Chicken Marbella

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Chicken Marbella is probably the most famous dish to come out of the beloved Silver Palate Cookbook by Julie Rosso and the late Sheila Lukins. I grew up eating it…in fact, my mother still makes it on special occasions. I almost didn’t post the recipe because I figured most of you already had it, but then it occurred to me that there might be a whole new generation of cooks that didn’t. After all, the cookbook was published in 1982. I don’t know about you but I was only 9 years old!

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So, what makes Chicken Marbella so famous and special? Well, for starters, the chicken is unfailingly tender and juicy. It’s also incredibly flavorful, thanks to a long marinade in garlic and herbs and a savory-sweet gravy that, I swear, is good enough to drink. But more than anything, it’s the combination of deep purple prunes, briny capers and meaty green olives that makes it so spectacular.

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It’s also incredibly easy to make. Most of the preparation is done the day before…You simply rub the chicken with the marinade, toss in some capers, olives and prunes, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, you douse it with white wine, sprinkle some brown sugar over top, and bake it. That’s really all there is to it.

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If you don’t have the Silver Palate Cookbook, a 25th anniversary edition complete with photos was published a few years ago. The recipes are as relevant today as they were many years ago…in fact, my mother still keeps her original copy by the stove, with the Chicken Marbella page dog-eared, tattered and scribbled on.

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Below you’ll find the recipe as it was originally printed but with our notes and hints in parenthesis. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have over the years.

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Chicken Marbella

Servings: 5-6

Ingredients

  • 2 chickens, 2-1/2 pounds each, quartered, bone-in, skin-on
  • 1/2 head garlic, peeled and finely puréed (8 cloves, minced)
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (about 2-1/4 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/4 cup Spanish green olives
  • 1/4 cup capers, with a bit of juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl combine garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers with caper juice, and bay leaves. Add the chicken pieces and coat completely with the marinade (use your hands to rub marinade all over and especially under the skin). Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in two 9 x 13-inch baking dishes and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting occasionally with the pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest point, yield clear yellow juice (not pink).
  5. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Add some of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley. Serve remaining sauce in a gravy boat. (Alternatively, you can brown the skin and de-fat the gravy before serving. Here's how: When the chicken is done, transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter, then pour the gravy into a medium bowl and let the fat settle at the top. In the meantime, place the chicken back in baking dishes and broil for a few minutes to brown the skin. While chicken is browning, de-fat the gravy. Transfer chicken pieces back to serving platter and pour some of the gravy over top. Serve remaining sauce in a gravy boat.) Serve hot or room temperature.
  6. Note: You can substitute all white or dark meat depending on what your family likes. I've also seen appetizer versions made entirely with small drumsticks and wings.

Reviews & Comments

  • Can these recipe be made with chicken thighs instead of a whole cut up chicken?

    - Janet on October 28, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Janet, Absolutely; it will be even better.

      - Jenn on October 28, 2014 Reply
      • Thanks Jenn. How many pounds of chicken thighs would you use (I’m assuming you recommend getting bone in/skin-on thighs, though I don’t like skin)?

        - Janet on October 28, 2014 Reply
        • You’ll need 4-5 pounds, or 12-14 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. I would definitely cook the chicken with the skin on, as it adds a lot of flavor, but it’s fine to remove it before serving.

          - Jenn on October 29, 2014 Reply
  • Yesterday I was preparing the marinade for FOUR chickens (per the Silver Palatte’s original recipe) for a party I was going to. Just as I was about to toss the chicken with the ingredients I learned that the party – scheduled for the following day – had been postponed for a week. Two questions: (1) can I freeze the marinade? I hate to waste it and hope I can just thaw it, then toss with the olives and prunes, meat etc..next week; (2) I froze the chicken parts. What’s the best way to defrost them? I appreciate your input. P.S.: should I leave chicken skins on or off?

    - Rebecca on September 14, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Rebecca, Yes, you can freeze the marinade. I would start defrosting the chicken in the fridge a day or two before you need to marinade it; it will take a while to thaw. As for the skin, I would definitely leave it on; it will add flavor and keep the meat from drying out during the cooking process. You can always remove it before serving if you like. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on September 14, 2014 Reply
      • Thank you for taking the time to respond and help me…I’m grateful.

        - Rebecca on September 16, 2014 Reply
  • Loved the chicken marbella recipe but when I doubled the amount of capers quarter to half a cup I liked it even better, chopped celery leaves worked well also, we added sliced orange kumeras (sweet potatoes) to the mixture before cooking about 500g that allowed them to absorb the magnificent flavours within the Marbella: Thank you for providing such a very lovely exquisitely flavoured easy chicken dish, we are very grateful.
    Cheers

    - H Stone on May 31, 2014 Reply
  • I’m a 48 y/o man from the Deep South that has been eating chicken cooked in every imaginable way since I’ve had teeth. I had never heard of chicken Marbella, but when I read the recipe, I knew I had to try it. It was incredible! I highly recommend this recipe!!

    - Chip on May 7, 2014 Reply
  • Jenn,

    Can you tell me a good white wine to use? I’ve always been confused when a recipe calls for white wine, for cooking. Also, do you have a recipe for prime rib and an old fashioned bread pudding? I’ve tried many of your recipes and they have all been a hit!

    Kelly :-)

    - Kelly on May 3, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Kelly, Any inexpensive white wine that you would drink would be perfectly fine to use — honestly, whatever you have around. Just stay away from anything labeled “cooking wine.” I do have a wonderful apple rum raisin bread pudding on the site but not a prime rib – I will work on it :)

      - Jenn on May 4, 2014 Reply
  • OMG … Jen, this dish was sooo delicious! Your recipes are making me a SUPER STAR in the kitchen!
    I never thought mixing olives, prunes,capers, brown sugar & red wine vinegar would taste so wonderful!
    Thanks again for terrific recipes!

    - Patti Burns on April 15, 2014 Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it, Patti, but I can’t take the credit. This one is straight from The Silver Palate Cookbook :)

      - Jenn on April 15, 2014 Reply
  • Thank you for sharing. I have been looking everywhere for this recipe, I know I packed it away somewhere but could not find it. Best chicken ever.

    - Linda hopps on March 14, 2014 Reply
  • How much salt and pepper did you add? I think it says to taste?

    - Karen on January 10, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Karen, I like my food well-seasoned so I would use about 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

      - Jenn on January 10, 2014 Reply
  • I was nervous about making this dish but the step-by-step guide & pictures made it an easy task & my guests enjoyed it so much.
    The chicken is tender, juicy & flavourful even after being reheated the next day.
    Thanks so much Jenn, your site has truly inspired me & is my go-to whenever I decide to try something new :)
    Cheers!

    - Ash on November 24, 2013 Reply
  • I have made this recipe several times. I usually use a combo of thighs and split breasts so that there is some skin on each piece. This recipe is absolutely amazing! I tried it the first time just because of the weird combo of ingredients…I mean who would think olives, capers and prunes??? Preparation takes some time but do it the day before. The flavors are wonderful and the sauce/broth definately needs to go over mashed potatoes or sopped up with bread or drank straight up! Great taste, great recipe. Wouldn’t change a thing.

    - Linda on November 15, 2013 Reply
  • Just using boneless chicken breasts. How would I change the recipe? How many pounds would I need for 10 people? Can you have too much sauce and can you use white wine that has been frozen?

    - Lisa on October 13, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Lisa, Many years ago Bon Appétit printed a recipe that was based on Chicken Marbella, only using boneless chicken breasts. The Washington Post reprinted it, incorporating suggestions from reader reviews. I’ve made it and it’s very good. Here’s the link:

      http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2008/04/09/pan-braised-chicken-dried-fruits-and-olives/

      Hope that helps and please come back and let me know how it comes out. Also, it’s fine to use wine that has been frozen.

      - Jenn on October 15, 2013 Reply
  • …or use whichever pieces are your favorites. if you like just thighs (or breasts), that’s fine, too.

    - cindy on August 21, 2013 Reply
  • How does one cut the chicken up? Breasts,thighs and drumsticks?
    Marjory

    - Marjory Ross on August 19, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Marjory, yes that’s correct.

      - Jenn on August 21, 2013 Reply
  • Hi Kim… I suggested (above) serving Israeli couscous with dried fruits and nuts…. adds a delicious element, and can also be served at room temp on a warm day or picnic. My recommendation…. use much less brown sugar than the recipe calls for….I just lightly sprinkle the pieces with sugar which is completely sufficient. Otherwise way too sweet for my family and friends. Enjoy!

    - Cindy on May 27, 2013 Reply
  • thanks, Jenn! i am serving w/ the rice and a simple salad (couldn’t find good h. verts)…i did make a mistake and added the wine to the marinade…hope it doesn’t ruin it w/ the vinegar in there too…will add some more wine (i doubled the recipe) and the brown sugar when i bake this afternoon…thanks!!

    - kim hylton on May 27, 2013 Reply
  • What do you serve as side dishes with Chicken Marbella?

    - Tracy on March 16, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Tracy, It’s delicious with couscous or rice, and a simple steamed green vegetable like haricots verts.

      - Jenn on March 16, 2013 Reply
      • Hi,

        Someone made this for my family years ago, and I am going to attempt to make it for a friend’s family. I would love to know what to serve with it? Rice pilaf and a salad? another vege like a broccoli casserole and also corn? just a vege and some good bread? would love to know what others have served along side this dish…thanks! (p.s. if the dish has white wine in it, i should serve it with the same white wine, right?)

        - kim hylton on May 25, 2013 Reply
        • Hi Kim, I always serve it with rice pilaf or roasted potatoes, and steamed haricots verts with a little olive oil, butter and salt. The sauce is so flavorful, you don’t want too many competing flavors. The dish is a little on the brown side, so it’s nice to have a pop of color on the plate. The same white wine would be great but any white wine would do.

          - Jenn on May 25, 2013 Reply
  • The best recipe for a large crowd, when our family gets together, all 31 of us, everyone expects me to cook this recipe. The best combination of flavors, best left overs ever !! I make double and triple recipe !! I usually marinade it overnight.

    - daymel on October 4, 2012 Reply
  • A favorite from the Silver Palate Cookbook. Nice to see it here

    - Cheryl on May 16, 2012 Reply
  • Cannot wait to make this! Tries at a friends house it was good but too greasy. Your recipe sounds alot better!

    - Susan on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • Try serving with Israeli cous cous adorned with golden raisins, currents, dried cranberries, and toasted pine nuts to continue the Mediterranean feel. Obviously, you can substitute any fruit/nut combo you enjoy. Can even use orzo instead of cous cous.

    - Cindy on April 19, 2012 Reply
  • Everyone loves this dish and asks for the recipe. It is an easy company meal because you put everything together the night before and the next day, simply add the wine and sugar and pop it in the oven.

    - phyllis on March 2, 2012 Reply
  • An old and trusted favorite, and believe me, it is well worth introducing to a whole new generation of cooks!

    - Beth on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • This is my favorite chicken dish above all others. I make it for my birthday every year. The flavors are outstanding and I love the olives, prunes, and capers contrasted with the wine and brown sugar. Really, all ingredients are probably on hand anyway, which is another reason it is so easy. I use a mix of breast and thighs (bone in, skin on,) as I love thighs and my family loves breast meat. I also scaled it down from her originally published recipe. It is a very easy, versatile dish. The leftovers are also very yummy. I love serving it with wild rice. Thank you for introducing this to all your fans, Jennifer!

    - Karen on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • Great dinner party recipe.

    - Danita on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I made this for a dinner party and everyone raved about it! Thanks for another great and promising recipe!

    - Ada Howe on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • Can you make this dish without the olives? My husband and I really don’t liked them…. thanks

    - Risa on January 25, 2012 Reply
    • Risa, You can definitely make it without the olives. You will love it!

      - Jenn on January 25, 2012 Reply
  • I thought this chicken was delish! My husband, on the other hand, rated it as so so. He liked that the chicken was moist but didn’t care for its sweetness, and he’s not a prunes lover. I had it for lunch and dinner 2 days in a row and still want more! Every bite with rice, chicken, prunes, capers, olives, and Italian parsley was heavenly. Thanks so much!

    - Kim on January 8, 2012 Reply
  • Have you ever tried it with boneless breasts and thighs?

    - Jennifer Hallock on November 17, 2011 Reply
  • Just finished making it – came out delicious! thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe :) I really like the idea of using it for appys as well!

    - The Bird Cage on March 1, 2011 Reply
  • Taryn,

    Yes, that would be fine. Enjoy!

    - Jenn on February 9, 2011 Reply
  • Hi Jenn, If I only wanted to make on chicken could I half the recipe?

    - taryn on February 9, 2011 Reply
  • Hi Malinda, That wine is perfectly fine and don’t worry about adding the brown sugar to the marinade…it will be fine. As for the lemon bars, if you want to double the recipe, definitely make it in two separate pans, otherwise it will be way too thick. Good luck and hope you enjoy!

    - Jenn on January 30, 2011 Reply
  • Ok its MalindaC again, Ive got my chicken marinating but, made a mistake or so, I added my brown sugar with the marinade, will this ruin it? I also need to know if this wine is ok: Robert Mondavi Winery 2007 Chardonnay? oh and I need to know if you can double the lemon bars or should I just make 2 seperate pans of it? thanks so much, I cant wait to let you know how it all taste!

    - malinda c on January 29, 2011 Reply
  • Melinda, You can use any dry white wine (for cooking, I always use something good enough to drink but cheap). The prunes do get nice and soft but they don’t disintegrate into the sauce. Adults will love them — they add so much to the sauce — but young kids will probably not. Whenever I make this dish, I just serve my kids a portion without the prunes, olives and capers. Hope that helps! Feel free to email me with any other questions.

    - Jennifer on January 28, 2011 Reply
  • I am going to try this marbella, but i need to know a good white wine to use, like sweet or dry…please let me know, im making this for a special occasion on this sunday for my girls and their school choir! oh and im a little nervous about leaving the prunes in after it cooks, im afraid the kids might snarl, any suggestions on that, or do they cook up where you cant tell what they are? Thanks I love this sight :) Malinda

    - malinda c on January 28, 2011 Reply
  • I had never heard of Chicken Marbella but the recipe looked so unique I had to try it. The entire family thought it was wonderful and said I have to make it again and again. Thanks for the great recipe!

    - Linda on January 21, 2011 Reply
  • I have made this recipe a million times. Some times I chop the prune and olives very tiny and other times leave them on the larger size. Now here is a fun twist. I once made it with dried apricots, golden raisins,& prunes all chopped pretty small and a varity of gourmet olives. Fallowed the recipe the same and served it with home made lavash bread and it was delicious.

    - Rebekah on December 3, 2010 Reply
  • I made this and it was fabulous! This is my girlfriend’s go-to recipe for dinner parties and I have enjoyed it many times at her house, thinking it would be far too involved and difficult to attempt in my kitchen. It was a snap and oh-so good! I had a whole cut chicken from an organic farm with the bone in and I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it – this made a fabulous dinner!! Thank you.

    - Lyl Rose on October 26, 2010 Reply
  • Sure this new generation will like this chicken marbella dish.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds8xyK-r65M I read many cook books but im very impressed with silver palate cookbook. This recipe is simple superb. Done a great job!!!!

    - Chicken marbella on October 26, 2010 Reply
  • I’m so n <3 w/Italian cooking!!!!!!!!!

    - Nenette on October 25, 2010 Reply
  • Wow, just discovered your blog on Facebook!
    I basically LEARNED how to cook from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso, but never tried this recipe, yet! I knew it sounded familiar! I’m looking forward to more of your blog posts!

    - Kristina C. on October 21, 2010 Reply
  • this looks delicious. what do you serve this with?

    - serena on October 21, 2010 Reply
  • This recipe is fantastic. Thank you for sharing! I enjoy all your posts. Keep it up :)

    - Katie on October 20, 2010 Reply
  • What is the caloric count for this dish?

    - Marlene on October 19, 2010 Reply
  • Thank you for brining this recipe to my attention. It looks amazing!

    - leslie on October 17, 2010 Reply
  • Let me pass on a tip from a caterer who used the sauce components of Chicken Marbella to make a mayonnaise textured spread (all the solids and adjust the liquid to the correct onsistency when pulverizing in the Cuisinart). Then he took the chicken, skinned it and put it into quarters of pita bread which had been “lathered” inside with the mayo. They were really good for a casual meal with a hearty soup.
    > And, it is an easy way to use the leftovers too.

    - Susan on October 16, 2010 Reply
  • I absolutely love Chicken Marbella. I was only just introduced to it about 4 years ago and I’ve made it a number of times since. That sweet and briny marinade is just beyond words!

    - Kathy - Panini Happy on October 14, 2010 Reply
  • Lets watch the age thing!!! I just made Chicken Marbella last month for some friends they loved it and it froze well also for guests for them another night!!
    Thanks for sharing!!

    - Kathy on October 13, 2010 Reply
  • A family favorite for years!

    - Lynn on October 13, 2010 Reply
  • I love this recipe! I agree with you that there might be a whole new generation of people that need to know about this recipe. Thanks for reintroducing it!

    - Kath on October 12, 2010 Reply
  • This looks delicious! I think this will be a dish to be made in our new house :)

    - Evan @swEEts on October 12, 2010 Reply

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