Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Five-Spice Chicken with Fresh Plum Sauce

Until last year, it never occurred to me to bake with plums.  And then I discovered the magic of the Dimply Plum Cake.  Also until last year, I never thought about using sweet plums in savory dishes.  And then I made the Spinach and Black Plum Salad.  Both of those recipes changed how I look at plums – and made frequent repeat appearances in our kitchen.

Last night I expanded my plum repertoire a little further with a fantastic recipe for Five-Spice Chicken with Fresh Plum Sauce.  This recipe has a lot going on in the flavor department, and it is all delicious.  Let’s start with the chicken – it’s coated in ground almonds and five-spice powder and then cooked until crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  (Five-spice powder, in case you aren’t familiar, is a Chinese spice blend typically containing star anise, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and fennel seeds.  You can usually find it in the regular spice aisle of your supermarket.)

The chicken alone is so delicious I had to restrain myself from going back for second piece.  Together with the sauce, however, this relatively simple chicken dish becomes something special.  As the name of the recipe implies, the sauce contains fresh plums, which are cooked down until they become soft and saucy. The addition of fresh garlic and ginger and a little more of that five-spice powder keeps the sauce from being too sweet – which I appreciate because I don’t typically like my meat to be sweet.  You get the plum taste, but it’s savory.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it could be adapted in a variety of ways.  I can image the almond/five-spice coating on fish or tofu.  The plum sauce would be delicious with pork.  Or of course you can just make the recipe as is – which is what I’m planning to do again very soon.
One Year Ago: Creamy Black Bean Salsa Chicken – one of our all-time favorite recipes

Five-Spice Chicken with Plum Sauce
Adapted from Clean Eating, June 2011


For the Sauce:
1 tsp. oil (such as canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil)
3 firm plums
2 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1 T. honey

For the Chicken:
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 T. oil


For the Sauce:
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the plums and ginger.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.  Add the broth and five-spice powder. Cover the saucepan and cook for 4 minutes.  Remove the lid and continue cooking until the sauce reduces and the plums soften, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir in the honey and simmer another minute or two. 

(You can make the sauce up to 1 day in advance.  Store in the refrigerator and reheat over low heat.)

For the Chicken:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the ground almonds and five-spice powder on a plate.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and coat evenly with the almond mixture.

Heat the oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, without moving, for 5 minutes.  Flip the chicken and cook another 5 minutes.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  (My chicken breasts were pretty small and only took about 7 minutes.)

Serve the chicken topped with the plum sauce.

Serves 4.


  1. This is so fascinating! I've never thought of using plums in a savory dish like this either. But it looks delicious!

  2. Thank you, thank you for introducing me to 5 spice powder!! You are so right, the chicken is wonderful.

    I made the sauce with local fresh sweet cherries instead of plums and IT is YUM! I used 1 cup of halved, pitted sweet cherries in place of the plums...everything else the same.

    I am going to try the "rub" and sauce on salmon this weekend.

  3. Erin - It is! I'm kind of in love with cooked plums :)

  4. Ann - You are welcome! And wow, your version sounds amazing. I've never made a savory recipe with cherries, but I love cherries even more than plums. I can only imagine how tasty that would be with salmon. Please let me know how it turns out!

  5. I haven't made the salmon yet, but did want to say that I used up leftover sauce and chicken in a salad...red leaf lettuce, the sauce with just a bit of balsamic vinegar added, the chicken sliced...topped with almond slivers and fresh grated parmesan...YUM! Have I said I LOVE that 5 spice powder?

  6. Another report...I sent my mother the link to this and my thought of making with salmon...so she just phoned saying she made salmon with the rub but for the sauce she had her own red raspberries and used them in the sauce which she reports as delicious and a keeper...she and my step-Dad love to cook and entertain friends and neighbors frequently... so thank you from my Mama!

  7. Ann - That salad sounds amazing! I'm so glad you've discovered how much you like 5-spice!

  8. Ann - Thank you for the updates - and for passing along the recipe! I love the idea of making this with raspberries - a little sweet, a little tart, so good. Please tell your mama I'm glad she liked it!



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