Instant Pot Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Adapting the classic James Beard recipe for the Instant Pot

I’ve always been a fan of James Beard’s recipes- they are very simple and get directly to the heart of what makes a dish flavorful and fun.

His Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic recipe in particular always impressed me because it requires very little preparation and very little active time, but produces a hearty flavor that is just incredible. The dish ultimately is a little too messy and rustic to really be something you’d find on a menu at a restaurant, so I think it is a great thing for a home cook to be able to prepare for guests. While 40 cloves may seem like a lot, the long cook time will soften the garlic to the point that much of it will basically become part of the rich sauce. The firmer garlic cloves will be perfect to spread on a crusty bread.

My version of his recipe uses a slow cooker such as the Instant Pot to achieve the same low temperature long cook time that will render the chicken to be fall-off-the-bone tender and the garlic to be spreadably soft by the end.


  • 8–10 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 stalks of celery, sliced into thin segments
  • 40 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup sherry or dry vermouth


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, salt, pepper, tarragon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper.
  2. Layer the sliced celery on the bottom of your Slow Cooker insert
  3. Wash and pat dry the chicken thighs, and then dredge them through the olive oil mixture and layer on top of the celery in the Slow Cooker.
  4. Top with the peeled garlic cloves, the remainder of the oil from the bowl, and the vermouth.
  5. Set the slow cooker for 6 hours on low heat.
  6. After 6 hours, the chicken should be cooked through and falling off the bone, and the garlic should be soft enough that slight pressure should melt it.
  7. Take the chicken out of the slow cooker and plate it- attempt to keep it on the bone for presentation sake. Garnish each plate with a few whole pieces of garlic.
  8. If you like, you can thicken the remaining sauce by adding some flour, or by pureeing it with an immersion blender. Pour some sauce over the chicken table side, and serve with a crusty bread. Your guests can take the whole garlic pieces and spread it on the bread like butter.
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