Chakhokhbili might just become one of your favourite new dishes. This traditional Georgian chicken stew - from Georgia, Europe, not Georgia, USA - is hearty, tasty, and surprisingly easy to make. It’s a real set-and-forget favorite like a lot of great stews.
Chakhokhbili was traditionally made from pheasant rather than chicken. In fact, the name of this delicious stew actually comes from the Georgian word for pheasant, khokhobi. The pheasant as known in Europe, particularly around the Eurasia region, is a turkey-like ground bird. Remarkably, the English word for “pheasant” has its origins in Georgia. It comes from phasis, the Roman name for the Rioni River in Georgia where the Romans first encountered these birds. So really, Chakhokhbili couldn’t be a more thoroughly Georgian dish!
Of course, most supermarkets won’t have pheasant in the meat section. That’s OK! Most modern chakhokhbili recipes use chicken, and that’s what we’re doing with this one. It’s a simple, family-friendly stew of chicken, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. Let’s take a closer look.
What is Chakhokhbili?
Chakhokhbili at its heart is chicken stew with tomatoes and herbs. However, really good chakhokhbili depends on fresh homegrown tomatoes. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes at home, or know someone who has, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. There’s nothing like tomato fresh off the plant, still warm from the sun, bursting in your mouth with delicious flavor.
Accordingly, the best time of year to make chakhokhbili is tomato season!
Unfortunately, you may well feel like this hearty stew in the middle of winter. You can always use store-bought diced tomato cans if need be! Fresh tomatoes aren’t an absolute necessity for chakhokhbili, even if they do make it much nicer.
The combined aroma of tomato and cilantro truly must be experienced to be believed. It will have your mouth watering in seconds!
Fortunately, compared to a lot of Eastern European homestyle food, chakhokhbili is actually relatively healthy, full of veggies and herbs.
How to Pronounce Chakhokhbili
Georgian is a very different language from English, with letters and sounds that English speakers simply don’t use. For this reason, pronouncing Georgian words can be a challenge for native English speakers. Perhaps that’s why the Romans made up their own word for pheasant instead of the local one!
Chakhokhbili is pronounced “chalk-hoke-bee-lee”), where the “h” in “hoke” isn’t a soft English “h”, but more similar to the sound of clearing your throat. This sound is common in many Eastern European languages, Georgian included. This of the “h” sound not as the quiet, breathy “h” you know from English, but more like halfway between “ck” and “h”.
How To Make Chakhokhbili
- Chicken thighs with bone still on
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Red bell pepper (also known as capsicum)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Chilies, sliced
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Garlic cloves, minced
Now if you were stressed about chakhokhbili, don’t be! It’s easier to make than it is to say.
- First you’ll season and brown your chicken. Be sure to season both sides of the chicken thigh and brown both sides with olive oil in a skillet or frying pan.
- Add in the chopped onion and cook further until translucent.
- Then, add the garlic, cherry tomatoes, and bell pepper. Reduce the heat to medium. Cover the skillet with the lid and cook for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender.
You’ll want to do this nice and gently to keep the chicken in shape. Cooking the chicken for about twenty minutes here should do the trick. The long cooking time is critical for chakhokhbili as with all stews, because this is when all the flavors come together. Chakhokhbili has a deep, savory flavor so it’s important that you don’t rush this step.
- Now that your chicken is properly cooked, throw in your chiles, and cilantro! You can’t really substitute any of these ingredients like you can with the pheasant to make true, authentic-tasting chakhokhbili, so make sure you have them ready beforehand. These flavors are critical!
Cook further for 1-2 minutes, take it off the heat, and serve with some hot naan bread.
Chakhokhbili Dietary Restrictions
You’ll be pleasantly (or should that be pheasantly?) surprised at how many diets chakhokhbili fits into! You can eat chakhokhbili if you’re following keto, paleo, gluten free, or even whole-30 diets.
- As always, fresh ingredients will give you a far better end result than anything dried, canned, or preserved. Fresh cilantro is perfect for chakhokhbili as it will endow this savory dish with a rush of citrussy freshness, as are fresh jalapenos and chili peppers. If you grow your own chilies, even better! As with the tomatoes, home-grown spices are perfect for traditional home-style stews like this. If you think about it, before supermarkets, most of the families in Georgia would have been eating food grown at home or nearby.
- If you don’t have a thriving veggie patch or herb garden at home, you can head over to your local farmer’s market. This might require an early morning or two, but you can find awesome quality vegetables at very competitive prices straight from the people who grew them! How cool is that?
- If you’re trying to be very traditional, a lot of Georgian cuisine features a spice mix called khmeli suneli. The precise mix of herbs varies quite a bit, but you’ll do well with coriander, basil, fenugreek, and marjoram. You can even buy this spice mix on Amazon! This mixture of herbs is absolutely delicious, and can really elevate your chakhokhbili! Your chicken stew will go from good to great.
More Chicken Thigh Recipes
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