Sake Braised Chicken Thighs

by Emily Kemme
Sake braised chicken thighs

I’ve recently become enamored with chicken thighs, particularly this recipe for sake braised chicken. A former white meat lover, I’ve discovered that rich thigh meat is versatile and easy to cook, creating a perfect plate every time. It’s pretty much impossible to dry out a chicken thigh as long as you keep a watchful eye.

Sake can be used like white wine when cooking

Braised in sake, this quick recipe serves up a bowl of succulent chicken with impeccably crisped skin. Similar to brewing beer, sake is the result of fermenting rice, but is more like white wine in that it doesn’t have carbonation. Ranging from sweet to robust, use dry sake for braising. The rule about not cooking with a wine you wouldn’t drink also applies to sake — this translates to don’t go with the cheapest bottle you can find. Talk to the liquor experts at your liquor store. They should be able to steer you to the right bottle for what you’re cooking. And remember to purchase a bottle to drink, too!

Serve over sweet potato glass noodles or bean thread noodles.

Sake Braised Chicken Thighs Recipe

9 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 T grape seed or sun-coco oil

Note: either oil is a good choice for high heat cooking because they have a higher smoke point

2 cups dry sake

3 scallions, tops removed, white and light green parts thinly sliced, divided

1/3 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 T mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)

1 T rice vinegar

1 T peeled, minced fresh ginger root

Note: using a peeler, remove tough outer skin from ginger root after cutting off a 1 inch knob. Mince root.

Heat 2 T grape seed or sun-coco oil over medium high heat in large skillet. Working in batches, brown chicken skin side down until skin is dark and crisped. Turn thighs and brown on other side. Remove to clean bowl.

Sake braised chicken thighs

Browning the chicken with an oil that has a high smoke point like grape seed or sun-coco oil helps crisp to perfection without charring the skin.

While chicken is browning, combine orange juice, lemon juice, mirin, rice vinegar and ginger in a medium bowl, whisking to emulsify.

Turn off heat and pour all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet. Turn heat back on to medium and cautiously add sake to skillet, taking care if it flames because of the liquid fat residue from rendering the chicken. If there are flames, turn off heat and cover skillet with lid until flames die down.

Add scallions to skillet and return chicken pieces to skillet skin side up to prevent skin from becoming soggy. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to clean plate and pour orange juice mixture into skillet, stirring to combine. Simmer for 2 minutes.

For Sweet Potato Glass Noodles:

1 3.5 ounce package sweet potato glass noodle

Note: available at Asian markets. Bean thread noodles, which are readily available in larger grocery stores, are a good substitution

4 stalks celery, thinly sliced

2 T grape seed or sun-coco oil

3 scallions, tops removed, white and light green parts thinly sliced

Prepare noodles according to package directions.

Heat grape seed/sun-coco oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté celery and scallions until crisp tender and lightly translucent, about 2 minutes. Toss with sweet potato glass noodles.

To serve: 

Divide noodles between shallow bowls. Place chicken on top of noodles and ladle sauce over chicken.

Serves 3-4.

Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished,, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.

Art Director: Mia Kemme

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