Chicken Marengo: Napoleon's Favorite Dish

Chicken Marengo: Napoleon's favorite

The Spruce / Danilo Alfaro

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 4 chicken breasts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
412 Calories
21g Fat
7g Carbs
38g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 412
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 26%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 117mg 39%
Sodium 278mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 38g
Vitamin C 10mg 51%
Calcium 57mg 4%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 496mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This much we know: In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte's army marched across the Alps into what is now northwestern Italy, in pursuit of the Austrian army. What followed was the Battle of Marengo, and Napoleon won a decisive victory.

As legend has it (not that we believe a word of it, but it's a good story), Napoleon's chef is said to have accompanied his boss on this campaign, supposedly riding a mule. We don't know if mules were considered first-class transportation back then. Maybe everyone else was on foot. Nevertheless, it does not exactly reek of dignity.

In any event, goes the legend, after the battle, Napoleon was famished and wanted dinner. The chef managed to scrounge up a chicken, some tomatoes and a few other ingredients from the countryside, and Chicken Marengo was born. Bonaparte liked it so much that it became his lucky dish. Or so they say.

The dish traditionally includes black olives, but we've specified kalamata olives, as they're our favorite. You can also use Nicoise olives, or really any black or purple olive from the Mediterranean. We'd stay away from the common Mission olive (i.e. come in cans at the grocery store) as they just don't have the same flavor.

Also note that we are specifying breast filets, which are about half the size of a full-sized chicken breast. If your butcher only has whole breasts, ask them to filet them for you. They'll probably be glad for something to do. You can even tell them the Napoleon story.


  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 medium onion, sliced

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, or grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves

Steps to Make It

  1. Season chicken breasts with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high. Add olive oil and heat for another minute. Add chicken to pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side until the breasts are lightly browned. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

  3. Add some butter to the pan and heat until it foams. Then add the onions and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring mixture to a boil. Return the chicken to the pan and add the tomatoes. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through.

  4. Remove chicken and plate it. Add the chopped olives and thyme to the pan and cook for another minute, then top the chicken with the sauce and serve immediately.

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