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Southern Smothered Chicken and Gravy with Rice

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This Southern smothered chicken features fall-off-the-bone tender chicken thighs simmered in rich gravy and spooned over a bed of fluffy white rice. Smothered chicken and rice is an irresistible southern soul food classic that’s perfect for Sunday dinner!

smothered chicken recipe

Our smothered chicken recipe is not only a family favorite, but also happens to be Marrekus’ mom’s and his grandma’s family recipe! Growing up, he used to watch them make smothered chicken thighs with homemade gravy every Sunday for dinner alongside boiled cabbage or collard greens.

Not only is this recipe a reminder of Sunday dinners at grandma’s (it was always either fried chicken, smothered chicken, or smothered pork chops with rice or mashed potatoes and green beans), but it represents the best of Southern comfort cooking and remains a staple of soul food cuisine. 

If you enjoy this smothered chicken recipe you will also love these Southern Oxtails featuring oxtails smothered in brown gravy over rice.

What is Smothered Chicken?

Smothered chicken is a popular Southern comfort soul food dish that consists of braised chicken cooked in brown gravy. It’s often served over a side of rice or mashed potatoes.

The delicious gravy is usually made with a combination of ingredients like butter, flour, onion, chicken broth or stock, and pan drippings. The key to our smothered chicken recipe is the slow and gentle cooking process, allowing the meat to become tender and absorb the flavors of the gravy.

smothered chicken thighs

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (use 1 teaspoon if using table salt or any other brand or type of salt)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion (or 1/2 tsp onion powder)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or other chicken pieces)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 6 cups cooked white rice

Brown Gravy

  • Drippings (flavorful juices and fat that collect at the bottom of a pan or dish while cooking)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock, preferably unsalted

Recipe Substitutions and Variations

  • Seasoning: Use poultry seasoning in place of the garlic, onion, lemon pepper, and chili powder. The cayenne pepper adds a bit of heat, so adjust to your personal preference.
  • Chicken: Swap out bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for boneless skinless chicken thighs, chicken legs, or juicy chicken breasts. 

What type of chicken should I use?

We prefer smothered chicken thighs. Specifically, bone-in, skin-on thighs because they yield moist, tender, and flavorful meat. You can also use drumsticks or wings. 

Boneless chicken thighs or breasts are considered kid-friendly and preferred by picky eaters. Just keep in mind that cooking times will vary depending on the cut of meat you choose.

What are drippings?

What remains in the pot after cooking meat or poultry is called “drippings”, flavorful juices and fat that collect at the bottom of a pan or dish. These juices are a combination of meat juices, melted fat, and any seasonings or marinades that were used during cooking. Drippings are often used to make gravy or sauce to accompany the cooked meat.

smothered chicken gravy cabbage biscuits

How to Make Smothered Chicken Thighs

  • Step 1: Season the Chicken: First things first, grab a large Dutch oven or a large skillet (preferably cast iron) and heat it on the stove over medium-high heat. 
  • While it’s heating up, grab and bowl and mix together salt, pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic, lemon pepper, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Generously coat your chicken, making sure to get some of the seasoning under the skin. 
  • Step 2: Brown in the Pan: Carefully heat oil and use tongs to gently lay down the seasoned thighs. Sear chicken on both sides until they’re lightly golden brown. This takes about 6 minutes or so, but keep an eye on them. Transfer chicken to a wire rack set over a sheet pan lined with paper towels. 
  • Step 3: Cook in Brown Gravy: Now, let’s talk about that gravy (see How to Make a Roux for Brown Gravy below). Bring it to a boil, then take those thighs you seared earlier and put them back into the pot.
  • Lower the heat and let the chicken and gravy simmer together for 1 hour, or until the thighs are tender and cooked through. The internal temperature should be at least 165°F (74°C).
  • Note that the cooking time may vary depending on the type of chicken you use. Give it a stir every so often.
  • Step 4: Serve and Enjoy: Transfer smothered chicken thighs onto plates, and ladle more of that rich, flavorful gravy on top. Serve it with a side of white rice, or mashed potatoes, ready to soak up all that goodness.
  • You can also pair it with your favorite Southern side dishes like green beans, cabbage, mashed potatoescollard greens, or mac and cheese
  • Transfer any leftover smothered chicken to an airtight container or a covered dish. Place the container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

How to Make a Roux for Brown Gravy

Make a quick and easy brown gravy with drippings, butter, onion, all-purpose flour, chicken bouillon powder, and chicken stock. 

  • After transferring the chicken to a wire rack, add butter to your Dutch oven or skillet with the browned bits and drippings and use it to sauté the onions over medium heat until softened and translucent. 
  • Then, gradually stir flour into the butter and onion mixture. Slowly pour in stock and whisk until the gravy is nice and smooth. 
  • Don’t forget to taste for seasoning and adjust with a little more bouillon powder if needed.
  • Tip: The secret to smooth gravy is whisking vigorously in a circular motion!

What consistency should gravy be?

The gravy should be smooth and have some body to it. Use a metal spoon to scoop up some gravy, then run your finger along the back of the spoon. If there is a completely clean line, that means it’s perfect consistency. The gravy should not be so thick that it doesn’t easily pour, and not so thin that it’s runny.

What to Serve Smothered Chicken

Carefully place the smothered chicken thighs on serving plates or a platter, ensuring each piece is generously coated with extra brown gravy. Serve alongside your favorite Southern sides.

Here are some of our favorite dishes that go best with our smothered chicken recipe:

  • White Rice: White rice is a classic accompaniment for smothered chicken. The rice soaks up the flavorful gravy, creating a delicious combination.
  • Green Beans: Fresh green beans and red potatoes are simmered in a rich and flavorful broth with smoked turkey, onion, garlic, and seasonings.
  • Collard Greens: Cooked collard greens, seasoned with ham hocks or smoked turkey, provide a healthy and flavorful side dish.
  • Cabbage: Tender, buttery cabbage is another great option. 
  • Macaroni and Cheese: This classic Southern comfort food pairs perfectly. 
  • Black-Eyed Peas: Seasoned black-eyed peas are a nutritious and hearty choice.
  • Biscuits: Flaky and buttery biscuits are a delightful side to scoop up every bit of that brown gravy. 
  • Cornbread: Our soul food cornbread recipe is easy to follow and yields a moist, tender crumb. It combines the rich tang of buttermilk with classic ingredients like butter and sugar.
  • Sweet Potato Cornbread: This sweet potato cornbread is perfectly moist and flavorful, made with fresh, mashed sweet potatoes and a touch of cinnamon.

What type of pot or pan should I use for smothered chicken?

When making smothered chicken, use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven or cast iron skillet is best for smothered chicken thighs.

How do I prevent chicken thighs from sticking to the bottom of the pan?

Adding oil to a pre-heated Dutch oven or cast iron skillet should minimize chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Summary

Smothered chicken and rice is the quintessential soul food classic, offering tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken thighs simmered in a creamy gravy and served over white rice. This recipe represents the best of Southern comfort cooking and remains a staple of soul food cuisine. 

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Smothered Chicken and Rice

  • Author: cooks with soul
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: main course, dinner
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: American, soul food

Description

Our smothered chicken recipe features fall-off-the-bone tender chicken thighs smothered in rich brown gravy and spooned over a bed of white rice. Smothered chicken with rice is an irresistible southern soul food classic that’s perfect for Sunday dinner!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted
  • 6 cups cooked white rice

Instructions

  1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat; alternatively, you can use a cast iron skillet.
  2. Mix salt, pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic, lemon pepper, chili powder, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Season chicken on all sides with seasoning mixture, making sure to pull back the skin to season the meat.
  4. Pour oil into the pre-heated Dutch oven. 
  5. Brown chicken on both sides, about 6 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
  6. Add butter and sliced onions to the Dutch oven and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, scraping any food stuck to the bottom as needed. 
  7. Sauté onions until softened and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. Gradually add flour and bouillon powder, and stir until well-mixed with the onions and butter.
  9. Add stock and whisk vigorously until a smooth gravy forms. Taste for seasoning and adjust with more bouillon if needed.
  10. Bring gravy to a low boil and return the thighs back to the Dutch oven.
  11. Cover and reduce heat to low. 
  12. Simmer chicken in the gravy for 1 hour, or until thighs are tender and cooked through; stir occasionally.
  13. Plate thighs with a scoop of cooked rice and spoon extra gravy on top; serve immediately.

Keywords: smothered chicken, chicken thighs, rice

24 Comments

  1. This recipe is too good! I am for sure going to be making this over and over, thank you so much for sharing! It’s one of my husband’s new favorite dinners now 🙂

  2. Nothing like a good Grandmother recipe and this smothered chicken and gravy is sure to be my new favorite Sunday dinner recipe. So hearty, comforting, and delicious!

  3. I grew up on recipes like this. It’s such comfort food and just so ‘homey’. I love the flavors of this and seriously, every single thing about it!

  4. I’m always searching for a good chicken recipe, and your southern smothered chicken is calling my name. Thanks for sharing!

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