A comforting classic, this easy Southern Smothered Chicken features fall-off-the-bone chicken thighs in a savory skillet gravy, seasoned to perfection.
Easy Skillet Chicken with Creamy Gravy
I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of anything that comes with gravy. And this easy, smothered chicken is one of my favorite gravy-laden recipes! Generously seasoned with garlic powder, poultry seasoning, and paprika, the bone-in chicken pieces are lightly fried before being “smothered” in a down-home roux-based gravy that will have you coming back for seconds… and maybe even thirds!
This cozy recipe is perfect to make for a relaxed weekend dinner, but it’s quick and simple enough to make almost any night of the week. While the chicken cooks, you can pull together a quick side dish or two, and then sit the family down to a real home-cooked meal that will stick to their ribs!
Where Did Smothered Chicken Come From?
The short answer is, Louisiana! Smothering meats like wild game, chicken, duck, and rabbit is common in both Cajun and Creole cooking. You can also “smother” veggies, and even shellfish—the classic crawfish etouffee literally means “smothered crawfish.” Since this cooking method produces very flavorful and tender meat, it’s become super popular all over the South and beyond!
What You’ll Need
To make this recipe, you just need a handful of pantry staples like oil, onion, bouillon, herbs, and spices. Plus the chicken, of course! Let’s dig in and take a closer look at each ingredient.
For the Chicken:
- Bone-In Chicken: This recipe makes about 2 pounds of chicken thighs. You could also make it with drumsticks.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is seasoned up and used to dredge the chicken before frying.
- Onion Powder and Garlic Powder: The recipe gets so much flavor from just these two handy spices, you guys!
- Poultry Seasoning: This versatile herb blend is a combination of several different flavors, but if you don’t have it on hand, try just mixing some sage, thyme, and a little bit of rosemary.
- Paprika: Paprika adds a nice earthy sweetness, plus a pretty color when cooked.
For the Gravy:
- Oil: I use vegetable oil, but you could use any high-heat oil you like, or a combination of oil and bacon grease.
- Onion: Any red, yellow, white, or sweet onion will do.
- Bouillon: A teaspoon or cube of bouillon is an easy way to add plenty of flavor to your gravy mixture. You can leave it out, if you prefer, and just add salt.
- Pepper: Make sure to use plenty of pepper! It really adds oomph to this creamy chicken gravy.
- Garlic Powder: Because, yum.
- Broth: While some people make their gravy with water, I like to use chicken broth for extra flavor.
- Milk: You can also use half-and-half or even cream.
- Parsley: Optional! It makes a pretty garnish, and adds a nice herbal note.
Can I Use Skin-On Chicken?
While I recommend using bone-in chicken, I don’t think it works very well to leave the skin on. After cooking the chicken in the gravy, the skin becomes soft and not very appealing!
How to Make Southern Smothered Chicken
To make this creamy chicken, you’ll first need to fry the chicken pieces to get a nice color and start creating flavor due to the cooked, seasoned dredging mixture. From there, you’ll create a skillet gravy, and cook the fried chicken in that gravy for an even more flavorful dish.
- Dredge the Chicken in Seasoned Flour. First, make your seasoned flour by whisking the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and paprika in a large bowl. Reserve about three tablespoons of this mixture for later, setting it aside in a small dish or baggie. Completely coat the chicken in the remaining mixture.
- Fry the Chicken. Pour your oil into a large, deep pan. Turn the heat to medium. Once the oil is hot, carefully lay the chicken pieces into the oil. You can use tongs to get a little distance between yourself and the oil, if you like! Make sure not to overcrowd the pan; cook the chicken in batches, if necessary. Fry the chicken until brown on both sides, but not necessarily cooked through (because it will continue to cook in the gravy later on).
- Make the Roux. Take the browned chicken pieces out of the pan, but leave the oil. Set the chicken aside on a covered plate. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or so, or until the onion is golden-brown. Next, add the reserved seasoned flour and whisk to combine.
- Add the Seasonings and Broth. Now, whisk in the bouillon, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chicken broth. Let this cook for 2-3 minutes. Make sure there are no lumps- except the onions. You can whisk the mixture to remove lumps, and crush any stubborn lumps with a fork (or remove them).
- Add the Milk. Whisk in the milk, again making sure there are no lumps. Bring the gravy to a boil, and allow it to cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the Chicken. Turn the heat to medium, and return the chicken to the pan, covering it with the gravy. Cover the pan, and cook the chicken for about 30 mintues, turning the chicken pieces occasionally for even cooking.
- Serve. Garnish the dish with parsley, and serve warm.
Tips for Success
There are a lot of tweaks and substitutes you can make in a recipe like this, so I’ve collected a few of the most common right here! Read on, and happy cooking!
- Chicken Substitute: This recipe can easily be made with boneless chicken, chicken breasts, and even pork chops. You may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the size and thickness of the meat you use.
- Dairy-Free Version: You can easily make this recipe dairy-free by using your favorite unsweetened alternative milk.
- Add Bacon: Using bacon grease instead of some (or all!) of the oil is a great idea in this recipe. You can also garnish it with crisply cooked diced bacon. Seriously yummy!
To serve smothered chicken, I recommend including rice, potatoes, or some other item that will go well with gravy! From there, a veggie or two is nice—whether it’s a simple green salad, or something a bit more involved. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Biscuits: Homemade biscuits with chicken and gravy? Um, yes please! These easy and fun 7 Up Biscuits come together with just four ingredients, and they’re impossibly light and fluffy.
- Broccoli Salad: Crunchy, creamy, and loaded with goodies like bacon and cheese, Broccoli Salad is always a huge hit at our house.
- Zucchini: Saute some zucchini and onion in butter for a simple side dish, or go whole-hog and make these addictive Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
To refrigerate, place any leftover chicken and gravy into food storage containers with airtight lids. I recommend taking the chicken off of the bone first, but you don’t have to. This chicken and gravy will keep for up to 3 days.
To reheat, place the desired portion of chicken and gravy in a covered skillet or saucepan over low heat. Add a splash of water if there’s not much gravy or it seems too dry. Heat until the chicken is hot all the way through.
Can I Freeze This?
Yes, you can! Take the meat off of the bones, and pack it in the gravy in airtight freezer containers or bags. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating. Remember to leave a small amount of room in the freezer containers or bags for the liquid to expand.
Southern Smothered Chicken
For the Chicken
- 2 pounds chicken thighs and/or drumsticks above five pieces
- 1 ⅓ cups flour
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon paprika
For the Gravy
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon or one cube
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- Parsley optional, for garnish
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and paprika. Remove 3 Tablespoons of this seasoned flour from the bowl and reserve this for later.
- Completely coat each piece of chicken in the large bowl of flour mixture.
- Place the vegetable oil into a large deep pan. Turn the heat to medium. Add the coated pieces of chicken. (If your pan is too crowded, it is better to cook in batches.)
- Fry the chicken until it is browned on all sides. (It does not need to be cooked through at this point because we will be cooking it again later.)
- Once the chicken is brown, remove it from the pan but leave the oil in the pan.
- Next, add the onion to the pan and fry it until golden (it should take about 5 minutes).
- Add the reserved 3 Tablespoons of seasoned flour to the pan. Whisk it with the oil.
- Then whisk in the chicken bouillon, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chicken broth. Let this cook for 2-3 minutes. Make sure there are no lumps- except the onions..
- Next, whisk in the milk, again making sure there are no lumps. Bring this mixture to a boil and allow it to cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the chicken back to the pan. Make sure that it is coated with the gravy. Be sure the heat is medium. Cover the pan and allow it to cook for 30 minutes more. (Turn the chicken occasionally.)
- Garnish with parsley and serve