Lemon and Sage Chicken in Cream

inline_lemon sage chicken 2Primal lemon and sage chicken in cream is a riff on Jamie Oliver’s recipe for chicken in milk, an unusual recipe with a fervent following. In Oliver’s recipe, a whole chicken is roasted with an odd combination of ingredients: milk, cinnamon, garlic, sage and lemon. That odd combination turns into a roasted bird swimming in an amazing sauce scented with lemon and sage. You really have to try it to believe how good it is.

But consider trying this version first, which is richer, creamier and even more succulent. Using bone-in chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken cuts down on the cooking time and guarantees juicy, succulent meat. Using whole cream instead of milk results in a sauce that is rich and smooth instead of curdled.

The combination of whole cream, chicken drippings and butter sends the fat content of this dish soaring, which is a good thing if adding healthy fat to your diet is a priority. This lemon and sage chicken is so good and so easy to make that it’s sure to become a favorite.

Servings: 4 to 6

Time in the Kitchen: 25 minutes, plus 45 minutes in the oven



  • 6 to 8 bone-in chicken thighs, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon PRIMAL KITCHEN® avocado oil or red palm oil (15 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (30 g)
  • 8 cloves garlic, skin left on
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 fresh sage leaves
  • Zest from one lemon (see note below)
  • 2 cups whole cream (1 pint/473 ml)



Preheat oven to 375º F/190º C

Recipe Note: For this recipe, strips of lemon zest are better than grated zest. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, remove the yellow peel from most of the lemon, being careful to leave the white pith behind. Use a knife to cut the pieces of peel into thin strips.

In an ovenproof skillet that will fit all the chicken, heat the avocado oil/red palm oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, skin side down. When the chicken is nicely browned, flip it over. Carefully tilt the skillet and pour some of the oil out, leaving only a thin layer.

Add the butter, garlic, cinnamon stick, sage leaves and lemon zest. Right when the butter just begins to turn brown, pour in the cream. Bring the cream to a gentle boil and then put the skillet in the oven.

Cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until the chicken is done and the sauce is bubbly and thickened.

If needed, add a little salt to the sauce before eating. (The garlic cloves can be easily slipped out of their skins while you eat.)

lemon sage chicken 1

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27 thoughts on “Lemon and Sage Chicken in Cream”

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  1. We have a huge sage plant in our herb garden. Fresh sage is wonderful with chicken and doesn’t taste anything like the dried stuff. This sounds like a great idea. Jamie Oliver has another similar recipe like this using fresh sage only he adds bacon, but can’t wait to try this version as well.

    1. I’ve seen Jamie Oliver’s recipe for chicken roasted in milk. I thought it sounded a bit off-putting since the milk does curdle. Mark’s recipe, done with cream instead of milk, sounds much better although it would be very rich.

  2. It’s the bone-in chicken thighs and the whole cream that make this dish so magical. Very nice!! Do you mind if wife adds ghee too (or) will that make it too rich?

    1. I added a little more pastured butter than the recipe called for, and it wasn’t greasy or overbearing at all and incorporated perfectly well into the dish so I wager you’ll be fine with a bit of ghee.

  3. This sounds really good. I have forgotten how cooking chicken with dairy is really good. Reminds me of cooking chicken with yogurt.

  4. For those with dairy issues, would this be any good with coconut milk? Or would that impart the wrong flavor?

    1. I’ll be using coconut cream when I make this this week. Shouldn’t be an issue. My wife doesn’t handle dairy well, but coconut cream is a workable sub.

    2. Yes! We make this with coconut milk all the time and it is one of our favorites.

    1. The term “whole cream” is a little confusing. I took it to mean heavy cream (whipping cream). Table cream or Half & Half might curdle because of the lower fat content.

      1. True, they would curdle. But I have another thought – I bet you could do this with evaporated milk (which doesn’t curdle) if the fat content is too much. Though I don’t know whether evaporated milk counts as primal. . .

        1. Evaporated and condensed milk are high in added sugar, so definitely not Primal.

    2. I assume “whole cream” means the full-fat stuff. Different countries use different terms for this. I think in the US, heavy cream and whipping cream are the same? In the UK these are different things, so I guess whole cream is clearer.

      1. ‘Whole cream’ doesn’t help me (I’m in the UK) so I am assuming it’s ‘double cream’ as that’s what Mark mostly recommends in his (UK version) books. Am making it tonight so will let you know 🙂

        1. I would assume so too.
          US heavy cream / whipping cream = UK double cream = 45-50% fat (assume this is whole cream)
          UK whipping cream = 39% fat (not sure they have this in the US)
          US table cream = UK single cream = 18-19% fat
          US half and half = UK pouring cream = 11-12% fat

          Anyway, it sounds delicious! Enjoy 🙂

          1. I WAS delicious!! With the ‘double cream’ (UK) I used 4 beautifully big chicken thighs. A UK pint is actually 568ml but I followed the recipe above and used 473ml instead. As there was only 4 thighs I thought there may be too much cream so I just served it with celeria rice to soak it up. The nutty creamy taste of celeriac complimented it perfectly. A very rich tasting dish, but if you love creamy sauces, you’ll love this. Thanks Worker Bee!?

    1. Full fat dairy – especially that which has had the lactose portion fermented or removed, like butter/ghee, cream, cheese, yogurt, and so on – is hardly verboten on a primal eating plan, unless of course you don’t tolerate lactose or casein. It has beneficial effects on common health markers, lacks a lot of the drawbacks found in for example grains and sugar, and tastes good and cooks well.

      That said, a lot of recipes on here do often go out of their way to use dairy alternatives (usually coconut milk/cream) so I am curious to know if one of those would work for those hesitant to use cream.

  5. This looks fabulous! I think I would throw in some mushrooms as well.

  6. We made this but the sauce broke while it was in the oven. Any idea what might have happened? Followed the recipe to the letter.

  7. I made this for dinner last night when enough leftovers for lunch and another dinner. Already planning it is next outing. Delicious! I did it with what we call thickened cream

  8. This is a great recipe. Hard to believe these flavours work so well together and it’s even better with cream.

    Anyway a few tips for anyone cooking this with a whole chicken. Though these instructions are not on his website, in the original recipe (available on YouTube in German), Oliver adds some lemon slices and sage leaves to the inside of the bird. He also adds a bit of cubed butter to the pot and covers with wet parchment paper before putting into the oven. These ensure some added moisture and flavour.

  9. Great recipe; I thoroughly enjoyed it! I added a bit of manchego cheese and steamed collards at the end and was very pleased with the overall results. Thanks for the great recipes!

  10. Oh my gosh, just made this meal, outstanding! Looks like a gourmet meal. I added extra sage leads and lemon rind.
    Served over wilted spinach.

  11. This recipe was easy and has the most amazing flavor. I truly never tasted anything like it before. I will be buying skin on thighs and deboning them first next time.
    For my carb loving husband I served his ever egg noodles.
    I had mine over broccoli. I look forward to using other veggies in the future. just to round out the meat. This dish with the awesome cream sauce can stand all alone!

  12. I’ve made this recipe many times and is a favorite of mine. I use twice as much fresh sage and will sometimes add sliced mushrooms. Great recipe