Chicken Puttanesca

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A fantastic meal is less than an hour away, thanks to this bold recipe for Chicken Puttanesca. Tender, juicy chicken thighs are cooked in a vibrant tomato-based sauce with plenty of garlic, olives, capers, and more.

A deep skillet of chicken puttanesca with bone-in thighs and herbs.


With its mouthwatering blend of tomatoes, garlic, capers, and more, puttanesca sauce is a quick but delicious dinner recipe. And, while puttanesca sauce is most famously served over pasta, it’s good on almost anything, including chicken. You can serve this saucy chicken puttanesca dish with your favorite sides including pasta, of course, but it pairs equally well with my Mediterranean rice, these vesuvio potatoes, or just some crusty bread.

I remember making this meal one evening while sipping on a Campari spritz. I have to keep things interesting, you know? The refreshing citrus flavors went so well with the hearty and robust flavors of the puttanesca. What’s more important is that my family loved the dish, and it quickly became a favorite around our dinner table. If you need a warm, simple dinner idea that will stick to your ribs and wake up everybody’s taste buds, this is a great recipe.

What Does Puttanesca Taste Like?

Fans of puttanesca describe it as a truly flavorful sauce with a lot of contrast and depth. The salty, umami taste of the anchovies is one element, while juicy tomato adds a contrasting element. Olives add richness, while briny capers cut through that richness. Plenty of garlic brings it all together.

A deep-sided skillet with chickens in a homemade red sauce.

What Does Puttanesca Mean

Puttanesca has been famously translated to mean “in the style of a prostitute” since the word “puttana” in Italian means, well, a prostitute! But, this slang term can also be interpreted differently: trash, garbage, etc. The likely explanation for the odd name choice is probably that making this pungent sauce is easy, quick, and un-fancy – just throwing some “garbage” or some scraps together to make it a meal.

From top: Chicken thighs, seasonings, olive oil, anchovies, capers, tomatoes, olives, garlic, sliced onion, spices.

Ingredients You’ll Need

To make this flavorful and easy chicken puttanesca recipe, you’ll need a few pantry ingredients along with some fresh items from the grocery store.

  • Chicken:  Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are reliably moist and tender. You can use boneless chicken breasts, but you’ll have to adjust the cooking time because they cook faster than bone-in meat.
  • Salt and Black Pepper: To season the chicken.
  • Oil: A neutral oil, like vegetable oil, is perfect.
  • Onion: Thinly slice one small yellow onion.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic, minced or pressed.
  • Anchovies: Chopped.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: These give the sauce a little kick. Omit them if you don’t want that touch of spiciness. 
  • Tomato Paste: Make sure to use paste, not sauce. Paste is thicker and has a stronger taste.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Boxed or canned. Strained tomatoes would also work. 
  • Olives: Green olives, pitted and cut in half. You can use kalamata olives, too.
  • Capers: Capers are the buds of a flowering bush native to the Mediterranean. They are brined, packed into jars, and are usually sold near the olives and pickles.
  • Parsley: Chopped fresh parsley is a fresh, herbal garnish.

How To Make Chicken Puttanesca

This chicken puttanesca recipe is easy to make. It starts with browning the chicken to enhance its flavor. Follow the step-by-step directions below to create a delicious and hearty chicken recipe that your family will always look forward to.

  1. Brown the chicken. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken thighs, skin-side down, in the pan and let them cook for 5 minutes on either side.
  2. Cook the onions, garlic and anchovies. Remove the browned chicken thighs from the skillet and put them on a clean plate while you work on the sauce. Add the sliced onions to the skillet and cook them for 2 minutes until they have softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 10 seconds. Then add the anchovies and red pepper flakes, and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Add the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes. Stir the tomato paste into the onion mixture until it’s dissolved. Then, stir in the crushed tomatoes, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Add the olives, capers, and chicken. Stir the olives and capers into the sauce. Add the chicken back to the skillet and simmer them for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. (If the sauce begins to look dry at any point, add a couple of tablespoons of chicken broth or water.)
  5. Finish the dish. Once the chicken is fully cooked, take the skillet off of the heat. Garnish the chicken puttanesca with chopped parsley, and serve. 
Chicken in puttanesca sauce.

Recipe Tips

  • Don’t Undercook: With boneless, skinless breasts, it’s important not to overcook the meat, but with chicken thighs, undercooking is an all-too-common disaster. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken thighs reach at least 165°F for food safety. 175°F will give you a more tender, juicy texture.
  • Don’t Overcook: That said, you can also overdo it with chicken thighs. That’s less likely, but it still helps to set a kitchen timer so they don’t simmer away until they dry out.
  • Rinsing Anchovies: Sometimes, rinsing anchovies is necessary. Anchovies packed in oil are ready to use straight from the can. However, those packed in salt are often of higher quality but require cleaning, filleting, and rinsing to remove the excess salt before use.
  • Crispy Skin: Slide the cooked chicken thighs under the broiler for a minute or two, if you want to crisp the skin a bit more.
  • Skinless: You can also remove the skin from the chicken after browning the thighs, if you don’t enjoy skin-on chicken cooked with sauce.

Serving Suggestions

Salad and chicken belong together, and a simple and crisp cabbage cucumber salad is great with chicken puttanesca. Garlic bread would be awesome here, but if there’s time, I highly recommend trying this whole wheat focaccia bread. It’s just right for sopping up that incredible sauce.

Serving a soup starter is a cozy way to introduce this meal. This cream of zucchini soup is a comforting option that’s also very easy to make. To round out the Italian theme, why not try my tiramisu ice cream for dessert? It’s so perfect!

Close-up shot of chicken thighs in red sauce with olives and capers.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and kept in your refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.  To freeze, cool down the chicken and sauce, and pack them into freezer bags or airtight containers. Store in the freezer for 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

Reheat leftovers in a covered skillet over medium-low heat, until piping hot. Don’t overcook or the chicken will be tough.

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4.50 from 8 votes

Chicken Puttanesca

Chicken Puttanesca is a fantastic meal prepared with juicy chicken thighs cooked in a vibrant tomato-based sauce with plenty of garlic, olives, capers, and more.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4


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  • Season the chicken thighs all over with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the oil in a deep-sided large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin-side down, to the heated oil and cook for about 5 minutes; flip and cook for 4 to 5 more minutes or until just browned.
  • Remove the chicken from the skillet and transfer to a plate; set aside.
  • Add the sliced onions to the skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until softened. Add more oil if needed. Stir in the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add anchovies and pepper flakes, and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the tomato paste until dissolved. Then, stir in the crushed tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Mix in the olives and capers.
  • Return the chicken thighs back to the skillet. Continue to simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. If the sauce begins to look dry at any point, add a couple tablespoons of chicken broth or water.
  • Remove from heat and garnish with chopped parsley.
  • Serve the chicken thighs with the puttanesca sauce.


  • Chicken Thighs vs Chicken Breasts: I advise to use bone-in chicken thighs in this recipe, but if you decide to use boneless chicken breasts, take into account that those will need less time to cook through. Use an Instant Read Meat Thermometer to check for doneness. Chicken is cooked through when internal temperature registers at 165˚F. 
  • Crispy Chicken: To crisp up the skin, you can place the pan with the thoroughly cooked chicken under the broiler for a few minutes, or until skin is browned and crispy.
  • Anchovies: If these little slender fish don’t make you want to jump at this recipe, you can always just leave them out. They do add a salty umami flavor to the dish, and play a traditional role in the classic puttanesca sauce. A good substitute for anchovies is sardines.


Calories: 435kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 145mg | Sodium: 821mg | Potassium: 1044mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 811IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 112mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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Recipe Rating:


  1. Tamara says:

    I’ve made this several times and it is so good! My husband and I love it. Thanks for your recipe!

    1. Katerina says:

      I’m so happy to hear that you and your husband love it! Thank you for your kind words! 🙂

  2. Sandra McCollum says:

    I know what I am making this weekend!

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      I hope you’ll enjoy it! 🙂 Thank YOU! 🙂

  3. Erin | Dinners, Dishes and Dessert says:

    Such a satisfying dish! That is definitely a must make!

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      I hope you’ll enjoy it! Thank YOU! 🙂

      1. Vivian says:

        I made this…following your recipe and we LOVED it!! Absolutely delicious!!!

        1. Katerina says:

          Thrilled to hear you loved it! Thank you for trying the recipe and sharing your enthusiasm. Happy cooking! 🙂

    2. Katerina Petrovska says:

      Thank YOU! I hope you love it! 🙂

  4. Catalina says:

    My family will go crazy over this chicken dish! I love all these flavors!

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      I hope everyone loves it! Thank YOU! 🙂

  5. Juliane says:

    Can never go wrong with chicken!! Love this!

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      Thank YOU! Please enjoy! 🙂

  6. Beth says:

    Ooh. I can almost taste this right now. I love that salty anchovy addition to the tomato base with those thighs! Yummo!

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      I hope you’ll love it! Thank YOU! 🙂