Baked Chicken Thighs with Butter and Onions

baked chicken thighs

Keep your ferments, your sous vide pork chops, your deconstructed French Onion Soup; when it comes to dishes that I’m interested in, I’d much rather eat the favorite thing that you ate in childhood — especially if it’s something that your mother made for you with love. That’s the case with Aaron Hutcherson’s baked chicken thighs with butter and onions. It’s a deceptively simple dish that his mother made with a homemade spice mix, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, and just enough butter to give everything some pizazz. It’s a weeknight dinner that feels good enough for the weekend.

I learned about this dish on this week’s episode of You’ve Got to Taste This, in which Aaron talks about his childhood in Chicago, how his mom let him cook with her in the kitchen, and how he ultimately branched out on his own, attending culinary school (after working as a wealth manager) and becoming a recipe columnist for The Washington Post. You can listen to our whole conversation here or on Apple podcasts:

Let’s Get Spicy

Firstly, the spice mix is a classic combo of salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder (which made me think of my own mother — she loved sprinkling it on pasta and pizza), dried thyme, ground cumin, and paprika. You sprinkle that all over eight bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (you don’t want boneless, skinless here: the skin and bone insulate the chicken from the heat of the oven, keeping everything juicy).

If you just did that and stuck it in the oven, you’d have a great dinner. But Aaron (and his mom) take things a step further, scattering a chopped onion over everything and adding pats of butter.

If I’ve learned anything in this life, it’s this: butter and chicken are the best of friends. It’s what makes my roast chicken so special.

Baked Chicken Thighs, Crispy and Hot

Afterwards, you bake that in a 400 degree oven (Aaron recommends a 9X13 pan, but I used a 12-inch cast-iron skillet) for 40 minutes and at the end, if the thighs aren’t crispy enough, you broil them.

I mean, who wouldn’t have a smile on their face if this came to the table?

Aaron suggests serving with rice and I think that’s a must: what else is going to soak up all of those buttery, spicy, chicken juices? I also added some of my famous roasted broccoli for health.

This is one of those versatile, back-pocket recipes you’ll whip out any time you need a quick, comforting dinner that’ll impress and nourish at the same time. Thanks Aaron, and thanks to your mom, for this newest addition to my repertoire.

baked chicken thighs

Baked Chicken Thighs with Butter and Onions

A lovely family recipe from food writer Aaron Hutcherson featuring chicken, spices, butter, and onions.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword butter, chicken, main courses, onions, spices
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes


  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 pounds total)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I like Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme I used dried oregano here and it worked great
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat your chicken thighs dry with paper towels and mix together all of the spices.
  • In a 9 X 13 baking dish or a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, add your chicken thighs. Sprinkle on all sides with the spice mixture, finishing with the chicken skin-side up.
  • Sprinkle the chopped onion over the chicken and then top each piece with a slice of butter. Bake for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • If the chicken isn't crispy enough (is it ever crispy enough?) place under the broiler and broil just until the skin gets a bit darker, but not so long that it burns.
  • Let it cool slightly and then serve with rice and lots of the pan juices on top.

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