So who recently found an extra bag of fresh cranberries shoved in the back of the fridge, behind all the Thanksgiving leftovers? This girl did, and I’m sure many of you did too haha! But thanks to my over-zealous shopping nature, always buying more than I need, I ended up putting that extra bag to good use and made this beautiful sheet pan cranberry chicken and potatoes dinner that I will now share with you all. Because it is very good. And very easy. And I think you all will enjoy it very much. Let’s get to it, shall we?
What’s In Sheet Pan Cranberry Chicken & Potatoes?
The staple ingredients you will need to make this recipe are chicken, cranberries, potatoes, vinegar, olive oil and fresh or dried seasonings, as well as some fresh oranges and maple syrup to cut through the acidity of the cranberries. I used white wine vinegar when cooking the chicken, and freshly chopped sage and rosemary to impart a nice earthy flavor that complements the cranberries and punches up the potatoes, but feel free to use herbs you may have on hand. I’ll make recommendations for substitutions below, so make sure to read through those.
And if you are wondering just how much cranberry flavoring is imparted on the chicken or potatoes, you’ll be glad to know that hardly any is at all. Because they are added more than half way through the cooking process, they really just serve as a fresh bit of acidity to complement the chicken and potatoes, and can easily be left out for those who don’t love cranberries, i.e., many kids.
How to Make Sheet Pan Cranberry Chicken & Potatoes
So full disclosure, the vinegar chicken trick is one I recently learned from Allison Roman, in this recipe using green crushed olives. It is DELICIOUS and I highly recommend making it and not changing a thing because it’s perfect. I don’t know the exact science of adding the vinegar during the cooking process, but I imagine it helps as a sort of brine, because the chicken comes out moist and flavorful, just as it does when you take the time to brine your chicken ahead of time. It also helps to release a lot of the flavorful bits left on the pan when cooking a beautiful skin-on chicken.
The first step when making this sheet pan and cranberry chicken dish is to brush the chicken with olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper, and place on the sheet pan. Add the potatoes to a small bowl and toss with olive, herbs and salt & pepper, then place those nestled along the sheet pan.
You’ll be adding in you cranberries towards the end of the cooking process, so go ahead and in the same small bowl as you used for the potatoes, add in the cranberries along with the syrup and orange juice and set aside.
Place the squeezed oranges on the tray as well, then pour on the vinegar, and bake. About ¾ of the way through cooking, go ahead and add the cranberries and finish cooking. You can add the cranberries right away and cook the entire time, but they get really soft and mushy. I personally enjoy a soft yet firmer cranberry that still has a little pop when you bite into it. Plus, when they’re a bit firmer, it’s much easier to scoot them to the side for those who don’t love cranberries.
What Kind of Chicken Can You Use for This Dish?
When selecting your chicken, I recommend buying a pre cut whole 3-4 lb chicken, often sold as a “picnic pack” in the grocery store. Or you can of course ask the butcher to cut a whole chicken into pieces for you.
I highly recommend using skin-on and bone-in because you’ll get that beautiful golden and crispy skin that is DELICIOUS, and cooking bone-in means the meat stays a lot more moist, especially where the breasts are concerned. If you are one of those people who find dark meat dreadful (it’s okay, I won’t hold it against you), you can go ahead and just buy the breasts, but I really love the flavor you get when you use all the chicken pieces. I swear when the chicken cooks, the extra fat from the dark meat pieces helps to impart extra flavor into the breasts. But alas, use what you love the most and even if it’s just the breasts, I promise you’ll get a tasty dish here.
What Other Substitutes are Okay to Use?
For the vinegar, I recommend either using white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar. You can even use red wine vinegar if it’s all you’ve got on hand, but the recipe hasn’t been tested or tasted using any other vinegar besides these 3, so proceed at your own risk.
I love a recipe that has some flexibility, so while the chicken, cranberries and potatoes are a must, rest assured that you have some choices in other areas. I listed some alternatives to the white wine vinegar, as well as given directions for using fresh or frozen cranberries. And now when it come to the herbs, I’m going to tell you it’s okay to use what you’ve got, within reason. I used fresh rosemary and sage here, but dried work just as well too. Thyme would also taste lovely, and if you don’t have garlic powder on hand, you can of course use fresh minced garlic.
Can You Use Frozen Cranberries?
Because fresh cranberries are a seasonal item and can usually only be found in-store November-December, you can certainly use frozen cranberries. Ocean Spray instructs you to NOT THAW frozen cranberries when using in lieu of fresh, so I’d listen to the experts here. They instruct you to rinse with cold water and proceed as you normally would when using fresh.
Tips for Making Sheet Pan Cranberry Chicken and Potatoes
I instruct you to add the cranberries ¾ through the cooking process, but if you would like a softer cranberry, go ahead and place them on the pan in the beginning and cook all the way through.
Know that the vinegar scent will be strong when you begin cooking, but once it burns off you won’t smell it at all and I promise the chicken won’t taste like vinegar.
If you would like to make this a perfectly rounded one pan dish, consider adding in Brussels Sprouts or green beans. Both would taste delicious!
Use an instant read thermometer like the Thermapen AK4 to ensure proper doneness of the chicken. I typically cook till 155 and let rest till it reaches 160. Luckily though bone-in skin-on chicken is much more forgiving than boneless skinless breasts, so even if you over cook a bit, it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
More Sheet Pan Dinners
I hope you and your family love this new chicken sheet pan dinner as much as we did. It was a big hit with my dad, who said he never thought you could eat cranberries outside of Thanksgiving haha! In case you need some more inspiration for making tasty and easy meals using just your sheet pan, see below!
If you make this recipe, I would love to hear your thoughts! And even better, if you send me a pic of your smiling happy faces enjoying it haha! Make sure to never miss a post by subscribing to my newsletter, and as always, leave a comment below if you’ve got questions.
Sheet Pan Cranberry Chicken With Potatoes
- 3-4 lb whole chicken cut into pieces
- 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 lb baby potatoes cut into 1"-2" chunks
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary or 2 tsp dried divided
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage or 1 tdp dried divided
- ⅓ cup white wine vinegar see note about substitutions
- 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
- 3 tbsp maple syrup or other preferred sweetener
- Preheat oven to 450
- Place chicken pieces on a sheet pan, and brush on approximately 2 tbsp of olive oil, and sprinkle with garlic powder and half of the chopped rosemary and sage. Season generously with salt & pepper.
- In a small bowl, combine potatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil and the other half of the rosemary and sage. Toss to coat and nestle onto sheet pan in between chicken. Pour vinegar on and around the chicken.
- Rinse out same bowl and add the cranberries, maple syrup and orange juice and allow to sit. If using fresh juice from oranges, place the squeezed orange halves on the sheet pan with the chicken and potatoes.
- Cook chicken and potatoes for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and add in cranberries, nestling them around the potatoes and chicken.
- Place sheet pan back in the oven and cook for an additional 10 minutes till chicken is cooked through and potatoes are fork tender.
- Serve straight from the sheet pan or optional last step is to remove chicken and potatoes from sheet pan and place on a platter. Using the back of a firm spatula, scrape up the bits from cooking your meal and stir together with the cranberries to create a flavorful sauce. Pour on top of the chicken and potatoes, or set in a small bowl for you to scoop onto your chicken as you wish.