Quick enough for a weeknight WFH dinner but pretty enough for a celebration, Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges surprises. Tart and bright, but balanced, this goes great with mashed potatoes. I first made this for my solo Thanksgiving last year. Recipe in post.

Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges: a beautiful dish without a real recipe . . . until now

Last year, I had a solo Thanksgiving, and I made Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges. Cook Yourself a Merry Little Solo Christmas Dinner, one of my very first posts, featured a photo of it, but I didn’t give the recipe. Mostly that was because I’d cooked it without a recipe. I just wanted to have something like turkey and cranberry sauce, but I didn’t feel like making a whole vat of cranberry sauce that I would not finish.

What I’d missed the first time

While the finished dish last year proved absolutely delicious, I really needed to adjust the sauce (I’d underestimated the required brown sugar, and I had added the orange slices along with the chicken). Upping the sugar and cooking most of the orange slices, plus a few other tweaks, to help build the sauce did the trick. Issues figured out, I’m now happy share an actual recipe with you.

Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges
Ingredients for the simple marinade

Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges: pretty and doable

Not only is this tasty and comforting, but it’s pretty enough for a celebration. It cooks up in less than an hour, and so long as you can get the marinade going (don’t skip the marinade—it’s what flavors the chicken), you could also easily make it on a weeknight. Happy Wednesday? Aside from the cranberries, you likely already have the ingredients on hand, and there aren’t any fancy techniques.

Start the chicken in a cold pan. Yes, really

But there is one trick. Start the chicken in a cold pan. This gets you shatteringly crisp skin. I learned this trick from this Bon Appétit recipe (I had this recipe on my mind when winging the dish last year), and it works.

Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges
Cranberries, orange, shallots, rye, and brown sugar form the sauce that cooks with the chicken

Get a little boozy, and cook things down before putting in the oven

After browning the chicken, it’s just a question of building the sauce. Adding a little Bourbon or rye lends a nice touch and cooking down the cranberries until they just start to break down before putting everything in the oven ensures that the sauce will be ready when your chicken is. If you still find the sauce a bit too tart for your liking, never ye fret. You can adjust the sauce to your liking without sacrificing the pretty, thanks to a couple of orange slices added for presentation purposes. You’ll find instructions for adjusting in the recipe.

Having a solo (or small) Thanksgiving? Make it one to remember

I’m headed off to visit family this year for Thanksgiving, but I made sure to make this dish for myself anyway, working out the kinks from the first time and getting everything written down. If you’re planning a solo (or small) Thanksgiving this year, consider this for your main. Check out the Wonder & Sundry Recipe Box for a couple of sides or consider starting your meal with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and serving Brussels Sprouts Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette. Maybe snack on some Marinated Olives with a glass of wine while you prepare your feast?

Sometimes, I really am just going where the sundry takes me on this blogging concern, but other times, I actually do have a bit of plan. Tune in next week for dessert.

Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges

Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges

Quick enough for a weeknight WFH dinner but pretty enough for a celebration, Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges surprises. Tart and bright, but balanced, this goes great with mashed potatoes.
Starting the chicken in a cold pan results in shatteringly crisp skin. It may sound counterintuitive, but it really does work. Make sure to marinate the chicken for at least two hours, but it's better if you can marinate it longer.
This recipe should result in a finished sauce that is still tart, but not puckery. There's instructions for how to adjust if you find that it's a bit too tart.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Marinating 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American


  • cast iron frying pan


  • 2 chicken leg quarters can substitute 4 chicken thighs

For the Marinade

  • ½ large orange, juiced
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed should be on the smaller side. Use half if a large clove
  • kosher salt

To Cook

  • 1 tbsp neutral oil just enough to coat the skillet
  • 2 shallots, quartered if large, as they often can be in the US, use 1 or 1 and 1/2. If they are large, then cut into six pieces
  • ½ orange, sliced, plus a couple more slices for presentation
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2 tbsp Bourbon or rye I used rye, because that's what I had
  • cup light brown sugar you can start with less if you want to and adjust after the dish has cooked
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • kosher salt to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste


Marinate the Chicken

  • Generously salt the chicken
  • Add all the ingredients to a bowl or a ziploc bag and then add the chicken. Mix to coat thoroughly. Cover, if using a bowl
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 but preferably 4 hours or longer, mixing a few times to make sure that the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • 30 minutes before you plan to start cooking, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Transfer the chicken to a safe surface, patting it dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade.

Cook the Chicken

  • Preheat the oven to 425° and ensure that you have the a rack in the middle of the oven
  • Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and swirl it around to make sure that it's coating. Add the chicken, skin side down to the cold pan. Then, turn the heat up to medium high.
    Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges
  • Leave the chicken undisturbed as it browns, though move the pan around to ensure even browning. Check after about five minutes. Be careful; the chicken will splatter. Once the skin is nice and browned, remove the chicken from the pan to a plate (skin side up)
    Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges
  • Add the shallots to the pan and stir and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for a couple of minutes until they get some color on them and start to soften. If they're getting a lot of color, turn down the heat a bit more
  • Add the orange slices from the half an orange, reserving some for presentation. Give everything a good stir and cook for a minute or so, stirring gently so as not to break up the oranges too too much (some will break up, and that's totally fine)
  • Add the cranberries and stir. They might pop some. Cook for a minute or so and then add the Bourbon or rye. Stir and reduce (this is quick)
    Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges
  • Reduce heat to low and add the brown sugar. Mix thoroughly and then add the thyme. Cook for another two minutes or so, until the cranberries start to soften. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Turn off the heat
    Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges
  • Add the chicken on top, skin side up. Add three or four orange slices and tuck them around the chicken
    Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges
  • Roast until the chicken reaches 165 degrees, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven
  • Take a cranberry, and, when it is cool enough, taste it. If you're satisfied with the sweetness (remembering that it's going to be tart, and it will complement the rest of the dish. You just don't want to be shocked), then just let the chicken rest in the skillet for about ten minutes and serve it from there (pretty, isn't it?). This is what should happen, but we're all different
    Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges
  • If it's too puckery, fret not. Remove the chicken and the presentation orange slices to a plate (you may wish to cover with foil to keep it warm). Then, turn the heat on medium and add a little more brown sugar (think a heaping teaspoon) and mix. Taste again and repeat if necessary (it shouldn't be)
  • Plate chicken with some of the sauce and a presentation slice of orange
    Cranberry Roasted Chicken with Oranges


Keyword chicken, cranberry, orange, roast chicken
Tried this recipe?Let me know what you think!