One-Pan Skillet Chicken with Tomatoes and Lemon

April 10, 2020

I could tell you how delicious, how easy, how weeknight and weekend-friendly this one-pan, skillet chicken with tomatoes is. Or how perfect it is with a piece of warm, toasted bread dunked into the pan juices. 

But the most important detail is not how to make it, or how it tastes, or what to pair it with. 

The most important part of this recipe is how much joy it brings me, and how I hope it will do the same for you.

The novel coronavirus has restricted us to our homes. We can’t meet a friend at the bar, we avoid touching the people we love, we dodge strangers as we walk down the street as if we’re about to be hit by them. 

I think we could use some sort of antidote that doesn’t involve wearing a mask.

4 pieces of chicken thighs in a skillet with tomatoes and lemon.

Here’s one: golden, crispy chicken skin and schmaltz-stewed tomatoes and garlic. Tender, caramelized lemon slices and succulent bites of meat. Unctuous pan juices seeping into warm bread and running down your chin.

Okay that was more than one, but all of it describes a single experience: eating.

The experience of eating can be a fulfillment of hunger, yes, or it can be an exercise in curiosity, imagination, and most importantly, it can inspire joy. 

Let’s make skillet chicken with tomatoes

If you’re stuck at home with nothing to do, watching chicken fat render into a glistening pool in the skillet and start to sizzle is a satisfying pastime. 

8 chicken thighs in a skillet, not roasted

This recipe starts the bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs skin-side down in a cold skillet. Their fat slowly melts into the pan and gradually tans their pale skin as the skillet heats up (a technique I learned from this recipe). After about 12 minutes, you’ll flip the chicken pieces over to discover shockingly golden, shatteringly crisp skin that you’ll want to pick off and eat, standing over the skillet to catch the crumbs. 

This is an opportunity to practice patience and restraint. 

Half-moon slices of lemon, onion, and fragrant garlic go into the skillet next, nuzzling into the warm schmaltz. 

Slices of onion and lemon in a pan

If there is anyone else in your house, this is the point where they usually poke their noses into the kitchen, curiously whiffing at the air. 

A can of tomatoes and a pinch of red pepper flakes readies the sauce for the chicken’s return, and it all roasts together in the oven until the conflicting personalities conflate into one humble meal.

Overhead shot of skillet chicken with tomatoes, not roasted

This meal may be temporary, and the effects of its nourishment may only last for a few hours, but it’s something that we can return to again and again.

Cooking can be a moment of soothing during COVID-19, or whenever we need it, long after the virus is gone.

How to make this recipe with chicken breasts

First off, the only chicken breasts that will work here are bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Not only are they juicier and more flavorful than the boneless, skinless kind, but they also tend to be cheaper. Win, win (chicken din)!

You can replace the 6 chicken thighs with 3-4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, or however many you can fit in your skillet.

Chicken breasts will not render as much fat as the thighs, so you’ll need to add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan before adding the lemon/onion/garlic mixture.

Chicken breasts also take longer to cook, so increase the oven cooking to time to about 30 minutes. Since the lemon/tomato mixture will cook longer too, it won’t be quite as rich and “saucy” as with the chicken thighs.

Other than that, cook the recipe as directed and enjoy!

One-Pan Skillet Chicken with Tomatoes and Lemon

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (13 votes, average: 4.23 out of 5)
Dinner American; Italian
By Samantha Serves: 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 40 minutes Total Time: 1 hour

One-pan skillet chicken with tomatoes is not only easy, weeknight-friendly, and delicious (especially with bread for dipping), it's also a welcome opportunity to experience joy.


  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2-2.5 lb. total)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced crosswise into thin half moons (about 1/4”)
  • 1 red onion, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced crosswise into thin half moons (about 1/4”)
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, or dill)
  • Country-style or other thick-cut bread, for serving



Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels; season all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Place a 12-inch ovenproof skillet on the stovetop. Transfer chicken thighs to the cold skillet, skin side down, and heat the skillet over medium. It's important not to crowd the skillet here, or else the chicken will not brown properly. If your skillet is smaller or you're cooking more chicken thighs, work in batches. Cook the chicken until it's opaque around the edges and the skin is deeply golden brown, 12–14 minutes. Check the undersides of the chicken every so often to make sure they’re not getting too browned. Transfer skin side up to a plate.


In the now-empty skillet, add the sliced lemon, onion, and garlic. Season with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion just begins to soften and brown, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Season with another 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper and give the mixture another stir. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then remove skillet from heat.


Arrange the chicken, skin side up, over tomato/onion mixture, tucking it in slightly but keeping the skin uncovered.


Transfer skillet to the oven and roast until chicken thighs are cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part near the bone should register 165°F), juices run clear, and vegetables begin to caramelize around the edges of the pan, 12–15 minutes. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and let the chicken rest for 5 minutes.


Sprinkle everything with the fresh herbs. Serve with toasted bread to sop up all of those crazy-good juices.


  • 716 Calories


Most packs of chicken thighs come with 4 thighs, but this recipe calls for 6. I realize this is annoying, but I found that 4 thighs was not enough and 8 thighs was too much. I suggest buying two of the 4-packs and freezing 2 of the thighs for another use. Here are some other options: For 4 chicken thighs: 4 chicken thighs will serve 2-3 people. If you’re cooking for two (or just for yourself), this is a great option. For 8 chicken thighs: You can definitely squeeze 8 chicken thighs into a 12-inch skillet, but they will be crowded. This means that the tomato’s juices won’t evaporate as much, and you’ll be left with a more liquid-y sauce instead of stew-y tomatoes. It’s still delicious this way, and I’ve made this recipe with 8 chicken thighs many times (including when I took the photographs!). In step 2, sear them in 2 batches of 4 instead of trying to sear them all at once.

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