Make Ahead

Chicken Kapama

November 29, 2013
1 Ratings
  • Serves 3 to 4
Author Notes

I have my mother and aunt to thank not only for feeding chicken kapama to me as a child but also for teaching me how to make their grandmother's recipe. It's a simple dish, but somehow nothing smells better than cinnamon sticks in melting butter, and every time I make it, I think of the kitchen I grew up in. Chicken Kapama is a classic Greek braised chicken dish made in countless ways but always with cinnamon and tomato sauce.

A few notes: You can use any kind of tomato sauce you like — my great grandmother swore by 2 8-oz cans of Hunt's tomato sauce — just be sure to use something that isn't flavored with garlic or basil, etc. Also try to use something low in sodium — I love the clean flavor of the Pomi brand tomato sauces, tomatoes, purées, etc. —Alexandra Stafford

What You'll Need
  • 1 chicken, 3 to 4 lbs
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 15 to 16 ounces tomato sauce, (unflavored and low sodium)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ketchup
  • 8 ounces egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional, for serving with the noodles)
  1. Cut chicken into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts each cut in half through the bone).
  2. In a large pot or sauté pan (with highish sides) or braising pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter with the cinnamon sticks over low or medium-low heat. The key with this dish is to brown the chicken slowly and to make sure the butter never burns.
  3. Season chicken pieces on both sides with salt, pepper, pinch of cinnamon and pinch of cloves (if using).
  4. Place chicken skin side down in the butter and slowly brown — this should take about 15 minutes. Again, the key is to go slowly. This isn't a dish where the skin of the chicken in the end is crispy — it's soft actually, as often is the case with braised dishes. That said, the point of the crisping/browning of the skin here is to extract flavor, and the best way to get the most flavor is to go slowly. Flip the chicken over, and brown for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste to the pan. Tilt pan or use a spoon to disperse the tomato paste. Cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes at a low temperature, checking after 10 minutes to make sure the liquid is gently bubbling.
  6. Transfer one piece of chicken to a plate. Turn over and gently poke with a knife to check for doneness. Return chicken to the pan, and if necessary, continue cooking at a low temperature until done, which may be as many as 5 to 15 minutes more (or perhaps ever longer).
  7. Taste the sauce. Depending on what type of tomato sauce you used, you will need to adjust differently. I almost always add 4 more tablespoons of butter, a squirt of ketchup (about a tablespoon — you also could just add a pinch of sugar), and a couple tablespoons of water. The sauce tastes better after it rests for awhile, so if time permits, let it rest before adjusting.
  8. Meanwhile, cook egg noodles in salted water. Drain and return to pot. Add a few large spoonfuls of the tomato sauce to coat the noodles. Toss with the grated cheese or pass it on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Anna
  • Fran McGinty
    Fran McGinty
  • twinjadojo
  • sevenfaces
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

18 Reviews

Anna October 4, 2017
Made it last night using 4 chicken thighs, 2 tablespoons of butter, cinnamon, 16 oz of Alessi brand strained tomatoes, tomato paste, squirt or two of ketchup and salt and pepper to taste. It was delicious! Even with 2 tablespoons of butter it's very rich because you get all the of the chicken fat from the skin. I served it with the chicken and also used part of it on lamb meatballs.
Alexandra S. October 4, 2017
Great to hear all of this, Anna! My mom/aunt definitely are heavy handed when it comes to butter, and more and more recently, I cut back on the butter when I make their dishes, and I don't think the flavor is compromised. Thanks for the tip re Alessi tomatoes. Yum re lamb meatballs, too!
4376ab August 21, 2016
Alexandra, as you say the sauce tastes better when it rests, have you tried making it one day and serving it (after a slow reheat) the next day? Much easier if having company over for dinner. Any way you do it, it sounds delish.
Alexandra S. August 21, 2016
Yes, I have! And when I am good about planning ahead, this is the preferable route — it tastes better the next day. A slow reheat is key.
Cindy August 21, 2016
A West Indian family (Granada) befriended me decades ago and their chicken was the best I ever ate. Foolishly I never hung around the kitchen to watch as the family was huge and I was just getting in the way. It was spicy and sweet, braised slowly and they served it over rice w/fried plantains and coleslaw that was delightful. Something tells me this recipe is gonna come awfully close to what I remember.
Alexandra S. August 21, 2016
ooooh, I hope it does!!
Fran M. February 27, 2015
Has anyone tried this in a crock pot after browning?
twinjadojo January 12, 2015
Fantastic! I was humming along, breaking down my chicken on autopilot and realized that I was headed straight for boneless breasts. Whoopsies! I forged ahead, browned my bird slower and lower than I thought possible (with the white meat off around the edges of my large braiser), and achieved a beautiful result. Butter and schmaltz and spiced tomato, oh my. I did find that the dark meat absorbed the flavor of the warming spices more richly than the white meat. A huge plus for me here, besides the delicious taste, is that as long as I begin early enough and take my time at low heat, I can keep this chicken simmering for an hour or more. All of my birds are pastured big'ns from a nearby farm, and I find their texture quite different than commercial birds; in order to get my dark meat tender and non-slimy I have to keep cooking the meat far longer than I'm inclined to. This recipe accommodates folks needing a well-cooked bird without sacrificing tenderness. I'm just so intrigued by this recipe now. Thank you!
Alexandra S. August 21, 2016
So happy to read this and so sorry I missed it a year ago :(Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Your birds sound lovely.
sevenfaces May 31, 2014
I was so skeptical about this dish as I was preparing it. Butter? Chicken? Tomato? Cinnamon?? That's it?! I was so wrong to doubt - simply deeeelicious. I used a single stick and a very scant pinch of cinnamon, and it was enough to make this dish taste great, so different to anything I've ever tried before. Something about slowly cooking the chicken in the cinnamoned butter first, perhaps. I cooked the chicken in the sauce for almost 2 hours until the meat fell off the bone. I'll use less butter next time as I like to use thighs only (and so I discovered it doesn't need so much as more fat renders out from thighs), but happy to say there will definitely be a next time!
Alexandra S. June 1, 2014
Yay! Wonderful to hear all of this. And I know, it's the kind of recipe you have to try to believe, but so often these days I find I love the ones that are the simplest with the fewest ingredients. I prefer using all dark meat, too — it's so much more forgiving and so much tastier. You are inspiring me to really take my time with the simmering — my great grandmother apparently cooked this chicken all day long.
ghainskom January 8, 2014
I forgot to say we had it with rice and without the cheese.
ghainskom January 8, 2014
Oh. My. God. I made this for my 2 and 6 yo today. My naturally almost vegetarian 6 yo had three servings, two with the chicken my 2 yo loved it too and so did I. This is a winner.
Alexandra S. January 14, 2014
So happy to hear this! I just went home to visit my mom/drop the kids off for the weekend, and she made chicken kapama for them and they gobbled it up. So glad your kids approve, too :)
stax January 3, 2014
Just finished eating this. Absolutely delicious. Also used thighs as it was more convenient. The recipe was easily halved.

Added some onions while browning the chicken, and some carrots when I added the tomato sauce. They absorbed the cinnamon flavors and were absolutely delicious.

Adding this one to the rotation for sure.
Alexandra S. January 4, 2014
So happy to hear this! Onions and carrots sound delicious, and I much prefer thighs (or thighs and drumsticks), too — the breasts are always on the dry side for me. Thanks for writing in. Happy 2014!
Allix December 6, 2013
This recipe is absolutely incredible - I made it on Tuesday of this week, and the leftovers are as delicious as when I first made the dish! My mother and grandparents are also Greek; my mom and I have been searching high and low for a good kapama recipe, and I'm so excited to have found this one.

I made a couple small adjustments based on what I had in my kitchen that might be worth trying! I used orzo instead of egg noodles as that's all I had. I also used chicken thighs instead of chopping a whole chicken (I was a little nervous to try that!). Finally, because I'm obsessed with kale, I mixed in some kale steamed in chicken broth once the sauce had "rested" and gotten a flavor I loved. I also might try this with lamb as well.

Anyway, thank you so much for sharing such a delicious family recipe! Highly, highly recommend this to anyone who is thinking of trying it out.
Alexandra S. December 7, 2013
Allix, I am so happy to hear this! I love the idea of orzo, and I love the idea of using thighs — when I first was writing up/photographing the recipe, I actually only used thighs, and then I started over because I was trying to stay true to what my grandmother did. Also love the idea of kale, yum! Thanks so much for writing in. Although I have made this countless times, it's always nice to hear when someone else likes the recipe, too. Hope you're having a nice weekend!