Chakhokhbili is a traditional Georgian stew made from chicken simmered in a fragrant tomato based sauce. I recently acquired a 1939 USSR cookbook called The Book Of Tasty And Healthy Food (Книга о вкусной и здоровой пище) that has seemingly 1000+ recipes from various countries in the Soviet Union. This Chakhokhbili is the first recipe I made from the book, and I have to say it’s pretty good.
Because I am going through a traditional cookbook I did not want to modify the recipe in any way. Instead I made it exactly as specified to keep the authenticity, however I do offer some suggestions for alterations in the notes at the bottom of this post.
Chakhokhbili comes from the word pheasant, however it is most often made from chicken. Specifically, chicken thighs. This meat is the perfect cut to use because after an hour and a half of simmering, the chicken is so tender and falls right off the bone (perfect for eating with the sauce).
How To Make Authentic Chakhokhbili
The three main ingredients for this Chakhokhbili recipe are chicken, onion, and tomato paste. Here I’m using a homemade tomato paste because I am staying at our family’s home farm in central-western Ukraine. Other necessary ingredients are stock, wine, vinegar, and herbs and spices. As this is a peasant dish you can use various substitutions.
500 grams Chicken. Recommended chicken thighs.
2 Onions, chopped.
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 Tbsp Vinegar
125 ml Stock. The recipe doesn’t specify which stock you should use, so you can use whatever is convenient. I made a stock from pork ribs and root vegetables and the final dish turned out delicious.
2 Tbsp Fortified Red Wine. The recipe called for Madeira wine, but figuring this was an old Soviet cookbook I assume they just meant something fortified.
2-3 Tbsp Oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper. The recipe doesn’t specify what type of pepper so I used both black and chili for some spice.
The first step is to fry the chicken in a bit of oil on medium high heat. You don’t need to fully cook the chicken this way, I just want to crisp up the skin a bit. This is a one-pot meal so you can do this in the bottom of your pot, but as I quadrupled the recipe to serve many people I decided to fry the chickens in a pan first.
Once the chickens fried a bit add all your onion to the pot and mix everything up so the onions are coated in the oil/chicken fat.
Next add the stock, tomato paste, vinegar, and wine, along with your preferred level of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting and put the lid on the pot.
If you want to make it a bit spicy then you can add some chopped chili pepper. I think this is a smart move, but it is totally up to you. After all the ingredients are added and mixed together you can just leave the pot simmering on low heat for an hour and a half.
After an hour and a half your Chakhokhbili will be this bright orange color and your kitchen will smell amazing. At this point your authentic Chakhokhbili is finished and you can serve it. I set a plate out, add a chicken thigh, and ladle over some of the delicious soup/sauce. Don’t forget to sprinkle with fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, or whatever you prefer. You can serve this on rice or bulgur wheat for some added sustenance.
I do think this chakhokhbili recipe is pretty awesome as is so I don’t have too many things I would change. I would add more chili since I think I would like it spicier but that’s a small change. One ingredient substitution I would make would be changing out the vinegar for lemon juice. Both are acids, but I feel vinegar is a bit much and lemon juice brings out the freshness of a dish more. As the chickens were walking around the day before I made this, I really like the idea of staying as fresh as possible.
- 500 grams Chicken Recommended chicken thighs.
- 2 Onions chopped.
- 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 Tbsp Vinegar
- 125 ml Stock The recipe doesn't specify which stock you should use so you can use whatever is convenient. I made a stock from pork ribs and root vegetables and the final dish turned out delicious.
- 2 Tbsp Fortified Red Wine The recipe called for Madeira wine but figuring this was an old Soviet cookbook I assume they just meant something fortified.
- 2-3 Tbsp Oil
- Salt to taste
- Pepper The recipe doesn't specify what type of pepper so I used both black and chili for some spice.
- In a pot on medium high heat add the oil and allow to get hot. Place the chicken thighs skin side down and shallow fry until the skin is crispy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the onions to the pot and mix everything up.
- Add in the stock, tomato paste, vinegar, wine, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything up and allow to come to a boil. Lower the heat to minimum and place the lid on.
- Simmer for 1.5 hours.
- Plate the chicken and ladle over the sauce/soup. Sprinkle over freshly chopped herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, or whatever you prefer. Enjoy!