Chicken Yassa is scrumptious West African comfort food that the whole world needs to know about. Delicious tender chicken and lots of caramelized onions in a sweet, spicy, lemony sauce.
Senegalese Chicken Yassa is a famously popular recipe throughout west Africa. It's one of those simply delicious dishes: just a few ingredients that are transformed, by the magic of cooking, into an exciting and comforting meal.
Chicken, lots of onions, lemon juice, garlic, dijon mustard and one hot pepper to infuse a perfect amount of kick. After marinating, browning and a slow braise, you get fall-off-the-bone tender chicken and sweet caramelized onions in a captivating sweet-tangy-spicy sauce.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN YASSA
There are several stages to this recipe, each one contributing a delicious layer of flavor to the dish.
- The first step is to marinate the chicken and onions with a mixture of oil, lemon juice, garlic and dijon mustard. Let the chicken marinate for a good three hours for maximum flavor. If you can leave it overnight, even better.
- Next, brown the chicken. This can be done on a grill (the most authentic method) or in a skillet. I prefer the skillet to the oven for browning. Just a personal preference. I might have considered grilling it but there's still a mountain of snow between my back door and my grill!
- Remove the browned chicken pieces from the skillet and add the onions with their lemony, garlicky marinade. Sauté them until they are golden and caramelized. Remove them from the pot.
- Add the chicken back to the pot. Mound the caramelized onions on top. Set the hot pepper in the middle. Turn on the heat and get everything simmering.
- Cover the pot and set it in a preheated 350ºs oven and cook for an hour and 20 minutes.
Serve Chicken Yassa hot, with plain white rice to soak up all the delicious sauce.
Be careful when you transfer the chicken to a plate or platter because it might fall apart - it's that tender!
This comforting dish with bright flavors feels just right as the snow here in Boston is starting to melt and the birds are starting to chirp.
I hope you enjoy!
If you like this kind of comforting flavorful chicken dish, don't miss these other delicious Panning The Globe chicken recipes:
- Filipino Chicken Adobo
- Jollof Rice with Chicken
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine
- Ottolenghi's Roast Chicken with Za'atar and Sumac
- Arroz Con Pollo: Spanish Chicken and Rice Casserole
Here's the Senegalese Chicken Yassa recipe. If you try this recipe, please come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think.
Senegalese Chicken Yassa
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 6 1x
Tender chicken braised with lemon and caramelized onions. Serve with fluffy rice and Moroccan Carrot Salad.
- 3 chicken leg quarters (leg and thigh)
- 3 chicken breast halves (bone-in)
- 5 onions (about 2 pounds) peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup canola oil or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 4 medium garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- For Browning and Braising the Chicken
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil (olive, canola, or grape seed)
- 1 ½ cups low-salt chicken broth (I recommend Swanson's)
- Garnish 1 cup pitted green olives, sliced
- Marinate the Chicken: Put the chicken and onions into a large glass bowl. Cut a few slits in the habanero pepper and add it to the bowl. Whisk marinade ingredients in a small bowl and pour on top. Toss to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours or, preferably, overnight.
- Brown the Chicken and Caramelize the Onions: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven. Remove the chicken from the marinade and sprinkle pieces with a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper, to taste. Brown chicken on both sides in batches, three pieces at a time, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Spoon out some of the chicken fat from the pot, leaving about one tablespoon.
- Caramelize the Onions Set the hot pepper aside and scrape the onions and all the marinade into the pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes to get the onions hot and cooking. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes more, until they are soft and starting to caramelize. Regulate the heat so they don't burn.
- Use a spatula or wooden spoon to move onions aside, as you lay chicken pieces into the bottom of the pot, and then mound the onions on top of the chicken pieces. Place the hot pepper in the middle of the pot. Pour in chicken broth. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the pot and put it in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- Serve with fluffy white rice and sliced green olives.
- Prep Time: 30 min
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 mins
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: African
Keywords: African lemon chicken stew, lemon chicken stew, lemony braised chicken with caramelized onions
Love this recipe… have made it many times … I also portion out and freeze with rice for quick dinner solutions when I have a busy day.. never loses it’s flavour and freezes well.
I've made this many times and will be making it again Friday night. My whole family loves this dish! I keep intending to leave a review and finally here it is. The recipe is clear and easy to follow. The chicken is tender and the flavors are fantastic. 5 stars all around and thank you for a great recipe!
Senegalese here. This is a really good starter recipe. Add a little vinegar, ginger and some maggi. It will really enhance the flavors.
Greetings from California! I am on a journey to make national dishes of all nations, (within reason). I made this tonight after marinating the chicken and onions overnight. Wow!! Initially I was concerned about the amount of onions but they reduce nicely during cooking. I should have cooked them longer to make them more caramelized though. This is definitely on my list of dishes to make again!
I am Latina. My friend made this for me a long time ago and I wanted to try it myself. It was amazing !!!!!!! It tasted like his !!!!!
Hi Jena - So great that this recipe tasted like the one you remembered your friend making for you. I'm really glad you enjoyed the dish!
As a former Peace Corps Togo Volunteer, one thing that is missing from this dish is the smoke of the cooking fire which permeates West Africa dishes. It is a flavor that defines village dishes.
What I do is smoke the cold marinated thighs a bit with mesquite first as the smoke is absorbed when the chicken is cold. Then I brown them in the pan as in your recipe.
Another alternative is to use smoke sea salt instead of regular.
Thanks for the salad.
This was the BEST! Thank you for such an easy recipe to follow. The results were beyond my expectations. Tender chicken and the most delicious onions and sauce. I served it over brown rice, which was great! This will be in our regular rotation.
Thanks Rachel! I'm so happy you liked the Chicken Yassa!
I learned this recipe while visiting in Ouakum, Dakar... but the kicker in their cooking was peanut oil. Try it ... incredibly different flavor. And I grill whenever possible then "stew" in a pot over the coals for as long as I can make them last.
Another Senegal Peace Corps volunteer here! This is a great recipe. In my village I learned to make the marinade without lemon juice, and we gave it a squeeze of lime after cooking for the citrus kick. We threw the pepper in as part of the marinade, and made the whole thing as a one-pot meal on an open fire (no stoves...)
I am in fact making this tomorrow for friends. YUM.
I am making this tonight but with boneless chicken breasts and thighs. how will I reduce the time and can’t wait, I miss travelling!
Hi Lisa, I suggest you reduce the oven time to 50 minutes. That should do it. Enjoy!!