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Spanish Onion Chicken (Pollo Encebollado)

Pollo encebollado – or Spanish Onion Chicken – is a classic Spanish chicken dish, very similar to Pollo al ajillo.

This dish is popular all over Spain and is super easy to make with chicken braised in caramelized onions, beer and herbs.

Pollo encebollado can be served over mashed potatoes, with a side of fried potatoes, with rice or quinoa, or with lots of bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

plate of onion stewed chicken with silver fork hanging off the plate with counter top around.
This Spanish onion chicken is a recipe you must try!

There are a few variations of this recipe around Spain. The one I’m sharing with you today is the recipe I like to make and how my mom used to make it when I was little.

I like the flavor the beer gives the sauce, but some variations use white wine instead of beer. So if you prefer wine, feel free to try the recipe with your white wine of choice for equally delicious results. 

Ingredients

spanish onion chicken ingredients on counter in bowls with labels.

Here are all the ingredients that you will need for this delicious Spanish chicken and onion recipe:

  • Chicken thighs – Alternatively, you can use other parts of chicken, such as drumsticks.  I don’t recommend using chicken breast since it can turn a bit too dry. 
  • White onions – Traditionally this recipe is made with either white or yellow onion. I recommend using sweet white onions.
  • Olive oil – Use olive oil if possible, but if you don’t have any on hand you can use any neutral-tasting cooking oil.
  • Garlic cloves – Use fresh garlic cloves, not dried garlic or garlic powder.
  • Black pepper – Preferably freshly cracked pepper for the best taste.
  • Salt – Enhances the overall flavor of the dish.
  • Fresh rosemary – Alternatively you can also use dried rosemary (about 1 tablespoon).
  • Fresh thyme – Or dried thyme (about 1 teaspoon) if you don’t have fresh thyme.
  • Small can of beer – Any beer will do, but I prefer to use a lighter beer instead of a dark beer. You can also substitute the beer with white wine.
  • Bay leaves – Add extra flavor.

Recipe Tips

  • By browning the meat before cooking the onions the chicken will be more flavorful. Also, the olive oil will be infused with the chicken flavor which affects the final flavor of the dish, so don’t skip this step. 
  • Make sure to cook the onions until they are soft and browned – the longer the better. This will make the sauce delicious, so don’t skip or shorten this step. 
  • Once you put the browned chicken back into the pan, make sure to also add the liquid that it released while sitting on the plate.
  • After you add the beer and the herbs, cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, so the chicken cooks evenly and the sauce develops maximum flavor. 
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How to Make Spanish Onion Chicken – Step by Step Instructions

In this section, you can find all the recipe process photos so that you can follow along as you cook at home.

If you don’t like process photos, jump to the detailed recipe card with full instructions and ingredient amounts at the bottom of this post.

slices of raw onion on wooden cutting board with knife beside.

First, peel and thinly slice the onions. Also peel and slice the garlic. Then set them aside.

chicken thighs frying in black frying pan with wooden spatula beside.

Next, season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.

Then heat the olive oil in a pan. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides over medium-high heat, then remove them from the pan and set aside on a plate.

The chicken doesn’t need to be fully cooked at this stage, since it will finish cooking later with the sauce.

onions frying in black frying pan with counter around and wooden spoon sticking out.

Using the same pan, add the sliced garlic cloves and onions. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper.

Cook on medium-low for 20 minutes until they become soft, fragrant, and browned. Stir regularly.

chicken thighs frying in pan with fresh herbs in the pan.

Now add the chicken back to the pan along with the bay leaves, thyme and rosemary.

hand pouring can of beer into black frying pan full of chicken thighs.

Then carefully pour in the beer.

black frying pan filled with fried chicken thighs and caramelized onions.

Then cover the pan and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. The chicken should be fully cooked and tender.

plate of chicken and stewed onions on counter beside larger frying pan of similar dish.

Serve the dish hot with a side dish of your choice, such as mashed or fried potatoes, rice, quinoa, or crusty bread. Enjoy!

Storage Tips

Pollo encebollado can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. 

Related Recipes

For more Spanish recipes that you might enjoy, check out these classic dishes:

plate of onion chicken with side of rice sitting on counter.

Pollo Encebollado (Spanish Onion Chicken)

Pollo Encebollado – or Spanish Onion Chicken – is a classic Spanish dish. This succulent chicken is stewed in lots of caramelized onions, beer, and herbs – and can be served with sides like rice, potatoes, and more!
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 3 large white onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 to 5 chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste; divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a sprig of fresh rosemary
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small can beer, (approximately 350 ml or 12 fl oz)

Instructions

  • Peel the onions and slice them thinly. Also peel and slice the garlic as well. Set them aside.
    3 large white onions, 2 garlic cloves
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
    4 to 5 chicken thighs
  • Heat the olive oil in a pan. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides over medium-high heat, then remove and set aside on a plate. The chicken doesn't need to be fully cooked at this stage, since it will finish cooking later with the sauce.
    2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Using the same pan, add the sliced garlic cloves and onions. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes until they become soft, fragrant, and browned. Stir regularly.
  • Add the chicken back to the pan along with the bay leaves, thyme and rosemary.
    2 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Carefully pour in the beer.
    1 small can beer
  • Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. The chicken should be fully cooked and tender.
  • Serve the dish hot with a side dish of your choice.

Notes

  • You can also use other parts of chicken, such as drumsticks. Chicken breast is also an option, but it may turn out a bit too dry. 
  • Instead of fresh herbs, you can also use dried rosemary (about 1 tablespoon) and thyme (about 1 teaspoon). 
  • You can substitute the beer with white wine if you prefer. Avoid overly sweet wines. 
  • By browning the meat before cooking the onions the chicken will be more flavorful. Also, the olive oil will be infused with the chicken flavor which affects the final flavor of the dish, so don’t skip this step. 
  • Make sure to cook the onions until they are soft and browned – the longer the better. This will make the sauce delicious, so don’t skip or shorten this step. 
  • Once you put the browned chicken back into the pan, make sure to also add the liquid that it released while sitting on the plate.
  • After you add the beer and the herbs, cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, so the chicken cooks evenly and the sauce develops maximum flavor. 

Nutrition

Calories: 396kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 968mg | Potassium: 435mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 131IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 1mg

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Spanish
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This recipe was contributed by
Alba Luna Meyer
Born and raised in the Southeast of Spain, Alba is a photographer and a foodie. Always hungry for new flavors and recipes, but with a big passion for traditional recipes that speak about roots and family. You can always find her talking about food, photographing it, or cooking! Obviously, she is team “tortilla de patatas con cebolla”.

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