Chicken Agrodolce

Image of giant jar of olivesI have been putting olives in nearly everything recently, thanks to this generous gift from a house guest (thank you, Tim). It’s a whopping 1400g jar of my favourite sort of black olives, fruity, wrinkled and salty. Any friends who suggest that could equally describe me should consider themselves removed from the Christmas card list.

Regular readers will know that my sister-in-law Sarah crops up oftenย in these pages. She’s an exceptional cook and when we were scratching our heads over something interesting to do with a plate of chicken joints the other day, she suggested something like this. Sadly her visit here was all too brief and she had to go home before I got round to making it.

It’s my take on the Sicilian classic, pollo in agrodolce, or chicken in a sweet and sour sauce and it’s unbelievably good. The sauce reduces to a slick, sticky glaze, with flavour bursts of olives, capers and raisins (or in this case, sultanas, because I like them better) and the chicken is so good you’ll be sucking the bones. Try it and see for yourself.

I served it with Greek-style lemon potatoes, which I didn’t think worked all that well, so I asked Rachel Roddy for her thoughts. Rachel is the author of the superb Five Quartersย cookery book written in her Roman kitchen and her partner is a Sicilian. She says her mother-in-law always serves the dish with bread while she favours rice. Either would be good though I think I’m with Rachel on this one. She is currently working on her second book so keep an eye out.

Chicken Agrodulce

  • Servings: 2 greedy people
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Image of chicken agrodolce


2-3 tbsp olive oil

4 bone-in chicken thighs/drumsticks, skinned

2 small to medium onions, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp sultanas or raisins

2 tbsp sugar

12-18 black olives, pitted (or green, if you prefer)

2 tbsp capers

150 ml red wine vinegar

Orange or lemon segments to squeeze over

Toasted pine nuts and fennel fronds, to garnish

Image of ingredients for chicken agrodolce


Heat the olive in a deep frying pan (one with a lid) and brown the chicken joints on both sides. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the onions gently until soft and golden. Put the chicken back in and add the sultanas, sugar, vinegar, capers and olives. Turn up the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. A spatter guard is handy here.

Image of reduced sauce ready for lid to go on

Turn the heat to medium-low, put on the lid and cook for a further 20-25 minutes. Check the seasoning and add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste, though you may find it’s salty enough because of the olives and capers.

Squeeze over the citrus juice, scatter with toasted pine nuts and garnish with a few fennel fronds, if you have them, for an extra flavour dimension.

Image of chicken agrodolce, served

22 thoughts on “Chicken Agrodolce

  1. I have it on dubious authority the Dear Leader’s preference is for segmented poultry a la Col Saunders. At least chez Mrs P la patronne mange ici – with gusto and good cause – this on proper authority as a recent and satiated visitor. Olive ice cream, anyone?

    • Thanks so much, Mimi. I love this dish (though it’s better not tackled, as I did when I reprised it the other night, after quaffing rather too much vino.) ๐Ÿ™‚ Lxx

      • Oh Linda. I always need to get out my British-American dictionary when I read your comments! But I think I understand quaffing because I do it often. I still call bandaids plasters now – it’s just so much more fun.

      • I’m a firm believer in regular and steady quaffing. ๐Ÿ˜‰
        Transatlantic misunderstandings of the linguistic sort can occasionally be very entertaining and occasionally baffling. I couldn’t understand, the first time I visited New York many years ago, why everyone fell about laughing when I asked for a straight coffee (meaning regular, without milk). And don’t get me started on fanny packs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Reminds me of an old favorite from back the the Eighties, from the Silver Palate cookbook. I think they called it Chicken Marbella and made it with prunes instead of raisins. I loved that recipe.

  3. Yeah, I could really get into that chicken, Linda. First off, you used thighs and legs. Why doesn’t everyone? Then there’s the vinegar, sultanas, capers, and the olives. I love those olives! The final touches of citrus and fennel put this dish over the top. I’d probably serve it with polenta because, well, that’s what we do. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for another great recipe.

  4. Bookmarking this one…I made Wild Boar Agrodolce last week and it was a bit ropey, I’ll be honest. But it had very different ingredients to these so I’ll try again, thanks.

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