Chicken with Apple & Creamy Cider Gravy

A one-skillet chicken supper, simple, savory and satisfying, just moist, full-flavored chicken thighs cradled in a creamy mahogany-colored gravy made with apple cider, apple, onion and a tiny splash of bourbon. (No flour!) Plus I share my favorite technique for pulling all the flavor from chicken skins without adding all the calories. It's brilliant if I may say so myself!

Chicken with Apple & Creamy Cider Gravy ♥, a one-skillet chicken dish, perfect for fall. Full-flavored chicken thighs cradled in creamy gravy made with apple cider.

Real Food, Fresh & Seasonal. Budget Friendly. Simple, savory, satisfying. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. One-Pot Meal. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free.

How Do We Mourn a Tree?

Large oak tree in autumn ♥

A Good Oak, 1892 – 2008
Here lie the roots of an old friend,
an oak that shaded our lives in summer,
dropped acorns for the squirrels,
shed leaves to rake,
cut craggly patterns into winter skies.
Gone but not Forgotten.

When I visit my family home in the north woods of Minnesota, I visit the trees, too.

There’s the clump in whose V the neighbor girls crafted doll beds of crimson poppy petals. There’s the birch where family photographs were taken, recording new rings in both tree and children.

After I cut a boy’s initials into the trunk of the poplar by the road, my forester father sat me down for a serious talk. “Trees are living beings,” he taught.

All the hundred towns in my hometown of St. Louis are thick with trees. Flying into the city, a window seat gives evidence, vast tracts of green.

Oaks and maples take a couple of generations to grow tall.

A storm takes one down, or severs a limb, in seconds. A man with a chainsaw requires 15 minutes.

Justice prevails it seems, when it takes the man and a chipper a day to remove the tree’s roots, its marker, its grave, but no, never, not its memory.

I wrote this column the year when neighbors removed a small but healthy tree. And then the next year, neighbors on the other side removed a healthy 100-year old oak tree.

Some decisions, there's no understanding.

When we lose an old friend, we know the expressions of grief: we cry, we console, we deliver casseroles.

But how should an old tree be mourned? Often, the gravestump remains, raw, harsh, ugly.

The healthy 100-year old oak tree outside my office window, before.
Collage showing a healthy 100-year oak being cut down.
The healthy 100-year old oak tree outside my office window, gone.

But the Chicken. Oh! The Chicken!

Most years, a seasonal switch seems to well, switch, mid-October-ish. Here in the Middle of the Midwest (that would be Missouri ...), September, October and even November are glorious. Leaves literally turn color overnight. If the weather is dreary, you might even miss the switchover.

Gone are garden tomatoes, fresh sweet corn. But there's no missing them because the autumn food season is so compelling, apples, pumpkins, onions, winter squashes.

And after a summer's worth of salads, the kitchen begins to call in some different way too.

I move a few favorite fall recipes to the "make soon" place at the front of my 3x5 recipe box. Chicken Cider Stew. Ribs & Sauerkraut for Slow Cooker or Dutch Oven. Slow-Cooked or Slow Cooker Pot Roast. Slow Cooker Braised Lamb Shanks or Venison Shanks.

And chicken draped in a mahogany-colored gravy studded with apple and onion. It's one of my oldest recipes but we look forward to making it every single year, at least once, usually more often.

Recently, I put together a pretty "bowl" version. Meal-prepped rice on the bottom. Meal-prepped sweet potatoes, cooked in a slow cooker then mashed with a little feta. Finally the chicken and apple-gravy on top, sprinkled with a few bits of fresh sage. Heavenly ...

So glad I made a double batch. Leftovers!

How to Make Chicken with Apple & Creamy Cider Gravy

it's just two easy steps.

Cook the Chicken Thighs Season and brown the thighs in a skillet, putting a little sear on the meat. Then cover the skillet and let the thighs finish cooking for about 30 minutes. While the meat cooks, there's lots of time to prep for the gravy, make a salad, empty the dishwasher, meal-prep something for tomorrow, call your sister, fold the laundry, etc. Or maybe pour yourself a glass of iced cider and just relax?

Make the Gravy. Set the cooked chicken aside, leaving the juices in the skillet to flavor the gravy. Now simmer the onion and apple until soft, just keep an eye out, you don't want these to brown, just gently cook. Stir in the apple cider and simmer until the liquid cooks down about half, thickening the gravy. To finish the gravy, stir in a little cream.

What's In This Chicken? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • Chicken Thighs There's just no doubt, chicken thighs are more flavorful and more forgiving than chicken breasts. This recipe works equally well with bone-in thighs or boneless, skinless thighs. If using bone-in thighs, pull off all the skins before cooking the meat: this saves so many calories. But let's say you have chicken breasts on hand but still want to give this recipe a try. I'd cook the chicken breasts separately, baking, grilling, etc. Then I'd slip them into the skillet with the apple cider, letting the chicken juices flavor the gravy without overcooking the breasts.
  • Cooking Fat This is a chef's trick! The meat is cooked in a mixture of butter and olive oil. The butter adds that coveted buttery flavor but the oil has a higher "smoke" point. That's important because the thighs are going to cook on the stove for a half hour. That 50:50 mix of butter:oil means the thighs won't burn. You do need to keep an eye out but the mixture really helps. Could you use all oil? Sure, no problem. Could you use all butter? No, I wouldn't.
  • Seasoning The meat is seasoned with no more than salt, pepper and dried sage. So good! Should you buy sage especially for this chicken? Nawww. A meat seasoning blend will work just fine. Check what you have, think fall, pick something that just sounds good.
  • Apple & Onion The combo really works. I like to chop these really fine so they distribute evenly but really, you could cut these in large wedges and completely change the look and feel of the chicken. What kind of apple? Anything you have on hand! What kind of onion? Any kind you have on hand, including shallot.
  • Apple Cider We're always so happy when apple cider appears in the fall! My husband drinks it up but me, I like to cook with it. Just check all the apple cider recipes. No apple cider? Apple juice will also work but you'll want to add a splash of apple cider vinegar at the end to cut the sweetness.
  • Bourbon and Soy Sauce Bourbon adds a lovely note but is definitely optional. Soy sauce adds both color and a touch of umami, that savory essence that adds to so many dishes. No soy sauce? Try Worcestershire sauce, maybe even hoisin sauce, something dark and sauce-y.
  • Cream A small measure of cream at the end finishes the gravy. It also helps to thicken the gravy. So good! Would half & half work? Definitely.

About Chicken Skin: A Trick

What's your take on chicken skin? Some people l-o-v-e chicken skin but me, not so much, it's the texture and also the calories. Yeah I'm that person who takes the skin off fried chicken ...

But I do know that chicken skins add flavor to dishes too. That's why I use a quick 'n' easy trick to add flavor but avoid the calories and texture.

  • Buy bone-in chicken, the skins will be on.
  • Pull off the skins. Discard all but one.
  • Brown the chicken and that one chicken skin.
  • Some time along the way, pull out and discard the chicken skin.

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How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe for chicken with a creamy cider gravy hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Chicken with Apple & Creamy Cider Gravy ♥, a one-skillet chicken dish, perfect for fall. Full-flavored chicken thighs cradled in creamy gravy made with apple cider.


Hands-on time: 10 minutes to start & 10 minutes to finish
Time to table: 50 minutes
Serves 4
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter (for flavor)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (for its low smoke point)
  • 1-1/4 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken thighs or 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt & pepper
  • Dried ground sage
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 apple, skin on, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (or sherry, rum or another liquor), optional
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt & pepper to taste

CHICKEN In a large well-seasoned or non-stick skillet, heat the butter and oil on medium heat until shimmery.

For bone-in, skin-on thighs, remove the chicken skins, discarding all but one. Place the one skin plus the thighs rough-side down in the skillet (they should sizzle). Otherwise, for boneless, skinless thighs, place the thighs in the skillet rough-side down. Season with salt, pepper and sage, then let cook without moving for 5 minutes. Turn the thighs over, season, cook another 5 minutes. Cover, let cook for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat to avoid burning.

With tongs, transfer the thighs to a plate, keep warm. If needed, discard the single chicken skin.

CREAMY CIDER GRAVY Add the onion and apple, stir to coat and let cook just until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cider, bourbon and soy sauce. Increase the heat to medium high, bring liquid to a fast simmer with lots of bubbles. Stirring often, let cook until cider reduces by about half.

Stir in the cream, let cook, stirring often, until sauce turns mahogany and thickens.

TO SERVE Serve chicken with Creamy Cider Gravy draped over the top. It's completely wonderful with fall's "winter" squash like butternut, hubbard, acorn and more. In the photo is Acorn Squash Roasted Face Down but there are so many ways to cook winter squash. Here are My Favorite Winter Squash Recipes!

ALANNA's TIPS No cream? Use a tablespoon of butter instead, this too will serve to thicken the gravy. Be sure to cool down the skillet with the apple cider before adding the bourbon. We don't want to have the skillet flame up like a flambé, even a tablespoon of alcohol can surprise you.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving: 277 Calories; 12g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 118mg Cholesterol; 344mg Sodium; 17g Carb; 2g Fiber; 11g Sugar; 23g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 6 & PointsPlus 7 & SmartPoints 9 & Freestyle 7 & myWW green 7 & blue 7 & purple 7

More Fast Chicken Recipes Perfect for Fall

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Old-Fashioned Brunswick Stew Black Beans & Rice Skillet Casserole with Smoked Chicken Champion Chicken
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from Kitchen Parade

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Hmmm... does appear strange. Maybe they wanted more light to reach their house/lawn. Or maybe it was diseased. We had to take down a big maple a few years ago when we discovered (while trimming it up) that it was hollow down one side. We had no idea! Thankfully it hadn't fallen on our house or a car before we discovered this.

    Cider gravey, huh? I've never heard of such a thing, but it does sound delicious.

  2. They have been chainsawing in my neighborhood for weeks. Each time I see a healthy tree go down--and I look at all the cut up trunks--a bit of me dies.

    It's so horrible.

    in sympathy.

  3. Sally ~ No, it was a healthy tree. A sick tree I would mourn but understand. This tree was big, because this is an old neighborhood and before it had houses, it was a gold course. The city estimated it was 120+ years old.

    Barb ~ Thank you for understanding. It's been four months since I watched it come down outside my office window, it still hurts to think about it.

  4. Anonymous10/13/2008

    I loved the story about the trees in your life as well as those around others. I will look forward to trying the Chicken with Creamy Cider Gravy; and I will also serve it with my special favorite, buttercup squash.

  5. Anonymous10/15/2008

    Hi, I just discovered your site, and wanted to tell how touched I was by your post about trees, and mourning the loss of special friend trees. I love your father - I taught my young daughter the same lesson, verbatim, about trees being living beings, very recently. In fact, I believe that all things in nature have consciousness. I wish more people understood that!



  6. Anonymous10/15/2008

    Hello from another tree hugger person! I just don't understand why people take down healthy trees when it takes them so long to grow!
    We have gentlemen taking out wood from trees that have fallen, but not healthy ones.

    I live in the country and like having some screening between me and my prolifically building (realtor) and new neighbors. What was once a clean field is now going to house 14 houses total in the field to my direct north, less than a football field away from my bathroom/bedroom window. Grrrrr. Had I known that field was up for sale, hubby and I would have bought it. The road is literally less than a football field, about half of one, from our bedroom window.
    I hate curtains.

    Trees work wonderfully for that aspect of decorating.

  7. Anonymous1/31/2009

    Goodbye big beautiful tree. You were probably around long before any of us. It's a little sad/funny but around here people love to pay money to have their trees topped(think broccoli after all the green florets have been cut off and you are left with the stubby stalk).As soon as they do this the tree becomes a dying tree open to attack from insects and disease. Then soon as there is a wind storm or ice storm its these trees that break off(large chunks) and fall onto the road or onto houses. The very thing I think these people are trying to avoid. You never see any of the untouched and tallest of trees just lose their limbs like that. But anyhow cider gravy sounds really interesting I'm going to have a try with it

  8. Just thought you should know I am a vegetarian but love gravy. I made your Chicken with Cider Gravy but substituted seitan fr the chicken. It was great!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna