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.
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This Southern supper recipe has a rich, homemade gravy, which is made from fat drippings after the meat has been browned. We've used stock to make the gravy for the Southern smothered chicken, but if you'd like a white gravy, you can also add in milk.
Traditionally, this Southern dish is made in a large cast-iron skillet on top of the stove. Some cooks say it improves the flavor, but we'll let you be the judge.
Our Southern smothered chicken takes basic pantry staples that are easy to find. Let's talk about the key ingredients.
- Chicken: We used 5 backs and 8 drumsticks with skin.
- Flour: We used all-purpose flour for the coating and to make the roux.
- Butter: We used this fat to brown the meat in, but feel free to substitute if you are allergic to dairy.
- Stock: We used chicken stock for the gravy.
- Spices: We used cayenne pepper, black pepper, kosher salt, fresh thyme sprigs, and fresh sage leaves.
How to Make
Gather all the ingredients for our Southern smothered chicken. Chop up the onion and celery, then mince the garlic. Place in glass prep bowls for ease.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then dredge the pieces in the flour and seasonings. Shake off any extra flour, then reserve ½ cup of flour for making the roux.
- Brown the chicken pieces in two 10-inch skillets for 5 minutes on each side, turning the pieces over carefully to prevent the skin from falling off. Drain on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet.
3. Leave 4 tablespoons of fat in each skillet. Add the divided onion and celery to each skillet, then turn the heat to medium high. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly.
4. Lower the heat to medium, add 3 tablespoons of the reserved flour to each skillet and stir it into the vegetables. Cook the flour and veggies for a minute, then slowly add the 1 ½ cup of broth to each skillet, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps.
5. Cook the gravy for a couple of minutes, until thickened.
6. Add the browned meat pieces back to the skillets and coat each piece with the onion gravy.
7. Add the fresh thyme sprigs and the fresh sage leaves to each skillet.
8. Cover the skillets with lids or foil. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, then carefully flip each piece over, cover, and cook for another 20 minutes.
It's done when a thermometer reads 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.
Garnish the Southern smothered chicken with fresh thyme leaves and serve hot. Enjoy southern smothered chicken with rice, mashed potatoes, or crusty bread to help you eat up the gravy.
In this Southern style recipe, the coating is simply flour and it easily sticks to the moist skin of the meat. For thicker coatings, it is often necessary to dip the meat first into flour and then into a liquid before dipping it into the flour again or another type of breading.
A dish is referred to as smothered when the main ingredient is covered with a sauce or gravy. Typically used with meats it can also be applied to vegetarian and vegetable dishes as well.
Fully prepared and cooked Southern smothered chicken will last for up to five days. For best results, store it in an airtight container.
Since this recipe makes a gravy, two good choices to serve with Southern smothered chicken are mashed potatoes or rice. We 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.
Make ahead: When you make this Southern smothered dish ahead of time 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.
Freeze: To freeze leftovers, let the dish cool completely and place it 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: To heat up smothered chicken again use a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat until warmed through.
- Want a white gravy for Southern smothered chicken? 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 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 for southern smothered chicken? 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 meat is simmering in the gravy.
- For the best flavor, use bone-in, skin-on poultry pieces to make Southern smothered chicken.
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Southern Smothered Chicken
- 13 chicken pieces with skin, 5 backs and 8 drumsticks
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided between two skillets
- 4 cups yellow onion, diced (roughly 3 large onions)
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 4 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 4 cups chicken stock, reserve 1 cup
- 12 thyme sprigs, divided between two skillets
- 6 sage leaves, divided between two skillets
- 4 thyme sprigs, for garnish
- Chop the onions and celery, then mince the garlic. Set aside.
- Rinse the chicken pieces in cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Set aside on two large plates.
- Mix together the flour and seasonings in an 8x8-inch pan. Coat each piece in the flour mixture. Reserve ½ cup (60g) of the leftover flour for making the roux.
- Melt the butter in two large skillets over medium high heat. Place 6 or 7 pieces of coated meat in each skillet, making sure they aren't touching.
- Brown the pieces 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 it on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet.
- Pour the fat from the two skillets into a bowl, then add 2 tablespoons back into each skillet.
- 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.
- 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 ½ cups (354 ml) of broth to each skillet, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Cook the Southern gravy for two minutes, until thickened. (If you want more gravy, double it now.)
- 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.
- Cook over medium low heat for 40 minutes, or until the meat is falling off the bone. Turn the chicken after 20 minutes of cooking. If necessary, add ½ cup 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.
- Garnish your Southern smothered chicken with fresh thyme leaves. Serve warm over rice, mashed potatoes, or with a crusty bread to sop up the gravy.
- When the meat is simmering in the gravy, add fresh herbs.
- Use bone in, skin on chicken pieces for the best flavor.
- Use a cast iron skillet for golden brown color since it has even heat distribution.
- Make sure your gravy isn't evaporating, check halfway through cooking.
This post was originally published on April 13, 2018 and was updated on February 28, 2020. It was republished on June 7, 2022 with resized images and refreshed content.