Apple Cider Brined Chicken with Star Anise and Cinnamon

I am always looking for tasty, healthy dishes to make for my husband’s family during the holidays.  They are very conscious of their fat and cholesterol intake and as a result they are very fit and healthy people.    Last year, I made a low-fat apple butter and butter nut squash soup that I was very proud of…despite the name (apple-BUTTER-nut squash soup), it has no butter in it.

This chicken recipe caught my eye on the Bon Appetite website, because I thought that brining with apple cider and spices would be a good way to add moisture and flavour to the chicken without adding fat.  The original recipe was for brining a turkey so I cut it half.  I added some more apple cider to the pan for roasting and decided to puree the roasted apples into the pan juices thicken the gravy.  I also couldn’t find star anise in the grocery store, so I used chinese five spice powder instead.  It was delicious, but I do think that the star anise would be better if you can find it.  I also think that the amount of salt in the brining mixture could have been reduced slightly and it would have still tasted great.

This recipe pairs apple cider with asian spices that are considered warming.  We ate the chicken with baked yams and my mother’s delicious (and very healthy) asian coleslaw.  She came and stayed with my husband’s family for Christmas, so the slaw pictured below was actually made by inventor of the recipe!


  • 1 quarts plus 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt (try 1/4 might work)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (I used wheat free tamari)
  • 1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 whole star anise pods (Or a Tablespoon of chinese five spice powder)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 scallions, white parts only, trimmed, split lengthwise
  • 3 1/4”-thick slices unpeeled ginger
  • 3 dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1 3”-4” cinnamon sticks plus more for garnish
  • 12 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 five or six lb. chicken
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Granny Smith apples, cut into sixths
  • A few pats of butter (optional)
  1. Bring 1 quarts cider, 1/2 cup salt, and the next 10 ingredients to a boil in a very large  pot, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Let cool to room temperature. Stir in 12 cups cold water. Add chicken to brine and press down to submerge. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
  2. Remove the chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels; discard brine.  Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack set in a large heavy roasting pan. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°. Combine the remaining 1 cup of cider and 1 and 1/2 cups water in roasting pan.  Chop the apple and scatter the pieces around the chicken.  Tuck a few pats of butter under the chicken skin if you are using it.  If you are not using the butter, be sure to baste your turkey every half hour with the pan juices.
  4. Roast the chicken for 1 and 1/2 hours, then check for doneness.  If it needs more time, baste it and let bake for another half hour.
  5. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a platter.  Run the apples and all of the pan juices through a sieve or food mill.  If you like you can skim the fat off of the gravy.  It will probably not need any salt but some pepper would be nice.
  6. Serve the chicken with the gravy, baked yams and my mother’s asian slaw.  Leftovers are good eaten cold with asian slaw

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Kerthy Fix says:

    and the asian cole slaw recipe…?!

  2. If you click on Asian Coleslaw in the post it will link you to it. Or you can find Asian Coleslaw in the recipe index. Or you can type asian coleslaw into the search bar.


  3. What is it with you and looking for star anise in small towns? Maybe you should bring some with you when you travel?


  4. I thought exactly the same thing! Actually we did end up find some at the local fancy grocery later, but I had already made the dish with the chinese five spice powder.


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