Chinese 5-Spice Chicken Tray Bake

Chinese 5-Spice Chicken Tray Bake

I can’t speak for Ceri but when we first started this blog my family was way more enthusiastic about my recipe testing. There would be all kinds of lovely fan fare including mini applause and cheek kisses. I think once there was even a song. (Insert sad face emoji.) Now, I’m lucky if any one notices there is a new meal before them and I can forget about kisses. Without completely throwing my family under the bus, Scarlett does always clear her plate and chirp, “Thank you for dinner, mama.” However, that’s only because I’ve beaten her down over the years with things like, “With all the cooking you do with me, you should know how hard it is!” In other words, guilt, people. I’ve guilted her into thanking me each meal.

I’d been doing a lot of recipe testing the last few months. I not only test recipes but I also dry run new ingredients. One thing I’ve been adding to dishes to gauge whether or not Scarlett will turn her nose up at it is Chinese 5-spice. A base seasoning for Chinese cooking, 5-spice is a blend of sweet (anise, cloves, fennel and cinnamon) and spicy (Szechuan peppercorns) flavours. I haven’t used it a lot in recent years so I wasn’t sure if Scarlett would be turned off by the spice’s intense flavour. So, this summer, I tried incorporating the blend into some turkey burgers and I also used it as a rub for chicken breasts; both dishes got the two thumbs up. But it was this tray bake that was the big hit. In fact, on the night I first served it, both my husband and Scarlett looked up from their meal with satisfied smiles and said, “What is this?! A new recipe? It’s so good!” (Truthfully, Scarlett said, “Hashtag so good, mommy!” Lately she is speaking in hashtags and, I’m not going to lie, it’s #superannoying!) The best results come from marinating the chicken overnight, but it is a quick marinade to throw together and, once done, the meal is even faster to get on the table since you pull it from the fridge, throw it on a tray with onions and roast. From the onions roasted in those spices to the tender flavourful chicken, this dish is a Food Win. (We’re starting a new, little video series on Facebook and Instagram where Ceri and I give our Food Win or Food Fail from the week. Have you seen it yet?) Do you want to know why it’s also a win in my book? Ease? Yes. Stupid deliciousness? You bet. But the real reason I adore it is because this tray bake elicits an old-school parade of compliments from my family — kisses included. And who doesn’t want that after a long day in the trenches?!


Photo by Leila Ashtari

Chinese 5-Spice Chicken Tray Bake


  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for onions
  • 4 - 5 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 large skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped cilantro


Combine olive oil, garlic, rice vinegar, brown sugar, 5-spice and salt in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken thighs; seal and coat the chicken with the sauce by manipulating the bag. Chill chicken for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400. Slice and coat onion in a bit of olive oil. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Scatter onion slices on baking sheet. Remove chicken from refrigerator and arrange chicken on top of onion. Roast until chicken is cooked through or until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove tray from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Sprinkle chicken and onion with cilantro and serve warm.


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