Chicken Marbella

The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella–quartered chickens marinated overnight in oil, vinegar, capers, olives, prunes, and herbs then baked with brown sugar and white wine–is a classic. 

Pieces of chicken Marbella, topped with plums and herbs, with olives scattered around, on a white platter.

The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella–quartered chicken marinated overnight in oil, vinegar, capers, olives, prunes, and herbs then baked with brown sugar and white wine–is a classic. Skin-on thighs and drummies (as pictured) are often used, too. Either way, it’s delicious. We vastly prefer it with bone-in, skin-on chicken though—and extra olives.–Renee Schettler

Chicken Marbella

Pieces of chicken Marbella, topped with plums and herbs, with olives scattered around, on a white platter.
More than any other recipe in Sheila Lukins's wildly successful The Silver Palate Cookbook, which she co-authored with Julee Rosso in 1979, Chicken Marbella became a standard at dinner parties — bold, sweet, and savory flavor made with lots of garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, oregano, dried plums, and olives.
Joan Nathan

Prep 25 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 3 hrs
Entrees
American
8 to 10 servings
776 kcal
5 / 5 votes
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Ingredients 

  • Two 3 1/2- to 4-pound bone-in, skin-on chickens, cut into pieces
  • 1 garlic head finely puréed
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups pitted dried plums
  • 1 cup pitted green olives or a mix of olives such as Greek, Moroccan, or French
  • 1/2 cup capers with about a tablespoon of their juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves

Directions
 

  • Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Add the garlic, oregano, coarse salt and pepper, vinegar, olive oil, dried plums, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Rub the chicken well with the marinade and refrigerate, covered, ideally overnight but at least for 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Arrange the chicken in a single layer in 1 or 2 large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around but not on them.
  • Bake for about 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with the pan juices.
  • Using a slotted spoon, arrange the chicken, dried plums, olives, and capers on a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro. Serve the remaining pan juices in a separate bowl.
5 / 5 votes
Print RecipeBuy the The New American Cooking cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Notes

*Can I use other cuts of chicken in chicken Marbella?

The original Silver Palate chicken Marabella uses quartered chickens. If you prefer boneless, skinless chicken breasts, feel free to use whatever you please. Just be aware that you will miss out on the sweetly caramelized skin. Feel free to use any combination of chicken that you like, just make sure to adjust your timing in the oven. 

Show Nutrition

Serving: 8servingsCalories: 776kcal (39%)Carbohydrates: 58g (19%)Protein: 74g (148%)Fat: 25g (38%)Saturated Fat: 4g (25%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 218mg (73%)Sodium: 973mg (42%)Potassium: 1684mg (48%)Fiber: 5g (21%)Sugar: 44g (49%)Vitamin A: 711IU (14%)Vitamin C: 8mg (10%)Calcium: 103mg (10%)Iron: 3mg (17%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Every last one of my guests raved about this dish. The blend of flavors and textures is exciting to the palate, and it is visually stunning. I called my mother the next day to tell her that I have a winning recipe for her to make the next time she hosts her bridge club.

This smelled absolutely delicious as it cooked. The flavor was excellent as well, quite sweet; I found it went well with a saltier side dish. If I were to change anything, it would be to reduce the pan sauces a bit more before serving.

I've made chicken Marbella before and this was by far the best I've ever made. I believe the garlic purée, abundant oregano, and my choice of wine made a delicious difference. It was sweet and savory and simply loaded with flavor. It's a simple weeknight meal, as long as you have the ingredients in the house. It takes no time to put together and no time to cook. Made the day before, you can marinate overnight. I only marinated for 2 hours and it was still packed with flavor. It took maybe 20 minutes to prepare the marinade. I baked the dish for 30 minutes and the chicken was moist and delicious.

This recipe can easily feed 4 and could be doubled for a bigger crowd. I served it over brown rice along with a small simple salad.

This was an excellent choice for a casual Sunday afternoon get-together. Everyone, even the teenagers in the group, loved this recipe. As it was baking, the bold flavors of the dish filled the house with a tantalizing aroma of what was to come. The end result was a beautiful mix of flavors, colors, and textures tasting as fabulous as it smelled.

You can't go wrong with chicken Marbella! My husband said this was the best chicken Marbella I've ever made and just kept saying "Mmmm!" throughout dinner. I halved the recipe since it was just two of us, with enough leftovers. I used chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on) and marinated it for 2 1/2 hours; it then cooked for 70 minutes—it was perfect.

I think the number of dates and olives can be reduced as they are very generous portions, but otherwise, it is perfect as written. I served it with rice and white wine and it was a happy household.

Oh my goodness, flavor explosion! This will be a make again and again recipe. Putting everything together is quick and easy and I love that this is made a day ahead and then you just pull it out, add the brown sugar, wine, and bake. Lots of oregano and garlic along with the briny capers and olives and the sweetness of brown sugar come together to make a magically wonderful sauce.

And don't be afraid of the prunes! Not the first thing you think about adding to a chicken dish but the sweet prunes absorb the briny herb-infused sauce and make a wonderful accompaniment. A bite of chicken with a piece of prune and/or olive, is so good. And the finished dish is beautiful.

Easy, delicious, and perfect for a Sunday family dinner! This dish goes great with pasta, mashed potatoes, rice, or just with crusty bread. The sauce is so good you may want to drink it. I poured it over pasta and it was amazing. Next time I make it, I'll half the weight of the chicken but keep the remaining amounts the same, so I have extra sauce.

I'm always looking for a chicken dish that is simple and family-friendly. This recipe spoke to me because of its simplicity and the few unique ingredients, like the prunes and brown sugar. It was very easy and served a crowd.

Chicken Marbella and I go way back. We first met in 1990. You might wonder how I remember that, but a co-worker had a dinner party, after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. The woman was known for her cooking and she had a beautiful array of appetizers and lovely wines to choose from. This was when she pulled freshly baked baguette, after baguette, after baguette from the oven. Slathering the warm, crusty slices that she put out, with excellent European salted butter was memorable.

After the beginning of this experience, I was eagerly awaiting the main course, whatever it might be. Whatever it was going to be, I decided, had to be exceptional. Well, out of her other oven, came some large casseroles of chicken Marbella. Looking at it, I was instantly disappointed. The chicken looked drab. There were plums, capers, and green olives. There were thin juices and lots of them. I figured that I could take just a taste of the chicken dish, and continue to fill up on warm, delectable bread. I'd expected more. Well, fast forward to my first bite, and how wonderful everything tasted together. I couldn’t wait to get seconds, which, of course, I did. I was a convert.

Who knows why, but I didn't ask for the recipe. Not like me at all. A number of years later, we were at a fundraiser, and the buffet had large chafing dishes filled with chicken Marbella. I eagerly awaited the opening of the buffet line and was instantly reminded of how much I had enjoyed that dish the first time I tasted it. I actually didn't even try any of the other things offered. I can always make my own salad, I figured, but chicken Marbella is special.

Of course, it was a given that I'd make this test recipe version of chicken Marbella. I wasn't at all sure how it would work using only boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I realized that I could use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, which has always been our first choice, but, I was curious to try the recipe the way it was written. I questioned whether or not the chicken could possibly turn out moist. The answer to this question is, “Dang! It sure can!” After 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, the internal temperature of the chicken was 165°F, and when cut, the juices ran clear. The best part was that there were lots and lots of those succulent, flavorful juices.

If you haven't tried chicken Marbella, don’t be turned off by the list of ingredients. Everything works together beautifully. All of the ingredients need each other. The sum of the parts makes an exquisite whole. You’ll find yourself trying to get a forkful of each ingredient with every piece of chicken breast that you spear with your fork. All I can say is do yourself a favor and do it! Sooner, rather than later.


Originally published May 3, 2005

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is Just Delicious! So many flavor notes. Is that a thing ? :) A Keeper. I did adjust the garlic and use 1/2 the amount suggested.
    Again, technically speaking: Yummy :) Stay Safe !

    1. Thanks, Randi! We’re so pleased that you enjoyed it so much. Thanks for taking the time to let us know.

  2. 5 stars
    I thought this was a little sweet, but my family went nuts for this dish. They even ate it the next day as leftovers, which for some of them is unheard of. The mixed olives are attractive and tasty alongside the chicken.

  3. 5 stars
    This is a delicious and simple to make recipe. I actually had all the ingredients at home, which made it easy for me. The contrast of the sweetness of the dried plums and sugar with the vinegar, olives, and capers gave the recipe a sweet-and-sour taste. I found that the chicken tasted even better the next day, since it absorbed the taste of all the other ingredients.

  4. 5 stars
    This is excellent and originally I found this recipe years ago in one of the Silver Palate cookbooks. Serve this with couscous. Great dish for a crowd.

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