Recipe: Coq au vin (chicken braised in wine)

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Go ahead. Impress people. Tell them you’re making coq au vin. It’s just chicken… braised in wine, thus making it fabulous.

In its original French inception, the coq referred to a rooster, typically mean old birds who have worn out their welcome in the hen house. The tough nature of their meat required a long simmer time to soften, aided by the sugar in the wine which helps to break it down. Classic recipes include mushrooms, pearl onions and lardons, small pieces of salted pork. I prefer use a quality bacon over lardons as it lends an earthier flavor. I’ve made this dish with both pearl onions and classic yellow and it’s good both ways. The pearl onions do impart a certain sweetness; they can also be wickedly expensive and can take a dreadfully long time to peel. If you feel you must use pearl onions, consider buying them frozen as they’ll be cheaper and already peeled.  

Given that the odds of finding a rooster at your local Safeway are slim to none, I recommend employing chicken thighs and legs – or the full hind quarter piece with leg and thigh attached. They braise wonderfully as they can take the long simmering process where breast meat will come out as dry as a Christian county in the south on a Sunday.

So although this calls for wine, it’s still quite an economical dish. This is great for entertaining or to prepare weekday meals in advance on the weekday, as it taste better reheated. You don’t need an expensive bottle of wine, just one that you would drink. I’ve made this with inexpensive table wine and a spendy French red and both worked well.

I usually buy two bottles of wine for this dish – one to cook the chicken in, and one to drink with it when it’s done. This dish also calls for brandy or Cognac, and while optional, definitely adds something to the dish. In a rebel mood? Use white wine or an inexpensive sparkling wine in place of red. Seriously, this works. When Mike and I visited the Chablis region once, we ordered coq au vin and lo and behold, it came swimming in the regions famed white. The end flavor tends to be a bit sweeter and lighter, but it’s all good.

Paired with noodles or mashed potatoes, this easily serves six to eight.

Ingredients for coq au vin


3 1/2 pounds (1.5 kgs) boneless chicken thighs, skin removed
3 tablespoons olive oil 
8 ounces (250 g) pancetta or bacon, diced
2 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 2 ½ cups)
4 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
2 medium carrots (about 1 ½ cups)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac
1 (750 ml) bottle of dry red wine, preferably Syrah
4 cloves of chopped garlic
10 sprigs thyme, tied together
or 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cups (750 ml) chicken stock
½ sweet onion, sliced
8 ounces(250 g) brown mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Mashed potatoes or wide noodles

sear the chickenGet the chicken good and brownSauteed aromaticscoq au vin in progressWhat you do:

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a heavy Dutch oven, brown in batches in hot oil over high heat, set aside. It’s important to get the chicken nice and browned, as shown at left. Don’t rush this step; properly browned chicken is a key to the final outcome.

Turn the heat to medium-low and add the pancetta or bacon and cook slowly until slightly browned. Add the onions, celery and carrot and stir until tender. Add the brandy, reduce slightly. Sprinkle with flour and stir until coated.

Return the chicken to the pan. Add the wine, garlic, herbs and chicken stock. The liquid should mostly cover the chicken pieces. Bring the liquid to a boil, skimming off any foam or fat. Cover tightly and place in oven for about two hours or until meat is very tender.

Meanwhile, cook the sweet onions and mushrooms in a medium skillet in 2 tablespoons of butter. Before serving, add the mushrooms, onions and chopped parsley. Check seasonings, adding salt and pepper until it taste right to you.

Updated March 20, 2015

Other recipes of interest:

How to make basic chicken stock (video)
How to use a knife (video)
How to cut up a whole chicken (video)


  1. Thanks Kathleen for this recipe. This reminds me of the recipe we did in Intermediate Cuisone at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, except we were given the option of using fresh pork blood in the dish- although most students opted out. You may not remember me, but I contacted you before setting out to LCB; I’ve now completed two courses there and will complete Superior Cuisine next year. I encountered one chef there who reduced me to tears, but no more!

  2. Wow, this looks great. And much easier than I would have thought. I am trying to cut my sodium, so could I leave out the bacon or pancetta?

  3. Wow, this fantastic. I made this recipe from your first when it came out. The photos are very helpful. I am going to try this one again. It’s getting to be comfort weather already! – Janice

  4. Wow, your site redesign looks great. There is so much content on here, I never realized that. Totally going to try this for a potluck this weekend.

  5. Looks great. I just made your braised pork, so I will try this one next. The last one was great.

    • Great. Coq au vin is nice because it also utilizes inexpensive chicken pieces.

      • I have made this with just stock and no wine with great results. It’s a different dish as the acid and flavor from the wine is what breaks down the protein from the chicken. But if you use a good chicken stock, it will still turn out lovely.

  6. Lustrous! Insanely inviting! Provocative! How intensely I got goosebumps all over!

    One quick question: Is there any substitute for the Wine? 🙂

    Lovely images.

  7. This recipe looks great and I look forward to trying it. A bit confused that the recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but the photos show bone in, skin on chicken leg quarters?

  8. My husband (at that time was a date) and I went to mid-Manhattan to a new restaurant and enjoyed the ambiance. We had Coq au Vin for the first time – well this recipe is exactly as I remember it (we’re talking about 52 years ago). Congratulations on a wonderful recipe, which I will try to copy this many years ago.

  9. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your
    blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  10. I have to say that you are such an inspiration. I have finished reading your book’ The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry and today I got Burnt Toast Makes You Sing and I should be getting The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. I not only love reading your recipes — I love your narrative and how interesting you make the whole cooking experience. You draw me into the story and I feel as if I’m there with you. I love to cook — always have so my kids talked me into starting a blog. I am not spring chicken so it is quite a learning experience, especially with the technical side but I love what I’m doing. Searching for just the right recipe, making it and then writing about it. I am so glad I found you and now I can get periodic updates on what you’re doing. Grazie e buona giornata!

  11. I meant to ask — have you ever made it with white wine as in Nigel Slater’s Coq au Riesling? Would you suggest another wine?

    • I have made this with a white wine but not a riesling. I used a white bordeaux to vaguely recreate a dish from Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. It was also very good, just different. It felt less heavy and had more of a “chicken soup” kind of feel to it, if that makes any sense? I’m going to take note of that and add it to my recipes to develop. Now thank YOU for inspiring me!

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