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.
Table of Contents
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.
Any ‘ol green olive will do—if you can’t find green olives use kalamata. Avoid regular black olives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What to Serve with Chicken Marbella
- Lemony Parsley Rice (use this brown recipe as a guide—add lemon zest and parsley instead of lime and cilantro).
- This dish is full of salty, umami flavors. Serve it with this Simple Fennel Salad to balance it out.
- A bright and Creamy Cucumber Salad is the perfect pairing for this cozy dish.
- These Milk Bread Rolls are the perfect vehicle for soaking up the luscious sauce.
- Serve the chicken marbella (and lots of sauce) over a bed of Celery Root & Parsnip Mash.
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.
More Chicken Recipes to Try
Chicken & Turkey
Chicken Paillard with Shallot Butter Sauce and Arugula Salad
Instant Pot Salsa Verde Chicken
One-Pan Chicken Marbella
- ⅓ cup pitted green olives
- ⅓ 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
- 3 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, skin removed
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- ⅓ cup pitted green olives
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 3 dried bay leaves
- ⅓ cup pitted prunes diced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 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.
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.
- Deglaze pan with broth, scraping up any browned bits; stir in wine, olives, capers, and bay leaves.
- 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.
- Remove skillet from oven and use back of spoon to spread remaining paste over chicken pieces.
- 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.
This recipe and article were originally published on February 18, 2021.