soul food

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8 thoughts on “Southern Smothered Chicken

  1. I like the thyme on the smothered chicken. It gives it a nice flavor. I like the sauce on the chicken and I love the chicken.

  2. Southern Smothered Chicken is very juicy and the gravy adds a delicious flavor to the chicken 🍗. Drumsticks are my favorite, since they have dark meat.

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