Shkmeruli (Georgian Chicken in Garlic Sauce)

Shkmeruli or Chkmeruli is a delicious Georgian dish that consists of crispy chicken cooked in a rich and decadent garlic sauce.

This rich and flavorful Georgian Shkmeruli is made with just a handful of ingredients and one skillet. Whip it up for an impressive weeknight dinner or serve it alongside Pkhali and Khinkali for an entire Georgian feast!

Spoon in creamy garlic sauce with browned chicken thighs.

Recipe ingredients and substitutions

This recipe isn’t entirely faithful to traditional Shkmeruli — we opt for chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken. And a cast iron skillet is used in place of a traditional Georgian clay pot or ketsi. But the essence and flavors of this adaptation capture the spirit of the original dish.

Measured ingredients to make Shkmeruli
  • Chicken thighs: Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs are the easiest option for a quick Shkmeruli. But you can substitute a whole chicken broken down, a mixture of drumsticks and thighs, or even use a spatchcocked chicken.
  • Spices: I use a combination of sweet paprika and cayenne along with a generous amount of salt to coat the chicken. Feel free to leave out the cayenne to tone down the heat.
  • Vegetable oil and unsalted butter: The chicken thighs are first seared in a combination of vegetable oil and unsalted butter. You can use vegetable oil, canola oil or sunflower oil.
  • Garlic: You’ll need 10 whole cloves of garlic for this recipe. If you have small cloves, you can add a few extra.
  • Milk and heavy cream: I’ve tested this recipe with heavy cream and milk in varying proportions and using a 50/50 ratio resulted in the best sauce. Feel free to use more milk and a bit less heavy cream for a lighter sauce or substitute half and half.

Equipment: I recommend using a large cast iron skillet for this recipe. Alternatively, any heavy-bottomed oven-safe skillet will work well.

Step by step instructions

This Shkmeruli recipe can be made in four simple steps:

Chicken thighs in a large bowl rubbed with paprika, cayenne and salt.

Step 1: Rub the chicken thighs. Use paprika, cayenne and a generous amount of salt to rub the chicken thighs on all sides.

Seared chicken thighs in cast iron skillet.

Step 2: Sear and cook the chicken. Sear the thighs in a mixture of butter and oil until well browned. Then transfer to the oven until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Sauteing the garlic.

Step 3: Saute the garlic. Drain the skillet of all but a few tablespoons of fat. Heat up the skillet and then add the garlic. Cook until fragrant. This will only take a minute or two.

Chicken returned to skillet after making the sauce.

Step 4: Add the heavy cream and milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and return the chicken to the skillet. Cook until the sauce slightly thickens.

Storage

Leftover Georgian Shkmeruli can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

The chicken can be covered with foil and warmed in the oven at 350°F (180°C) until heated through.

To reheat the garlic cream sauce, place it in a small saucepan on the stovetop and gradually increase the temperature. I also recommend adding a bit more cream as the sauce is warming to get the best texture and consistency.

Golden brown chicken thighs with garlic sauce drizzled over the top.

Expert tips and tricks

  • Don’t skimp on the garlic! Think 10 garlic cloves sounds like too much? You would be wrong, my friend. I even throw in an additional few cloves if I feel like my garlic is on the smaller side. This recipe doesn’t have many ingredients, so the garlic is really the main flavor and will lose some of its bite as it simmers.
  • Sear the chicken. Getting a good crust on the chicken to really complement the creaminess of the sauce is an important step in making Shkmeruli. Make sure your cast iron skillet is very hot and avoid overcrowding the pan, which can cause the chicken to steam rather than sear.
  • Adjust the thickness of the sauce to taste. If your sauce is getting too thick, consider adding a splash of chicken stock. And if your sauce is too runny, just continue to simmer the mixture uncovered until you reach your desired consistency.

FAQs

What is Shkmeruli?

Shkmeruli is a traditional Georgian dish made of chicken in garlic sauce. It comes from the town of Shkmeri in the Racha region.

Can I use a whole chicken to make Shkmeruli?

Yes! If using a whole chicken, I recommend spatchcocking the chicken. Sear the whole spatchcocked chicken on both sides in a large cast iron skillet then transfer to the oven until cooked through. Continue with the recipe as written.

What can I use instead of heavy cream?

You can use half and half or regular whole milk instead of heavy cream, though the sauce won’t be as rich or thick.

How can I make this recipe without a cast iron skillet?

This recipe can also be made in any heavy-bottomed oven-safe skillet or dutch oven. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the chicken to a roasting pan for the oven portion.

What should I serve with Shkmeruli?

I enjoy Shkmeruli served with some sort of potato dish (generally roasted or mashed) or crusty bread for soaking up every last bit of the delicious sauce. Because the dish is so rich, a light Easy Cucumber Tomato Salad is also a great side dish. Or try your hand at making Georgian Pkhali, which are vegetable dishes made with walnut paste.

Dish with fried chicken in garlic sauce with crusty bread and pkhali in the background.

More Georgian recipes

Loving this Shkmeruli recipe? For more Georgian inspired recipes, make sure to check out these posts:

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Crispy chicken thighs in dish with creamy garlic sauce.

Georgian Shkmeruli Recipe


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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Brit Kapustina
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6
    • Prep Time: 15 minutes
    • Cook Time: 1 hour
    • Category: Dinner
    • Method: Stovetop
    • Cuisine: Georgian

Ingredients

  • 6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (or other hot chile powder)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use sunflower or grapeseed)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream

 


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Pat the chicken dry and season generously with salt, paprika and cayenne.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil and butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cook for 8 minutes or until well browned. Flip and continue cooking for three minutes. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Work in batches if necessary.
  4. Return all of the chicken to the pan, skin-side up, and transfer to the oven to finish cooking, about 25-35 minutes. The internal temperature of the chicken should reach 165°F (74°C). Transfer to a plate and set aside. 
  5. Drain all but a few tablespoons of fat from the skillet. Heat the skillet over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for one minute or until fragrant.
  6. Pour in the milk and heavy cream. Season generously with salt.
  7. Bring the sauce to a simmer and return the chicken to the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer an additional 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Notes

Storage: Leftover Shkmeruli can be kept covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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