Brown stew chicken is a classic Caribbean braised chicken dish with a rich, dark, spiced sauce. It is typically associated with Jamaican cuisine but is also popular in other Caribbean communities. Often made with an entire chicken cut into pieces, this recipe simplifies the process by using only chicken thighs and/or drumsticks.
3poundsbone-in chicken pieces,preferably thighs and/or drumsticks, skin-on or skinless (about 6 to 8 thighs depending on size)
½cupsliced scallions(about 4 scallions, white and green parts)
6clovesgarlic, minced, grated, or crushed
1tablespoonpeeled and finely minced fresh ginger
1tablespoon(packed) brown sugar(light or dark)
1 ½teaspoonskosher (coarse) salt
½teaspoonground Jamaican allspice
½teaspoonground black pepper
Brown Stew Chicken:
2tablespoonscanola or vegetable oil
2cupschicken broth or stock
1red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper(left whole)
In a large bowl or gallon-size plastic storage bag combine the chicken with all of the remaining marinade ingredients. Stir to evenly coat and gently massage the marinade into the chicken pieces. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or seal the bag, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, scraping off bits of vegetables and herbs from the chicken. Reserve the marinade and allow the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes so it’s closer to room temperature before cooking.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, dutch oven, or braiser, heat oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches if needed, add chicken pieces to the oil (skin-side down first if it is skin-on chicken) and brown for about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown (it’s ok if they are dark brown, the sauce will even out all of the color). Remove browned pieces and set aside. If there is a lot of fat in the pan (from rendering the chicken skins) you may drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat.
Add the reserved marinade and give it a good stir, cooking for 1 to 2 minutes just until the mixture is fragrant and starting to soften. Then add the chicken broth and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the bell pepper, Scotch bonnet pepper, and ketchup. Stir until smooth, then add the browned chicken pieces and stir to coat.
When the mixture comes to a boil, cover the pot, lower the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for about 45 minutes, flipping the chicken pieces a couple of times throughout the cooking process. The chicken should be very tender and the sauce somewhat reduced. If desired, simmer uncovered for an additional 10 to 15 minutes to further reduce the sauce.
Discard the bay leaves and scotch bonnet. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with rice (preferably Jamaican rice and peas or coconut rice).
Although it's not traditional, you can make this brown stew chicken with chicken tenders. Use about 2 pounds or about 12 chicken tenders. Brown the chicken tenders in 2 batches for about 1 ½ minutes per side. Simmer for about 35 minutes (instead of 45) and then finish cooking uncovered as directed above to reduce the sauce.
I recommend wearing food safe gloves when you massage the marinade into the chicken, and for when you scrape the marinade off the marinated chicken. Your hands will thank me!
If using an enameled cast iron pot I recommend using silicone tongs for flipping the chicken pieces, and a wooden spoon for stirring and scraping the bottom. Do not use metal utensils with enameled cast iron.
If your bay leaves are dry versus fresh, you may want to hold off on adding them when you first massage the marinade mixture into the chicken. They can break into pieces making them harder to remove later. Add all the other marinade ingredients, massage, then add the bay leaves last, tucking them into the sides, before covering and refrigerating the chicken.
Optionally, you may also add 1 cup sliced carrots at the same time you add the sliced peppers to the pot.
You can use a variety of colors for your peppers (½ each of a couple different colors) or just a single colored pepper, but when they cook down the colors may not be as noticeable.