Our healthier take on Chicken Marbella is packed with all the bold flavors you expect from this classic dish without the loads of brown sugar so often found in the traditional recipe. This version simplifies the process with no marinating, lightens it up without sacrificing on flavor, and comes together in one pan and in record time.

What is Chicken Marbella?

Chicken Marbella came to popularity in the 1980s thanks Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso and their culture-shifting cookbook, The Silver Palate Cookbook. This cookbook opened many home cooks’ eyes to unfamiliar ingredients which are now commonplace in our kitchens.

Chicken Marbella is a bold, briny chicken dish made by brining chicken pieces (traditionally four whole chickens quartered) overnight in an olive oil marinade flavored with tons of garlic, bay leaves, capers, prunes and olives. The chicken, marinade and all, is transferred to roasting pans with white wine, then covered in brown sugar and roasted until brown. 

The beautiful thing about this dish, aside from being sweet, salty and so dang savory, is that the chicken gets marinated, roasted and braised all in the same recipe.

Watch How to Make Chicken Marbella

Our Version on the Classic

My take on this 1980s classic recipe for Chicken Marbella skips the brining process and comes together in under an hour. It’s lighter thanks to bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (you get all the goodness of chicken thighs without the fatty skin). And it uses a sweet and salty olive paste to coat the chicken instead of brown sugar. 

I recommend buying bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and removing the skin before cooking. You can also ask your butcher to remove the skin. It’s important to use bone-in chicken thighs because the bones keep the chicken moist during cooking.

crusted chicken thighs in a skillet with olives, sauce, and lemon wedges

Ingredients

Green Olives

Any ‘ol green olive will do—if you can’t find green olives use kalamata. Avoid regular black olives.

Prunes

Look for pitted prunes in the dried fruit aisle. Dice up any leftovers and toss them into oatmeal, cereal bars or mix into granola bars.

Garlic

You know how we feel about garlic—if it isn’t fresh we don’t want it! If your garlic has sprouted (happens to us all) you can still use it. Just slice the clove in half, peel out and discard the sprout, then use the rest of the clove.

Capers

You can find capers (sun dried flower buds packed in vinegar) next to the olives and pickles in most grocery stores. Use any leftovers in our Sour Cream Potato Salad.

Anchovies

Look for anchovies in the tinned fish area (near the canned tuna and salmon). Just a few fillets add a deep savory note to this dish.

We like to buy anchovies sold in jars since they can easily be stored in the refrigerator. If you opened a can, store the leftover anchovies in the fridge in a glass container with a tight fitting lid.

chicken thighs, olives, capers, oil, white wine, broth, bay leaves, prunes, and anchovies measured out and set on a sheet pan.

Spices

A mix of dried oregano, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and black pepper are used in the olive “paste” while dried bay leaves are used to enhance the sauce as the dish braises.

Chicken Thighs

Bone-in chicken thighs is what you want here. Purchase bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs then remove the skin yourself (or ask the butcher). This way you get all the goodness of chicken thighs without the fatty skin.

Chicken Broth

Opt for low-sodium broth as the capers, olives and anchovies make this dish quite salty. Then season the dish to taste as you cook.

Dry White Wine

Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio work wonderfully here. Just ⅓ cup is needed, leaving you ample amount for sipping on while cooking. Don’t want to open a whole bottle for this? Grab a small airplane-sized bottle of white wine to use, or substitute with additional broth and a splash of vinegar.

Parsley

Finish with some fresh parsley to brighten up the savoriness of this dish. We also like to serve with a few lemon wedges.

How to Remove Skin from Chicken Thighs 

For this recipe we use bone-in chicken thighs with the skin removed. You can easily remove it yourself with a pairing knife, or ask your butcher to do it for you.

To start, peel back the skin from the thigh as far as you can. Once you have a clear view of where it is attached, use a sharp paring knife to trim and remove the skin.

step by step photos showing how to remove skin from chicken thighs

What to Serve with Chicken Marbella 

crusted chicken thighs in a skillet with olives, sauce, and lemon wedges

How to Reheat Chicken Marbella 

This recipe for chicken marbella serves 4–6 people, but don’t let the serving size turn you away, this makes fabulous leftovers. 

To reheat the dish as it was originally served: transfer chicken and sauce to a skillet and reheat in a 350ºF (277ºC) oven until the sauce and chicken are warmed through, 8–10 minutes. 

Or revamp the leftovers into something new: remove the chicken from the bones and roughly chop into bite-sized pieces. Bring chicken chicken and sauce to a simmer in a skillet over medium. Whisk 1 teaspoon cornstarch into 2 tablespoons water or chicken stock (cornstarch slurry); stir into chicken and cook until thickened; about 3 minutes.

If you’d like it thicker, add more cornstarch by making another slurry with ½ teaspoon cornstarch and 2 teaspoons liquid. Serve over cauliflower rice, couscous, or rice.

close up image of crusted chicken thighs in a skillet with sauce and olives

More Chicken Recipes to Try

One-Pan Chicken Marbella

Print Recipe
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Yield 6 servings
Category Main Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean-American
Author Lauren Grant

Description

A bold one-pan chicken dinner that can feed a hungry crowd. Serve over couscous, rice, or cauliflower rice. 

Ingredients

Paste

  • cup pitted green olives
  • cup pitted prunes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 2 tablespoons capers drained
  • 3 anchovy fillets rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cracked pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Chicken

  • 3 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • cup dry white wine
  • cup pitted green olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • cup pitted prunes diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 400ºF (204ºC) with rack set in middle position. 

FOR THE PASTE 

  • Pulse all paste ingredients in a mini food processor until finely chopped, about 10 pulses. Scrape down bowl and continue to process until mostly smooth, 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl. 
    olive paste in a mini food processor

FOR THE CHICKEN

  • Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle chicken pieces with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ⅓ cup paste to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and a fond forms in pan, 1–2 minutes.
    olive paste cooking in a skillet
  • Deglaze pan with broth, scraping up any browned bits; stir in wine, olives, capers, and bay leaves.
    broth and olives in a skillet
  • Add chicken to pan, nestling into sauce in an even layer. Spoon a splash of sauce over each chicken thigh; transfer pan to oven and and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
    chicken thighs in a skillet with broth and olives
  • Remove skillet from oven and use back of spoon to spread remaining paste over chicken pieces.
    olive paste being spread over chicken thighs in a skillet with broth and olives
  • Sprinkle prunes around chicken. Continue to roast until sauce is bubbly, paste begins to brown, and meat registers 170–175ºF (77–79ºC), 20–28 minutes longer.
  • Sprinkle parsley over top and serve with lemon. Optional: serve with rice, cauliflower rice, or couscous.

Notes

Serve 6 with a hearty grain side dish and/or salad. Serves 4 when served as is. 
SALT: if you’re sensitive to salt, rinse the capes and olives before using. If you love salt like I do, season the chicken thighs with 1 teaspoon kosher salt instead of ½ teaspoon. 
PRUNES: you can also use diced dried apricots, dried figs or dates instead of prunes. Due to their seeds, figs will add some crunch and dates will be slightly sweeter. 
MAKE-AHEAD: the paste can be made and refrigerated in a glass airtight container for up to 24 hours.
SKIN-ON CHICKEN THIGHS: If you prefer skin-on chicken, sear the chicken, skin-side down, in olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until well browned, 8 minutes. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to a plate, and proceed with recipe as written. 
I do not recommend using chicken breasts. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the recipeCalories: 438kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 46gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 193mgSodium: 1475mgFiber: 2.5gSugar: 7g
Keywords chicken marbella, chicken marbella recipe, one-pan dinner
Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @ZestfulKitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #zestfulkitchen!
crusted chicken thighs in a skillet with olives, sauce, and lemon wedges

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This recipe and article were originally published on February 18, 2021.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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