Moroccan-Spiced Roast Chicken

A quartet of familiar spices lend the striking flavors of Morocco to this complete meal in one. Although it takes a bit longer than other recipes to cook, once you put it in the oven, your work is done.–Kristine Kidd

LC Holy Smoke Alarm Note

It isn’t the heat in this burnished bird’s spice rub that will set off your internal smoke alarm. It’s the drips and dribbles and splotches in your oven that may, in fact, set off your actual smoke alarm. Anytime we crank our less-than-pristine oven to 450 degrees F or higher, it has a tendency to billow smoke from these burnt-on remnants of the apple tart that bubbled over last week, those roast sweet potatoes that couldn’t contain their lusciousness, maybe even that roast duck from last autumn that splattered all over the oven walls. The way we see it, there are two ways around this-either scrub the darn thing until it sparkles or roast the bird at a slightly lower temperature for a little longer. Any other ideas?

Moroccan-Spiced Roast Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 35 M
  • 1 H, 55 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • One whole (4 to 5 pounds) chicken
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 smallish lemon
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 2 small (about 3/4 pounds total) orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 pound cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Slick a heavy large rimmed baking sheet–preferably not a roasting pan, but if you do use a roasting pan, make it a big one–with a little oil.
  • 2. Pull out and discard the fat and giblets from the cavity of the chicken. Pat the chicken very dry with paper towels. Starting at the edge of the main cavity, slide a finger under the skin over each breast half, making a pocket between the skin and meat. Rub a total of 1 tablespoon of salt over the chicken skin and toss a little salt inside the cavity. Sprinkle the chicken generously with black pepper.
  • 3. In a small bowl, mix the paprika, cumin, pepper flakes, and cinnamon. Set aside 2 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mixture for the vegetables. The rest is for the chicken. Finely grate the zest from the lemon, cut the lemon into quarters, and mix the zest into the spices for the chicken. Gradually mix in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to make a paste. Spread a little of the paste inside the cavity, slather some of it under the skin over the chicken breasts, and rub the rest of the paste all over the outside of the chicken. Toss the lemon quarters inside the cavity. Tie the legs together, if desired. Place the chicken in the center of the baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it and if it browns too quickly cover it loosely with a sheet of foil.
  • 4. Meanwhile, cut the sweet potatoes in half crosswise, and then quarter each half lengthwise to create wedges. Combine the sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and onion in a bowl. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and toss to coat. Add the reserved spice mixture, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and toss to coat.

  • 5. After the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes, remove it from the oven. Tilt the sheet pan and spoon off most of the fat. Return the chicken to the center of the sheet and spoon the vegetables around it. Return the pan to the oven and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165°F (74°C), about 40 minutes longer, depending on the size of the bird. (Note: the bird will take longer to roast if the legs have been tied together. It will also take longer if you ended up with a behemoth bird that’s closer to five pounds than four.) If the skin is getting too dark before the meat is done, reduce the oven temperature to 425°F (218°C).


  • 6. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetables.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Amy Iacopi

Oct 18, 2011

I tried this for dinner tonight with two French friends and two other American friends. We were all amazed at how flavorful the spices were – some of us were nervous that it would be *too* spicy but it wasn’t at all. The vegetable mixture was beautiful as well – that was a fun surprise. I loved the directions to add the vegetables into the roasting pan halfway through the cooking time so that they didn’t get too soft – brilliant! My only minor issue with the recipe was that it didn’t say to rub the spice mixture on the bottom of the bird – usually recipes will tell you to turn the bird over a couple of times to ensure an even coating. I will definitely make this again and again as a fun way to switch up my usual roast chicken recipe.

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Oct 18, 2011

How would you like your kitchen to smell as if you were preparing a nice North African couscous? That’s exactly how it seemed. The scents lifted you to the warmth of North Africa and from the fist bite we were hooked. Timewise it was cooked to perfection. How much easier could this full meal be for a rushed work evening apart from waiting and longing to start eating? The chicken was juicy and extremely tasty and the vegetables kept their unique tastes while providing the feeling of enjoying a couscous! This is one recipe we will definitely redo often at our home.

Testers Choice
Linda B.

Oct 18, 2011

This a simple yet tasty roast chicken. The Moroccan spices are a nice change to your regular roast chicken, but the vegetables were just as tasty as the chicken. I might even make the vegetables on their own with the spice mix. Next time I think I’d mix the spices together before I prep the chicken so I’m not washing my hands quite so much.

Testers Choice
Julie T.

Oct 18, 2011

This is a great recipe, the flavors dance well together leading you to a gastronomic bolero. I used a five pound chicken and found that I had to lower my oven temp from 450°F to 375°F. I found that 425°F was too hot too quickly; I did truss the chicken which automatically required a bit more cooking time. Also, I would completely season the entire chicken overnight or even 2 hours before baking; this would allow for the flavors to further permeate the chicken. And if one did choose to tie the legs, the recipe should provide instructions on how to properly truss the chicken.

Testers Choice
Jackie G.

Oct 18, 2011

The chicken alone here is a ten. As my husband said after taking his first bite of the chicken, “That’s a lot of flavor!” We used a 4 3/4 lb. air-dried free-range chicken. The recipe did not say how to place the bird on the sheet pan. We put the chicken breast-side down for the first 20 minutes, and then turned it over for the next 10 minutes. That was the initial 30 minutes of cooking. That was when we were supposed to add the vegetables to the pan. The skin was very golden and the chicken looked like it was done. We checked the temperature, and indeed it was done. We took the chicken off of the pan, and put the veggies in. We wanted to cut down the cooking time, since the chicken was done, so we switched on the convection oven, and put the veggies in. We checked them at 20 minutes, and they were done. After carving the chicken, (don’t know how it happened, but this is when a lot of chicken just kinda disappeared into our mouths before making it onto the plate…) we poured the juices that had accumulated while the chicken sat and waited for the vegetables to get done over the hen. The chicken was wonderful! It was moist and chock-full-of-flavor. The onions were great. The potatoes and the cauliflower were just O.K. The vegetables could have benefited from being cooked with the chicken at the same time. I will try that the next time I make this. There will definitely be a next time, probably very soon. Excuse the run-on sentences. We just finished eating, and I can still taste all of the flavors. I am a bit enthusiastic, aren’t I? I do think that the size of the bird, and how to place it, are necessary for folks who may not be able to adjust a recipe to fit their bird.

Testers Choice
Sue H.

Oct 18, 2011

Pantry staples and easy-to-get chicken, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower seemed a little unlikely at first but combined to make one of the best roast chicken recipes I've ever tasted (and my tablemates agreed)! All ingredients and directions worked just as written. If anyone at your table prefers a little less heat, you might consider reducing the red pepper flakes but my tasters (who are NOT spicy eaters) had no problem with the 3/4 teaspoon called for. Identifying the four spices flavoring the chicken and vegetables provided some great table talk, too. Kristine Kidd calls this a "meal in one." I accompanied this dish with Sweet Corn Fregula (another LC recipe) and have to say it was an inspired combination! The author also suggests serving baklava to end the meal. Let me just add that chocolate also works very well. I was unfamiliar with Moroccan flavors but this recipe, from the seductive aroma of the spice and oil paste rubbed on the chicken to the finished product (a heavenly combination of aromas, textures, and tastes), made me want to explore much more. I can't wait to serve this again!

Testers Choice
Steve Dunn

Oct 18, 2011

I’ve just gotta say that I love being a tester for this site. Why? Because more often than not, through testing, I’m introduced to a recipe I otherwise might never have discovered, and it’s one that is so good that I’m sure it will become a regular in my cooking rotation. This dish is just such a recipe. From the very first read, I had a good feeling about this one. The ingredients were all easy to put my hands on, the technique straightforward and well articulated and the dish’s promise of big flavor is delivered in spades, with both the chicken and the veggies deeply flavorful, but not spicy from the mix of peppers, cumin, and cinnamon. The addition of lemon to the spice paste and the instruction to rub some under the skin and inside the cavity of the bird is brilliant, adding a lovely citrus note to the deep, exotic flavor of the rub. The cooking times as written worked out perfectly delivering us a perfectly juicy, well seasoned bit of deliciousness with a brick red, salt-crisped skin, right on-time. As an added bonus, the veggie mix was a perfect complement to the star of the show, reinforcing the Moroccan theme with hardly any additional work. I just love the ease of cooking veggies this way, one pot meals are indeed splendid. As if all this weren’t enough, the kids devoured every little vegetable scrap from their plates, no small feat considering that two in the mix were sweet potatoes and cauliflower, perennial losers in vegetable popularity rankings around these parts. We are sure to make this one again and again!

Testers Choice
Helen Doberstein

Oct 18, 2011

I was apprehensive at first about the temperature for the actual roasting of the bird. That being said I turned on the oven, lightly oiled the bottom of my new tagine and proceeded. I made the spice paste as written, then prepared the bird and the vegetables. I was concerned at the 30 minute mark when I noticed how dark the bird was becoming, but added the vegetables and went ahead. It actually took closer to 50 minutes to finish, but that may have been the size of the bird. I worried that it was burnt but such was not the case. We haven’t had such a juicy, tender, flavourful bird in a very long time. My family still talked about it the next day. They loved it so much there was none left for lunches. They asked me again this week when we can do this again. I would highly reccomend this one to chicken lovers everywhere.

Testers Choice
Karen Depp

Oct 18, 2011

Simple, delicious, and beautiful sitting on the platter! This is a one pan meal that offers lots of good tastes and textures with the addition of the vegetables roasting on the pan with the chicken. I would tone down the spices for vegetables so that there is a contrast of flavor possible to those who might not be as fond of the Moroccan “taste” as others might be (as some at our table were.) And if you are lucky enough to have any chicken leftovers – this makes a mean chicken salad in the best sense of the term!

Testers Choice
Lauren M.

Oct 18, 2011

I did not have a whole chicken for this recipe, so I used thighs and drumsticks. The spice mixture was perfect. Just enough spice, but not so much that you can’t taste what you’re eating. At first I wasn’t sure about the combo of sweet potatoes and cauliflower with this, but once they were seasoned and roasted, I was in heaven. The roasting time was perfect. The chicken was moist, and the veggies were firm but tender. And my husband, who I can only get to eat veggies by tricking him, LOVED the cauliflower! This would be a great dish for entertaining, or for a nice casual family dinner. Definitely a keeper in my rotation!

Next time, I’ll make more of the spice mixture and save it to put on other things. I bet it would taste great on a burger, or on any roasted veggies, or a quick way to season a sautéed chicken breast.


Comments
Comments
  1. gary says:

    My smoke alarm goes off even when the oven is clean (not that is very often). If I plan ahead, my mise en place includes removing the alarm’s battery.

    Usually, I just curse and run around like the proverbial headless chicken.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      You and me both, Gary, at least on removing the battery. And the cursing. The trick is I never remember to replace the battery….

  2. Amanda says:

    I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but as we are having friends from out of state stay over this weekend, I think this may be just the meal idea I was looking for. And as I will go to enormous lengths to avoid cleaning my oven, I’m thinking that this might be very nicely done in the barbecue kettle outside – thus avoiding smoke or unnecessary housework! Problem solved.

  3. Suzanne Hamlin says:

    David and Renee,

    Yet enough enticement to redeem a dreary, miserable day! Definitely plan to make (please, do not alert Paula W!) but, pre comments: In all my chicken roasting experience, whole birds seem to fare best when resting on a rack in the roasting pan/raised edges sheet pan. Not a heavy duty, overly complex Turkey roasting rack but something like a cake cooling rack–just enough lift so the bottom of the bird gets its full share of air and heat and does not turn to mush. And, subject #2: the reader/tester comments are often so great: Is there any way that one can incorporate them into a print out of the recipe? (Yes, I still do print outs: that’s how long I’ve been roasting chickens.) Otherwise, I have to copy and paste and print out separately or, lazy scenario, make crib notes on the recipe itself.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Thanks, Suzanne. We completely agree with you on the rack situation, although to clarify, this recipe comes in with a close second, which is to state that a low-sided baking sheet is preferable to a high-sided roasting pan. But yes, by all means, feel free to jury-rig some manner of rack situation. As for printing the comments, stay tuned, we’re looking into it…

    • Suzanne Hamlin says:

      Renee,
      Just to clarify: I rarely use a “roasting pan” for any roasting, chickens, of course, included. Except for the T-Day turkey (for which I use an ancient blue speckled ware low sided roaster) most often I use a large, professional gauge “sheet pan” with one inch sides (lined with foil for easy clean-up), with a cake rack inserted under the roasting object. Obviously meat/poultry, elevated above the pan, actually roast by this method–in those Williams-Sonoma high sided roasters, the food really braises as much as it roasts. I find it amusing, by the way, that in all the disclaimers re high sided roasters for the Moroccan chicken, the photograph featured just one of those–but the book, of course, was published by Williams-Sonoma.
      As for those smoke-alarm oven events: learned long along during an apple pie marathon to put a large baking sheet (once again the one with the inch high sides) on the bottom rack of the oven, and what’s to be cooked on the middle rack (sometimes, with pies, I put a thin cookie sheet under the pie itself.) Fail safe, really. No reason it wouldn’t work with that Moroccan bird.

  4. Judy says:

    Yummy … followed the directions to a tee (minus the cauliflower, doubled the onions ) and everything emerged from the oven SUBLIME!! Added bonus was a kitchen redolent with the sweet smell of the spices. I will 100% be making this recipe again. And by the way, the leftover chicken made a delicious salad the next day, mixed in a little bit of chutney with my mayo and had a wonderful chicken salad.

  5. Garima says:

    It was delicious. We like spicy food so upped the chile flakes just a tad and used a combination of Hungarian sweet paprika and smoked paprika. It was oh so good and the apartment smelled divine.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Hey, terrific to hear, Garima. Love how you made the recipe your own. Many thanks for letting us know….

  6. Chris says:

    I appear to be the only person who did not like this. The taste of paprika was overpowering and the leftovers had a strong flavor of cinnamon. I was very disappointed and will not cook this again.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Chris, I’m really sorry to hear that you didn’t care for this spice blend. To be quite frank with you, I’m not a lover of paprika or cinnamon, and so I’ve shied away from making this. But we have several other rub recipes on the site that work well with chicken, including this Peruvian-inspired roast chicken recipe (which again calls for quite a lot of paprika, though) and these three quick rubs for chicken pieces. And stay tuned, we have a roast chicken recipe—no spice whatsoever—publishing mid-February that is one of our very favorite things to do with a hen ever.

  7. Nancy says:

    I couldn’t believe how good this was. I absolutely LOVE those warm spices when used with cumin and in a savory application. The second time I made it (which was less than a week later), I added a little allspice and cloves. Sometimes roasting a whole chicken doesn’t turn out perfectly, but both times I made this recipe, it did. I made lentil soup and threw in the leftovers the next day.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Woohoo, Nancy! That is spectacular to hear. I am virtually high-fiving you. And wishing I had some of that chicken in front of me right now.

  8. Susan says:

    Can someone help w/ converting the use of a whole chicken to pieces of chicken (I don’t care for cutting it up in front of company and sometimes need the convenience of chicken parts). I know the time will vary, and I don’t want to short the veggies. I have made this w/ a whole chicken and it is an amazing recipe. On this next round, I’d love to try a cut up bird. Anyone?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Susan, one of our testers used thighs and drumsticks and had great success by following the same roasting instructions. Since you are just using parts which will cook faster, I’d be inclined to occassionally check the internal temperature with a thermometer.

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