Interestingly, the dish known as chakhokhbili doesn’t make it onto many restaurant menus in the country of Georgia and it wasn’t until living in Tbilisi for over a year until I learned about this dish. Traditionally made at home rather than eaten in a restaurant, I sought to develop a delicious chakhokhbili recipe to properly enjoy this dish as it should be — at your home table!
There’s a reason that chakhokhbili is one of the most popular Georgian dishes to be exported — it’s absolutely delicious and surprisingly simple to boot. Though it can take a bit of time to actually cook, the vast majority of it is inactive, meaning that it’s a great option for a flavourful weeknight dinner!
So if you want to know how to make chakhokhbili and are searching for the perfect recipe, then look no further! This will ensure you can bring some authentic Georgian favours to your home kitchen in no time!
What is Chakhokhbili?
Before jumping into the chakhokhbili recipe, let’s discuss what this dish really is! Chakhokhbili is a Georgian chicken dish that is stewed in a flavourful sauce that’s spiced with things like adjika and plenty of fresh herbs like cilantro (coriander).
Traditionally, chakhokhbili was made from pheasant which is where the dish derived its name — the Georgian word for pheasant is khokhobi (ხოხობი). However, these days, chakhokhbili is almost always made with chicken — usually, a whole chicken broken down or simply with legs and thighs, which is what I do in my chakhokhbili recipe.
Many wonder how to say chakhokhbili, especially considering that Georgian is a difficult language to pronounce even for those who have studied it! Because Georgian is transliterated to the Latin alphabet, it can be hard to know exactly how to say it. In Georgian, the dish is spelt ჩახოხბილი.
The easiest way to pronounce it is absolutely phonetically and know that you’re really going to struggle to say it “correctly” unless you’re a native Georgian speaker — it’s a very hard language!
How to Make Chakhokhbili
Without further ado, let’s talk about how to actually make this chakhokhbili recipe! As I’ve already mentioned, it’s really easy to make and, though it has a bit of a long cooking time, it is mostly inactive.
We’ll start with some chicken leg quarters. I recommend using legs and thighs in this dish rather than breasts because they stand up to the long cooking time better than white meat can.
A breast cooked for as long in the sauce will have a tendency to dry out and get tough whereas the dark meat will get more tender and moist as they cook slowly. I also urge you to leave the bones in as the flavour they add to the sauce is incomparable.
I find it easiest to split the thighs from the legs. This is super easy to do with a sharp knife and a bit of confidence! Then, pat the chicken dry with some paper towels and season each side generously with salt and pepper.
Heat some oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering and add your chicken in one layer to the bottom of the pan, ensuring there is enough space in between the pieces. It’s likely that you will need to brown the chicken in batches.
Sear the chicken until it is golden brown and crisp on one side and easily releases from the pan then flip and repeat on the other side. It will take about 4-6 minutes per side. Once done, remove the chicken from the pot and set it on a plate for later.
Pour off all but two tablespoons of rendered fat from the pot (the chicken legs and thighs will have rendered a fair bit during the process).
Return the pot to medium heat and add a diced onion along with a pinch of salt. Sweat the onion until it’s softened and translucent, about five minutes or so, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot as the onions release moisture.
Now, it’s time to add some tomato paste and some Georgian adjika paste. I highly recommend making your own adjika for this recipe (and I have a great adjika recipe on this website!) because you can’t really get proper Megrelian or Abkhaz adjika outside of Georgia. It’s incredibly simple to make, lasts forever in the fridge and you can use it in an infinite number of recipes (it’s great in chashushuli, as well!).
Cook this until the adjika is incredibly fragrant and the tomato paste gets a bit stickier and darkens in colour, about two minutes. Then, add some minced garlic and cook until it’s just fragrant, only about thirty seconds longer.
Then, pour in some crushed tomatoes. I recommend buying whole peeled tomatoes and crushing them by hand as I like the consistency better than simply using crushed tomatoes, but it is really but to you. Stir the tomatoes until everything is well combined and then add your chicken back into the pot.
Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about forty-five minutes. In this time, the chicken will release a bit of its own liquid and the sauce will be deeply flavourful. Remove the chicken from the pot and stir in some chopped cilantro. Cook for another five minutes or so, just for the flavours to come together a bit more.
Taste to adjust for seasoning if needed, and then add the chicken legs into a serving dish, pouring the sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately with some Georgian salad and enjoy!
- 4 chicken leg quarters, legs separated from thighs, skins and bones intact
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon red adjika paste*
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 400g (16oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, lightly crushed with hands
- 20g (1/4 cup) cilantro, finely chopped
- Pat the chicken dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. Set and large dutch oven or pot over medium heat and add one tablespoon of neutral oil. Heat the oil until it begins to shimmer and add half of your chicken. Cook on one side until deeply browned and it releases easily from the pan. Flip and repeat - about 4-6 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
- Discard all but 2 tablespoons of rendered fat from the pot and add the onion along with a small pinch of salt. Sweat the onion until it's softened but not browned, about 5-7 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the chicken as the onions release their moisture.
- Add the adjika and tomato paste and cook until very fragrant and the tomato paste begins to darken in colour, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and any juice in the can. Stir to combine with the onions and adjika mixture. Return the chicken to the pot along with any accumulated juices ensuring the legs and thighs are well-nestled in the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the chicken is tender and the sauce is deeply flavourful about 45 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and add the cilantro. Stir to combine and cook for another five minutes, adjusting for seasoning if needed.
- Portion the chicken onto plates, spooning the sauce over the chicken.
*I highly recommend making your own adjika as the ones that are imported tend to have tomatoes in them, which is not typical of Georgian adjika
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 583Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 369mgSodium: 320mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 71g
Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This chakhokhbili recipe is incredibly easy to make and absolutely worth it, too! If you’re looking for a flavourful chicken dish to whip up any day of the week, then look no further than this Georgian speciality.
Do you have any questions about this chakhokhbili recipe? Have you had this dish before? Let me know in the comments!