This simple Cranberry Chicken Skillet takes about 25 minutes and is absolutely irresistible thanks to a bit of balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. It’s cozy and easy to make yet elevated. A fall and winter dinner winner!

Cast iron skillet containing a balsamic cranberry chicken dish garnished with fresh thyme and rosemary.

Cranberries are such a festive ingredient and in such abundant supply for most Americans throughout the fall and winter months. It seems like a shame to relegate them exclusively to cranberry sauce for the holidays, as delicious as that is. You may not think of them as a weeknight dinner ingredient, but I’m here to tell you they ought to be!

This easy chicken dinner is a total snap to throw together, but something about the combination of brilliant red cranberries and rich green herbs makes it seem totally elegant and elevated. And of course it tastes every bit as good as it looks!

Ingredients & Common Substitutions

Labeled photo of chicken breasts, fresh cranberries, balsamic vinegar, thyme, rosemary, brown sugar, flour, salt, and pepper in prep bowls.

Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this, as well as possible substitutions. 

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts: For this recipe it’s best to use the thicker chicken pieces typically sold simply as chicken breasts in the store. (I often recommend thin-sliced chicken for recipes that cook completely on the stovetop.) In this case, you will sear the chicken briefly then transfer the whole pan to the oven, which is a fantastic method for making sure thicker pieces of chicken are cooked perfectly all the way through, and not too dry on the outside before the middle is done. You can also use chicken thighs — brown them the same way, but plan on a longer baking time.
  • Cranberries: The star!
  • Brown sugar: A little sweet.
  • Balsamic vinegar: A little sweet and a little tart.
  • All-purpose flour: Dredging the chicken breasts lightly in flour after seasoning but before searing helps them develop a delicious light crust. However, you can easily omit this to keep the recipe gluten-free.
  • Olive oil and seasonings – salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Fresh herbs are always nice, especially for garnish, but you can substitute dried herbs for seasoning the chicken and it will be fine.

How To Store Cranberries

Did you know that fresh cranberries can last up to four weeks in the fridge? That’s a lot longer than most snacking berries, and is a good reason to stock up when you see them on sale!

Fresh cranberries can also be stored in the freezer for up to a year! Frozen cranberries work wonderfully in cranberry sauce, baked goods, and yes — you can use them for this recipe, too. Either defrost them in the refrigerator overnight, or simply mix the frozen cranberries with the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and allow them to marinate on the counter for an extra 10-15 minutes before adding to the chicken.

Cranberries marinating in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.

How To Make Cranberry Chicken

This is seriously simple to make, which can be our little secret. Here are the basic steps; as always you can find more detailed times and directions in the full recipe card below.

  1. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Dredge in flour if using.
  2. Quickly marinate the cranberries in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.
  3. Sear chicken on both sides. Use an oven-safe skillet so you can transfer it directly into the oven without using an extra pan.
  4. Add cranberries to the pan.
  5. Bake for roughly 10 minutes at 375 degrees F — or until chicken is cooked through.
Cooked chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet.
Cranberries poured on top of chicken breasts.

How can I make chicken more flavorful?

Chicken breasts are popular because they’re so versatile, but the downside is that they don’t always have a lot of flavor on its own, so it’s up to the cook to add make things interesting. Of course you can do this using a marinade or a brine, but for quick weeknight meals, a great way to layer in flavors is simply to generously season the chicken breast before cooking — that’s where the salt, pepper, and herbs in this recipe come into play. Be sure to get both sides of the chicken with an even coating of all the seasonings!

Searing the chicken in the pan adds flavor, as well, and has the added benefit of providing a textural contrast between a slightly crisp outside and a tender, juicy interior.

What’s the best way to tell when chicken is done?

The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. An instant-read thermometer is such a worthwhile investment for your kitchen; it removes all the guesswork so you have less stress, less uncertainty, and a better result every time! This one is inexpensive and works really well for me.

What is the secret to juicy chicken breasts?

The number one enemy of juicy chicken breasts is overcooking! Sure, you can follow all sorts of techniques for brining, but at the end of the day, chicken that is cooked just to 165 degrees F will stay tender and juicy on the inside. Consider this yet another reason to invest in and reach for that instant read thermometer!

Is it safe to eat cranberries raw?

Yes! Raw cranberries are perfectly safe to eat; they simply have a tartness verging on bitterness that many people find unpleasant when not cooked or combined with other ingredients.

Close up of a balsamic cranberry chicken skillet.

Serving Suggestions

This cranberry chicken is so delicious and versatile; it goes with hearty holiday sides, roasted vegetables, and light salads alike! Here are some of our favorite pairings:

Storage & Reheating

Cranberry chicken keeps and reheats very well, so it’s terrific for meal prep or lunch planning purposes. Leftovers always disappear!

  • Store individual portions or a larger amount in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, then reheat on 50% power in the microwave until warmed through.

More Easy Chicken Recipes

If you enjoy this, you’ll also love my lemon rosemary or lemon thyme chickenTuscan chickenlemon chicken pasta, and balsamic chicken with spinach, bacon, and mushrooms. You can never have too many options!

If you try this Cranberry Chicken recipe, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.

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Close up of a balsamic cranberry chicken skillet.
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Balsamic Cranberry Chicken Skillet

Tender, flavorful cranberry chicken with a bit of balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, ready in about 25 minutes. Easy yet elevated and so cozy!


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar light or dark
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken lightly with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Place flour in a shallow bowl, and dredge each chicken breast through to coat lightly. Set aside.
  • Combine cranberries, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside.
  • In a cast-iron or other oven-safe skillet, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, just until a golden crust develops. They should not be cooked all the way through. Remove pan from the heat.
  • Pour the cranberry mixture over the chicken, including the sugar and juices at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Transfer pan to the oven, and bake for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees) and the cranberries are tender and wrinkled. Serve with additional sprigs of herbs, if desired.


  • Chicken breasts: For this recipe it’s best to use the thicker chicken pieces typically sold simply as chicken breasts in the store. (I often recommend thin-sliced chicken for recipes that cook completely on the stovetop.) You can also use chicken thighs — brown them the same way, but plan on a longer baking time.
  • No oven safe skillet? Brown the chicken in any skillet you have, then transfer the pieces to a baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray, add the cranberries, and bake as directed.
  • Nutrition information: The estimates provided here are just that, estimates; double check serving sizes and exact measurements with your own nutrition calculator if you are on a strict diet for any reason.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 377kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 49g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0.03g, Cholesterol: 145mg, Sodium: 267mg, Potassium: 910mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 189IU, Vitamin C: 11mg, Calcium: 37mg, Iron: 2mg
Did you make this recipe?Leave a review below, then snap a quick picture and tag @nourishandfete on Instagram so I can see it!

This was originally published on February 25, 2019, and has been updated with new photos and more helpful tips, and a recipe that focuses on the cranberry chicken without an included side dish.