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Crispy skinned chicken thighs with an easy citrus and rosemary pan sauce make this sweet and savory Cast Iron Blood Orange Chicken Thighs a dish that is sure to delight your family and impress friends!
Forget greasy take-out and make these Cast Iron Blood Orange Chicken Thighs instead. My husband used to have an obsession with a particular fast food chain that was famously known for their orange chicken (yes, I’m looking at you Panda Express).
He’s kind of burnt out on it now, but passed that love on to our daughters who continue to request Panda for their date nights.
Honestly, I just don’t get it. To me, the sauce for their orange chicken just tastes sweet and sticky without any real citrus kick, the chicken is gummy from too much breading, and it always just tastes heavy and greasy.
But I like the theory of the dish. I’m obviously a huge fan of sweet fruit in savory meat dishes. If you are too, then you NEED to try this creamy apple cider chicken skillet, creamy apricot pork chops, and saurkraut and sausages with apples.
These cast iron blood orange chicken thighs definitely did not disappoint. It took me a couple of tries, but once I finally got this recipe figured out, my orange chicken loving family were thrilled with how this recipe turned out.
When I was recipe testing for this post, I had some failures with chicken breasts that were pretty sad and dry. So instead, I went back to our favorite standby chicken recipe for crispy cast iron skillet chicken thighs as my starting point.
Even just served plain with no sauce or other seasonings, it makes marvelous chicken with so much flavor that I knew it would be a good place to work from as far as having moist, perfectly cooked chicken.
Then I added caramelized onions, fresh rosemary, and blood orange juice to create a pan sauce that can be spooned over the chicken, and bingo! A dish that is definitely different from our typical chicken dinner approach but one that we all love!
I would recommend serving this with brown or white rice for an easy, healthy, gluten-free meal. The skin is crispy from being cooked in the hot cast iron skillet to render the fat before flipping and transferring the skillet to the oven to finish cooking the skillet there.
I went ahead and added slices of blood orange to the tops of each chicken thigh and some sprigs of fresh rosemary more because I think it looks beautiful than for the flavor they give, since most of the citrus and rosemary flavor actually comes from the sauce.
But our girls were thrilled to have a slice of roasted blood orange to eat along with their dinner.
What are blood oranges anyway?
If you have never tried one before, blood oranges taste very similar to regular oranges. They have a bit of an almost raspberry flavor along with the citrus flavor of orange and are possibly a little bit more sweettart along the lines of a grapefruit, perhaps.
But it’s subtle and you could honestly use regular oranges here if blood oranges aren’t in season.
Blood oranges look almost bruised or slightly discolored sitting next to the regular oranges most of us are more familiar with. But it’s when you slice them open that you experience the real beauty of blood oranges. The pulp and juice can vary from a rosy pink to deep burgundy and almost black.
Blood oranges can be used like any other oranges and are great for baking, or using the gorgeous, vibrant juice in dressings, sauces, glazes, and drinks.
I have most frequently seen them used to make a beautiful blush-pink glaze to go over gorgeous pound cakes, but since I knew I wanted to do a passionfruit glaze with a lemon loaf cake for my other Freaky Fruits Friday post, I nixed that idea in favor of using the blood oranges in a main dish instead. I’m so glad I did!
You usually see blood oranges in the stores during the same peak season for most citrus fruit – from December to March.
How to Make Cast Iron Blood Orange Chicken Thighs
- Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and season with a blend of garlic powder, salt, and pepper. I always use skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs for this approach because we love the texture and flavor of the crispy chicken skin.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, then add a little oil to the pan to get hot before laying the seasoned chicken thighs in the pan, skin side down. Don’t touch the chicken thighs after that! You don’t want to move them around at this early stage when the heat from the cast iron skillet is searing the chicken skin and rendering the fat. Just turn on the oven fan and cover the pan with a splatterguard.
- After 7 to 9 minutes, the chicken should release easily from the pan and you can flip the thighs to the other side, then top with slices of blood orange and transfer to the oven to roast for 18 to 20 minutes, until the juices of the chicken run clear and the internal temperature of the cooked chicken is 165 degrees F. Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the chicken thighs to a plate before pouring off the rendered fat from the pan.
- In the same pan, saute the onions over medium heat, adding a little olive oil if the pan starts looking dry, until they start to soften and begin to caramelize just a bit, about 8 to 10 minutes. This draws out the natural sugars in the onions and makes them so good that my husband asked me to double the amount of onions after I made this the first time.
- Once the onions are soft, make an easy pan sauce by adding blood orange juice, chicken broth, some honey for sweetness and balance, chopped fresh rosemary, and a little pepper to the pan along with the onions and let that simmer until the liquid is reduced by about 1/2 and has thickened slightly. Then add the chicken back in to the skillet and spoon some of the sauce over top before serving.
More Dinner Inspiration Featuring Fruit & Protein Together:
- Roast Pork Loin with Fennel & Apples
- Rosemary Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Strawberries
- Grilled Salmon with Plum Sauce
Cast Iron Blood Orange Chicken Thighs
- 2 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on about 6-8
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 blood oranges sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Blood Orange Glaze
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed blood orange juice about 6 blood oranges
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Pat chicken thighs dry using paper towels.
- In a small bowl, combine the salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Sprinkle evenly over both sides of the chicken thighs.
- Heat a cast iron skillet or other heavy oven safe pan over medium heat until hot and add olive oil. Carefully arrange the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and cook without moving the chicken for 7-9 minutes, until the fat on the skin has rendered and the skin is nicely browned and crispy.
- Flip the chicken over and top each thigh with a slice of blood orange. Arrange the rosemary sprigs on top and transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Roast for 18-20 minutes, until the chicken thighs are cooked through and reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F when tested with an instant read meat thermometer.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and transfer the chicken thighs to a plate. Keep warm. Drain any fat in the bottom of the pan, then place on the stove over medium heat again. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook, scraping up any fond (leftover browned bits of chicken) from the bottom of the pan. If the pan is looking dry, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onions have softened and begin to caramelize.
- Add the blood orange juice, chicken broth, honey, rosemary, and black pepper to the pan and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half and a slightly thicker glaze remains, about 6-8 minutes. Taste and season with salt, if needed, then return the chicken to the pan and spoon the glaze and caramelized onions over the top to serve.