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One-Pan Chicken Thighs in Cava with Caramelized Apples

Written By: Byron | April 11, 2024
A large pot of one pot chicken thighs in cava and caramelized apples.

One-Pan Chicken Thighs in Cava with Caramelized Apples is a delightfully fragrant and flavorsome recipe that oozes decadence. Caramelized onions and apples are gently stewed in Spanish Cava (a type of sparkling wine) and flavored with plenty of fresh thyme, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The result is delicious juicy chicken thighs with a rich, sticky sauce that demands a good mop up with some fresh bread. 

This recipe has a strong influence from northern Spanish cuisine, namely the Asturias and Catalonia regions of Spain. Cava is primarily made in Catalonia, where nutmeg and cinnamon are also used in Catalan cuisine, and Asturias is famous for cooking with apples, and apple cider. 

This recipe can be made in one large pot or Dutch oven and comes together in around 1 hour and 10 minutes.

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Serving:

Main for 4

Ready in:

1 hour, 10 minutes

Skill level:

Moderate

Serve with:

Fresh Bread, rice

Watch step-by-step recipe video

If you’re looking for this recipe’s video and many other great recipe ideas, why not check out our Spanish Radish YouTube Channel? We’ve got everything from quick and easy tapas recipes to delicious main meals, to incredible Spanish dessert options too.

Origin of Chicken Thighs in Cava with Caramelized Apples

This recipe uses ingredients and cooking methods from the northern regions of Spain; Cataluña and Asturias. Two recipes specifically have helped to shape this new modern take; Asturian Roast chicken cooked in cider (pollo en Sidra), and Catalan-Style Beef stew (Estofado a la Catalana).

Chicken thighs in cava with caramelized apples share cooking methods and some ingredients from both recipes mentioned above, the result is a fantastic new recipe that embraces classic Spanish ingredients in a modern way.

How to Make Chicken Thighs in Cava with Caramelized Apples

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless chicken thighs (1 per person)
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic, diced or minced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 350ml of Cava (12 fl oz.)
  • 2 apples (sweet dessert apples work best)
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Zest from ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Equipment needed

chicken thighs, cava, apples, onions, garlic, herbs and spices.

Method

  • Peel and core apples and cut into small half moons around ½ cm thick (1/8th Inch).
  • Peel onions and cut into fine strips. 
  • Peel and finely dice garlic cloves.
  • In a large skillet on high heat, heat the olive oil, season the chicken with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, then lightly golden the chicken thighs on all sides (around 5 minutes).
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside for use later. 
  • Add the onions to the skillet and fry until golden (around 5 minutes).
  • Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, and around 150ml (5 fl oz.) of the Cava. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top, add some zest from a lemon, and give everything a good stir. 
  • Cook on low heat for around 20 minutes or until the apples soften and begin to caramelize with the Cava and onions. Stir every 5 minutes and add 50 ml more Cava. Give the bottom of the pan a good scrape to bring up the flavor. 
  • Add the chicken thighs to the skillet and cover with the onion and apple mixture. Drizzle around 50ml more Cava over the thighs, add a few sprigs of thyme, season to taste with some salt and pepper, and then cook on low heat for 30 minutes or until the chicken thighs are cooked through. (Note: Alternatively, bake in a preheated oven at 180°C /350°F for 20 minutes).
  • Check seasoning and serve with a glass of Cava! 

Cooking Tips:

  • Use a Meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 °F (74 °C).
  • A Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Lid or crock pot works great for this recipe. If finishing the chicken in the oven, make sure the oven is preheated to 180°C /350°F and bake uncovered. 
  • Give the onions plenty of time to soften and caramelize with the stewed apple and be as generous as you like with the other herbs and spices. The Cava simmers down and leaves a delightful refreshing flavor to the chicken thighs.
A large pot of one pot chicken thighs in cava and caramelized apples.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Chicken thighs

We love cooking with chicken thighs as they always are juicy and full of flavor. We opted for skinless chicken thighs as they are a little healthier, but you can use skin-on chicken thighs instead if you prefer. 

Other cuts of chicken such as chicken drumsticks, quarters, or even chicken breasts will also work well, although if using breast meat, we suggest cooking a little longer to ensure the chicken is cooked through. 

Boneless Chicken thighs

This recipe feels very decadent with the incredible flavors of Spanish Cava flavoring the chicken, and many will prefer to use boneless chicken thighs for convenience.

If using boneless chicken thighs, be sure to adjust the cooking time as boneless chicken cooks faster than bone-in chicken thighs. Use a meat thermometer to check the chicken is cooked through and once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F (74 °C), the chicken is done! 

Apples

Apples (and more so, Apple sider called ‘sidra’) are popular in the northern Asturias region when cooking chicken. Traditional Asturian recipes usually use a whole chicken simmered slowly in cider. The cider slowly helps the onions caramelize resulting in a rich flavorsome sauce with tender chicken meat with just a hint of the cider flavors.

So why not try this style of cooking with Cava instead of cider? 

Best Apples to use

Sweet dessert apples (also known as ‘baking apples’) such as Cox’s Orange Pippin, Golden Delicious, Granny Smiths, Braeburn, Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, and Jonagold all work well. Dessert apples will soften but still hold their form and not become too mushy. They also become very sweet and absorb plenty of flavor from other ingredients they are cooked with. 

Cava

Cava is a Catalan sparkling wine that can be sweet (dulce), semi-dry (semi-seco), dry (seco), or Brut. We used a dry (brut) variety for this recipe, but you could use any type of Cava to suit your taste. Most cava are around 11%-15% ABV, but don’t worry as the cooking process evaporates all of the alcohol leaving you with the flavor of the Cava. 

Cooking with Cava 

Cava is a popular ingredient for cooking in the Catalonia (Cataluña) region of Spain, but in other regions of Spain, it is more common to cook with wine (red or white) or cider (sidra). That said, Cava is a fantastic ingredient for cooking and it works best when simmering white meats such as chicken or pork. 

Like cooking wine, the alcohol content of Cava evaporates during the cooking process within the first few minutes, leaving the delicate flavors of the Cava to meld with the other ingredients. Add some caramelized onion and apples and you’ve got a delicious combination or tart and sweet flavors. 

Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Another tip from Catalan cooking is the use of sweet spices such as ground cinnamon and nutmeg. While most may be familiar with these spices in baking sweets and cakes, they also work well with meat dishes and stews. Our Catalan-Style Beef Stew recipe also embraces ground cinnamon and nutmeg, giving it a rich, nutty flavor with a hint of spice from the cinnamon. 

Of course, apple, cinnamon and nutmeg are a fantastic combination and are most famously paired when making apple pie or apple tart. So why not use these same ingredients as a caramelized base for cooking the chicken with Cava? We confirm that the result is exceptional! 

Discover The Top 10 Herbs Used in Spanish Cooking

Olive Oil

We always use good quality extra virgin olive oil for cooking. It is one of the best oils for your health and EVOO has numerous health benefits. Read more about Olive Oil Nutrition Facts and how it can benefit your health

Here are several EVOOs that have won numerous awards in 2024:

7 of the Best Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oils (2024)

Serving Suggestions

Chicken thighs cooked in Cava and apples is best enjoyed with a side ingredient that can mop up the delicious and rich sauce. Steamed rice works well, as does mashed potato, or simply some fresh bread. 

Side servings could be some steamed green beans, steamed courgettes, or your favorite green. Here are a few Spanish side dishes that work well with chicken:

A cava bottle cork sits beside two glasses of cava and some bay leaves.

Spanish Recipes Using Cider, Cava, or Wine for Cooking

Red and white wine is a common ingredient in many Spanish recipes and you’ll find it used to help flavor stews or stock, and used to braise meat dishes. Spanish wine is also used to steam shellfish and seafood. Another popular recipe is chorizo simmered in red wine, and of course, Sangria! 

Cava is used to simmer white meat dishes and we have also experimented with cooking shrimp in a cava bath. Check out that recipe the next time you are entertaining, it’s awesome! 

Cider is a popular ingredient used to cook meats, fish, seafood, and chorizo sausage in Asturias, where the unique cloudy sidra is produced. We love making this Spanish Chorizo Cooked in Cider recipe as a tapas when entertaining. 

We also experimented with cider when cooking chorizo sausage and used it to enhance the flavor in chicken empanadas with this recipe: Chicken with cider infused chorizo empanadas

Where to Buy Spanish Cava

In Spain, Cava is readily available in supermarkets and bottles start from as low as 3 Euros (around USD $3.25) and a decent quality bottle only costs around 8-10 Euros ($8-11). Yep, that’s right, Spanish Cava is incredibly affordable and has (so far) managed to shun the high price tags of other Sparking wines (Champagne is just one example). 

Here are a few popular Cava brands from Spain:

  • Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut
  • Cava gran Reserva Brut Nature Canals Nadal 2010
  • Freixenet Cava Meritum Gran Reserva
  • Torres Sangre de Toro Cava

Buying Cava in Europe and the UK

In other parts of Europe, it’s more likely to find Italian prosecco or French Champagne, but Spanish Cava can be purchased through any reputable Spanish wine specialty store. The same in the UK, with plenty of online Spanish stores stocking a range of Cava. For online Cava purchases throughout Europe and the UK, check out iberowine.com

Buying Cava in the USA

Across the pond in the USA and Canada, your best bet is to buy Spanish Cava online. Online wine stores such as Wine.com stock Cava, but note that the general demand for Spanish Cava in the USA is low, so expect to pay a premium for a decent bottle. 

Buying Cava in Australia

Aussies would be best to check out their local bottleshop for a bottle of Cava. Large beverage retailers such as Dan Murphy’s also stock a limited range of Cava.  

Do I Need to Use Cava for This Recipe?

Short answer, no. 

Cava is a fantastic Spanish product and brings a lot of flavor to this recipe, but we know it can be hard to find outside of Spain. We suggest using any Dry or semi-dry sparkling wine if Cava is not available. Avoid using overly sweet wines as they tend to overpower the natural sweet flavor of the apples. 

A cork from an opened bottle of Cava sits beside a glass of Cava.

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 4

Amount per serving

 

Calories

408

% Daily Value*

Total Fat 8.3g

11%

Saturated Fat 1.9g

10%

Cholesterol 143mg

48%

Sodium 166mg

7%

Total Carbohydrate 44.4g

16%

Dietary Fiber 11.4g

41%

Total Sugars 18.9g

 

Protein 37.3g

 

Vitamin D 0mcg

0%

Calcium 193mg

15%

Iron 11mg

63%

Potassium 549mg

12%

*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

A large pot of one pot chicken thighs in cava and caramelized apples.
A large pot of one pot chicken thighs in cava and caramelized apples.

One-Pan Chicken Thighs in Cava with Caramelized Apples

Byron
One-Pan Chicken Thighs in Cava with Caramelized Apples recipe uses Spanish Cava (sparkling wine) to caramelize onions and apples and juicy chicken thighs seasoned with lots of fresh thyme and spices.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Chicken, dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Asturias, Authentic Spanish recipe, Catalonia, Spain
Servings 4 Main
Calories 408 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless chicken thighs 1 per person
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic diced or minced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 350 ml of Cava 12 fl oz.
  • 2 apples sweet dessert apples work best
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Zest from ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Peel and core apples and cut into small half moons around ½ cm thick (1/8th Inch).
    2 apples
  • Peel onions and cut into fine strips.
    2 medium-sized onions
  • Peel and finely dice garlic cloves.
    6 cloves of garlic
  • In a large skillet on high heat, heat the olive oil, season the chicken with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, then lightly golden the chicken thighs on all sides (around 5 minutes).
    4 skinless chicken thighs, 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon white pepper, ½ teaspoon Salt
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside for use later.
  • Add the onions to the skillet and fry until golden (around 5 minutes).
  • Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, and around 150ml (5 fl oz.) of the Cava. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top, add some zest from a lemon, and give everything a good stir.
    2 bay leaves, 350 ml of Cava, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, Zest from ½ lemon
  • Cook on low heat for around 20 minutes or until the apples soften and begin to caramelize with the Cava and onions. Stir every 5 minutes and add 50 ml more Cava. Give the bottom of the pan a good scrape to bring up the flavor.
  • Add the chicken thighs to the skillet and cover with the onion and apple mixture. Drizzle around 50ml more Cava over the thighs, add a few sprigs of thyme, season to taste with some salt and pepper, and then cook on low heat for 30 minutes or until the chicken thighs are cooked through. (Note: Alternatively, bake in a preheated oven at 180°C /350°F for 20 minutes).
    2 sprigs of thyme, Salt and pepper
  • Check seasoning and serve with a glass of Cava!

Video

Notes

Cooking Tips:

  • Use a Meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 °F (74 °C).
  • A Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Lid or crock pot works great for this recipe. If finishing the chicken in the oven, make sure the oven is preheated to 180°C /350°F and bake uncovered. 
  • Give the onions plenty of time to soften and caramelize with the stewed apple and be as generous as you like with the other herbs and spices. The Cava simmers down and leaves a delightful refreshing flavor to the chicken thighs.

Nutrition

Serving: 200gCalories: 408kcalCarbohydrates: 44.4gProtein: 37.3gFat: 8.3gSaturated Fat: 1.9gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 166mgPotassium: 549mgFiber: 11.4gSugar: 18.9gCalcium: 193mgIron: 11mg
Keyword 1 hours recipe, apples, caramelized apple, caramelized onions, Cava, chicken, Chicken thighs, cinnamon, nutmeg, onions, sweet apples

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A large pot of one pot chicken thighs in cava and caramelized apples.

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