This classic French dish sounds impressive. But if you can sear chicken and cook up some vegetables, you can make this easy coq au vin recipe, and offer a variation for cooking it in an Instant Pot. The name means simply, “chicken with wine,” and in this version, I’ve removed some of the more laborious steps without sacrificing either the flavor or the final result.
In its original French inception, the coq in coq au vin referred to a rooster, typically mean old birds who wore out their welcome in the hen house. The tough nature of the meat required a long simmering time to soften. Wine was used to help tenderize the meat thanks to its sugar content.
This easy coq au vin dish is great for entertaining, taking to a potluck or when preparing ahead for weekday meals as it taste better reheated. To make it even easier, I have included an Instant Pot variation.
Even though this dish calls for wine, it remains an economical dish. You don’t need an expensive bottle and you only need a cup or so. I’ve made this with $8 table wine and a expensive French red and frankly, it was a struggle to tell the difference.
Given that the odds of finding a rooster at your local supermarket are essentially none, I recommend employing chicken thighs and legs – or better yet, the full hind quarter piece with leg and thigh attached. You can use white meat if you’ve got non-dark meat fans in your posse.
A few ingredient tips for this easy coq au vin
At Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, we made the classic version that includes pearl onions and lardons, diced pieces of salted pork. In this recipe, I use a quality bacon over lardons. It’s easier to find and lends an earthy bit of flavor. I’ve also used diced ham leftover from a holiday meal, too.
Pearl onions do impart a certain sweetness, but they tend to be wickedly expensive and take a woefully long time to peel if you buy them fresh. I’ve come to rely on the frozen variety. They’re already peeled and it just takes a quick bath in butter to make them taste fresh. I’ve made this dish with both pearl onions and classic yellow and it’s good both ways.
It’s not coq au vin without wine…
What kind of wine to use for this easy coq au vin? Choose a wine decent enough that you’d drink it alone. I prefer something a bit hearty, such as a Syrah, a Cabernet Sauvignon or a blend.
Not a red wine fan? Here’s a surprising tip: you can also make this with white wine. It yields a different flavor, but it’s still delicious. Use white wine or an inexpensive sparkling wine in place of red. When Mike and I visited the Chablis region, we ordered coq au vin and lo and behold, it came swimming in the region’s famed white. The end flavor tends to be a bit sweeter and lighter, yet still hearty and savory.
I usually buy two bottles of wine for this dish – one to cook the chicken in, and one to drink with it when it’s done. This dish also calls for brandy or Cognac, and while optional, definitely adds something to the dish, but you don’t buy a big bottle if you don’t have it on hand. I admit that I employ E&J Brandy at such moments; it runs about five bucks for a small bottle.
Paired with noodles or mashed potatoes, this serves six to eight.
– Updated May 5, 2022
Other recipes of interest:
Easy Coq Au Vin (Chicken Braised in Red Wine) with Instant Pot option
- Dutch oven or heavy pot with lid
For the braise
- 5 lbs chicken, preferably thighs, legs or quarter pieces
- 3 tablespoons avocado or grapeseed oil
- 8 ounces (250g) bacon, sliced
- 1 large yellow onion chopped (about 2 cups)
- 4 ribs celery chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 medium carrots about 1 ½ cups
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac
- 3 cups (700 ml) chicken stock
- 1/2 bottle dry red wine (about 2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 10 sprigs thyme tied together
- or 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
Cooked separately from braise
- 2 cups peeled frozen pearl onions thawed
- 8 ounces (250g) brown mushrooms sliced
- 3 tablespoons parsley chopped
- Mashed potatoes or wide noodles
- Preheat oven to 350°F /180°C. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut off extra fan and excess skin. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a heavy Dutch oven, brown in batches in hot oil over high heat. It’s important to get the chicken nice and browned, as shown. Don’t rush this step; properly browned chicken is a key to the final outcome. Once browned, set chicken aside on a plate.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and add the bacon and cook slowly until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, celery and carrot and stir until tender. Add the brandy (if using), reduce slightly. Sprinkle with flour and stir until coated.
- Return the chicken to the pan. Add the chicken stock, garlic and herbs. Then, add enough wine so the liquid just covers chicken pieces; this could be up to 2 cups. Bring the liquid to a boil, skimming off any foam or fat. Cover tightly and place in oven for about two hours or until meat is very tender.
- Meanwhile, cook the pearl onions and mushrooms in a medium skillet in 2 tablespoons of butter. Before serving, add the mushrooms, onions and chopped parsley to the cooked chicken. Check seasonings, adding salt and pepper until it taste right to you. Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes.
Instant Pot option
- Prepare steps as directed using the saute mode. Pressure cook for 20 minutes, then do a careful quick release. You may need to do a thorough skim of any accumulated fat before adding the pearl onoins and mushrooms. Finish as directed.
Process photos by Kathleen Flinn. Finished dish photo by Brent Hofacker.