Chicken Thighs braised with tomato, onion and chipotle meets a spicy creamy tequila sauce for a very special dinner entree. Reducing the heavy cream by half by simmering stove-top, creates an incredibly rich base for this creamy tequila sauce.
About This Recipe and Why it Works
If braising isn’t a technique that you’ve added to your repertoire, I’m hoping this recipe will inspire you give it a try.
Braising simply involves browning meat crispy and then covering it with enough liquid to submerge the meat half way and adding spices and vegetables to season. The mixture is then placed in the oven and the flavors that have been added will infuse into the meat.
For this tequila chicken recipe, chicken thighs are browned and then covered with onions, tomatoes, garlic and chipotle chile powder. The braising liquid is chicken broth.
The goal of braising is to keep that crispy fried chicken skin above the level of the liquid to keep it from getting soggy while maintaining the flavors of the dish for a true comfort food experience.
The chicken itself is seasoned with a spicy red chipotle chile powder along with a tomato base. A match made in heaven.
That in turn calls for a luscious sauce, and for this recipe we’re making a creamy tequila sauce.
The acidity of the tomato based braised chicken blends and balances beautifully with the creaminess of the sweet rich creamy sauce.
This is a recipe that was created by one of the chef instructors at Culinary School and was so popular it was placed as a regular instructional recipe for the evening recreational classes.
Serve these braised chicken thighs topped with tequila cream sauce with cheesy polenta or rice as a base. A lovely and special dinner to enjoy with friends.
Let’s take a look.
Ingredients for Braised Chipotle Chicken Thighs
- Bone-in, skin on chicken thighs: About 1 1/2 pounds. Patted dry with a paper towel.
- Onion: Sweet or yellow onion, cut into rings.
- Chipotle Chile Powder: Brings a smoky and spicy flavor to the chicken.
- Chopped tomatoes: Canned tomatoes work great for this recipe, but when in season fresh chopped tomatoes are always a better option.
- Garlic: One clove, chopped.
Ingredients For Creamy Tequila Sauce
- Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce: Just a couple. I lay them flat on a cutting board and scrape out the seeds and veins. They’re HOT if you don’t. And always make sure to grab a bit of the adobo sauce.
- Shallot: We used a lot of shallots in Culinary School. Shallots have a delicate and sweet onion flavor. They’re perfect for this creamy sauce.
- Brown Sugar: Light brown sugar brings a sweet balance to the creamy tequila sauce.
- Butter: I always use unsalted so I can control the saltiness. A sauce wouldn’t be a great sauce without butter.
- Heavy Whipping Cream: This recipe calls for reducing the cream by simmering it before making the sauce. A lower fat content product like regular cream or half and half just won’t thicken during the reduction process. Use heavy whipping cream here.
- Tequila: Any kind of tequila will work. Just use what you have on hand.
- Tarragon: Adding just 1/4 teaspoon will add a pungent licorice like flavor to the sauce.
- Chicken: Mix up the chicken pieces if you’d like. Use chicken breast or chicken legs. Mix and match, but make sure you’re using bone-in, skin-on. You need crispy skin for a successful braise, and the bones bring flavor.
- Chicken Breasts: Use 4 large chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs. Once the chicken breasts are done, shred the meat and place over polenta. Polenta cakes are fun with this method.
- Chipotle Chile Powder: If you don’t have chipotle chile powder, you can use an equal amount of hot smoked paprika.
- Shallot: If you don’t have a shallot, you can use an equal amount of sweet onion.
- Brown Sugar: This recipe calls for light brown sugar, but dark brown sugar will work as well. You’ll just have a richer molasses type flavor.
How To Make The Braised Chicken Thighs
Step 1: Getting a good sear on the chicken is the most important step of this recipe. In a hot pan, drizzle in a small amount of oil. Canola oil is recommended. Olive oil doesn’t have a high heat index to properly brown. Once the oil is hot, sear chicken skin side down. Do not turn the chicken until the skin releases from the pan to reveal a deep golden sear. Then turn the chicken and cook an additional 2 – 3 minutes on the underside. And don’t be afraid of heat. Keep that pan hot over medium high heat.
Step 2: Transfer chicken, skin side up, to an oven safe safe dish. A 5 quart Dutch oven works wonderful. Toss with chipotle powder, garlic, onion and tomatoes. Add enough chicken broth to cover the the chicken only half-way. Cover the pot and braise until chicken is cooked to an internal temperate of 165 degrees.
Prepare the Creamy Tequila Sauce
Step 3: Reduce the cream: Add cream to a small non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer and Cook for approximately thirty minutes to reduce in volume by half. Do not scrape the bottom of the saucepan with a spoon as scraping the pan dislodges the caramelized whey, altering the color and flavor of the cream.
Step 4: While the cream is reducing, start preparing the additional ingredients for the tequila sauce. With a knife, remove the veins and seeds of the canned chipotle peppers. Place the peppers in a small food processor and chop the chipotle chile peppers in adobo into a paste-like consistency. Be sure to grab a little bit of the adobo sauce when fishing those peppers out of the can.
Step 5: In a small saucepan, brown butter over medium high heat. Once it’s starting to turn golden in color, turn down heat, add shallot and cook until tender.
Step 6: Add the chipotle puree and the brown sugar, heating until the sugar is dissolved. Raise heat to medium high, add tequila and cook for two minutes for alcohol to evaporate.
Step 7: Whisk in the reduced heavy cream and tarragon.
To serve, place rice or polenta on a serving plate. Lean the chicken part way onto the side dish and drizzle with the creamy tequila sauce.
Tip For Success
Always use Grade A heavy whipping cream for reductions. Lower grades have a higher proportion of impurities that can diminish the quality of the reduction.
Be sure to keep your heat on low heat while cooking and reducing the cream. Milk solids in heavy cream can scorch easily and give the reduction a burnt taste.
Simply do not skip the step of letting the tequila boil off once adding it to the sauce ingredients. The result will be a very strong tequila alcohol flavor that will overpower the sauce. Two minutes is a good base line.
Always pat chicken dry with a paper towel. Extra moisture will inhibit browning. Always start with a hot pan over medium high heat, then add cold oil. Once the oil is shimmering, place the chicken skin side down in the pan. Using tongs, test the chicken after about 5-7 minutes. If the chicken skin is still not releasing from the pan, that means the chicken has not started to brown yet. Only turn when the chicken is ready, or you’ll rip the skin from the thighs.
This tequila sauce is also excellent served on pulled pork. Place a hand full of pulled pork over polenta cakes and drizzle with sauce.
Recipe for Chipotle Chicken with Creamy Tequila Sauce
I hope you give this recipe for Chipotle Chicken with Tequila Sauce a try, and if you do, please come back and give the recipe a star rating and leave a message about your experience with the recipe.
And if you have a favorite recipe for tequila chicken, let me know, I’d love to give it a try.
More Recipes Using Tequila
- Queso Fundido al Tequila
- Spicy Tequila Lime Fish Tacos with Cod
- Hatch Chile Burgers with Tequila Lime Seasoning
Chipotle Chicken Thighs with Creamy Tequila Sauce
- For the Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds Chicken thighs or breasts
- 1 Tablespoons Chipotle Chile Powder
- 6 cloves garlic rough chopped
- 1 large sweet onion sliced
- 2 cans diced tomatoes drained
- 1-2 cups chicken stock
- salt/pepper to taste
- For The Tequila Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 1 medium shallot minced
- 2-3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce pureed
- 1 cup Grade A heavy whipping cream reduced
- 1/4 cup tequila
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/4 teaspoon tarragon or Mexican Oregano
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- For the Chicken
- Getting a good sear on the chicken is the most important step of this recipe. In a hot pan, drizzle in a small amount of oil. Sear chicken skin side down. Do not turn the chicken until the skin releases with a deep golden sear. Then turn the chicken and cook an additional 2 – 3 minutes on the underside. And don't be afraid of heat. Keep that pan hot over medium high heat.
- Transfer chicken, skin side up, to an oven safe safe dish. A 5 quart Dutch oven works wonderful. Toss with chipotle powder, garlic, onion and tomatoes. Add enough chicken broth to cover the the chicken only half-way.
- Cover and braise until chicken is cooked to an internal temperate of 165 degrees. About 30 – 45 minutes.
- For the Creamy Tequila Sauce:
- Reduce the cream. Add cream to a small non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer and Cook for approximately 30 minutes to reduce in volume by half. Do not scrape the bottom of the saucepan with the spoon as scraping the pan dislodges the caramelized whey, altering the color and flavor of the cream.
- While the cream is reducing, start preparing the additional ingredients. With a knife, remove the veins and seeds of the chipotle chile peppers. Place the peppers n a small food processor, chop the chipotle chile peppers in adobo into a paste like consistency. Be sure to grab a little bit of the adobo sauce when fishing those peppers out of the can.
- In a small saucepan, brown butter over medium high heat. Once the butter has started to turn a golden color, turn down heat, add shallot and cook until tender. Add the chipotle puree and the brown sugar, heating until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium high and add tequila and cook for 1-2 minutes for alcohol to evaporate. Whisk in the reduced heavy cream and tarragon and remove from heat. Keep warm.
- Remove the braised chicken thighs from the braising liquid to a plate.
- To serve, spoon some of the sauce onto individual dinner plates. Add a scoop of rice or polenta and lean the chicken halfway on the polenta and halfway into the sauce.
Chipotle Chicken Thighs with Creamy Tequila Sauce … It’s what’s for dinner.