Portuguese and Spanish ingredients—inimitable port wine, paprika, cilantro, and olive oil—flavor this tapas-style dish. Set out cocktail picks, or toothpicks, for nibbling on these delicious little bites. To cook these bites once and enjoy them twice, double the recipe, omit the cilantro, and freeze half the batch. Then just thaw them in the fridge and reheat them in a skillet, adding fresh cilantro before serving.–Kate Heyhoe

LC Hah! Note

If you’re anything like us, you may as well forget satisfying yours and three other appetites with this tapas, as suggested by the number of servings above. Hah! Just can’t be done, not when it’s so tricky to stop tossing back small bites of warmly spiced chicken. Perhaps consider it an entrée instead, for two not four, spooning the chicken over rice to soak up every last drop of that sauce.

Port-paprika chicken bites garnished with cilantro, piled on a square white plate with a dish of picks.

Port-Paprika Chicken Bites

5 / 5 votes
These port and paprika chicken bites include Portuguese and Spanish ingredients flavor these tapas. It's also perfect served over rice as an entrée for two.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories215 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons port, (ruby or tawny)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size chunks (about 1-inch [25-mm] dice)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion


  • Grind the garlic and bay leaves together in the work bowl of a hand blender or mini chopper. (Alternatively, chop the garlic by hand and finely crumble the bay leaves and combine.) Add the port, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the vinegar, paprika, and salt and pulse until well combined.
  • Pour the mixture over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
  • Just before cooking, chop enough cilantro to make 1/2 cup. Scatter the cilantro on a serving plate.
  • Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat in a wok or large skillet. With a slotted spoon, scoop the chicken pieces out of the marinade and into the hot oil, arranging the chicken in a single layer and discarding the marinade. Cook until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes, then stir-fry until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Scoop the chicken out of the pan, leaving any excess oil behind, and place the chicken on the cilantro.
  • Add the onion to the oil in the hot pan, return it to medium-high heat, and cook, stirring, until the onion is browned at the edges, about 2 minutes. Scoop the onion out of the oil and strew it over the chicken.
  • Serve the plate of chicken bites hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with a touch of salt and with cocktail picks or toothpicks for handling.
Great Bar Food at Home by Kate Heyhoe

Adapted From

Great Bar Food at Home

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 215 kcalCarbohydrates: 3 gProtein: 22 gFat: 12 gSaturated Fat: 2 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 7 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 108 mgSodium: 395 mgPotassium: 349 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 gVitamin A: 658 IUVitamin C: 3 mgCalcium: 22 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2007 Kate Heyhoe. Photo © 2007 Alexandrea Grablewski. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Being Portuguese and having tried something similar in Spain, I knew I had to try this recipe. What really grabbed my attention was the cilantro, as this added more of a Portuguese flair than a Spanish one. I used ruby port, as in my mind tawny can be a tad too strong and overpower the meat when used as a marinade. The marinade itself is extremely fast to make, and I decided right away to double the recipe and use half on cubed chicken and the other half on chicken wings. I served it with plain white rice, which was the perfect complement, as the sauce (though there was only a little) brought a different dimension to the rice. The chicken came out extremely juicy and tasty, where one could easily detect all of its ingredients. This is a recipe to do over and over again. I will most likely always have some frozen for a last-minute appetizer.

Aside from the marinating time, this dish comes together very quickly. While it would certainly make a good starter or nibble if you’re entertaining, for just the two of us, I served it as a main dish. You get a lot of flavor bang for your effort buck with this recipe. Since we love cilantro around here, we scooped up plenty of it to mix in with the chicken on the plate. I used white port for this recipe, since I had some on hand. I’m sure that is not what the authors intended, but it works fine. I think you could have quite a bit of leeway with the type of alcohol used, as long as it is fairly sweet, to balance out the vinegar in the marinade.

I wish I would have doubled the recipe–not to freeze, but to cook more after the first batch had been gobbled up! The marinade was simple to put together with a couple of whirls of the food processor. I was pleasantly surprised at the lightness of the finished product. Adding tawny port to the marinade lent a pleasant richness to the sweet/sour flavor. I have to say that I didn’t really taste the bay leaves, but they might be missed if omitted. The presentation on the bed of vibrant chopped cilantro was lovely and the bits that clung to the chicken incorporated a brightness into each bite. Addition of the browned onions was a bonus of sweetness, a little crunch and a little bitterness. A crowd pleaser that could easily be served as an entree, perhaps with some couscous and grilled zucchini.

This is such an easy dish to do either as appetizer or as part of a big meal. The marinade tenderizes the chicken well and it cooks in no time at all. I served it as part of a meal with curried chickpeas and a sound pilaf. Yum.

I liked these chicken bites. The dish is good by itself, but I made it as a dinner entrée with a starchy side (Smashed Potatoes). I have to say when I tried the chicken alone, all I tasted was paprika. But then I realized that the other flavors—the garlic, a bit of vinegar, the port (I used reserve port, which is a ruby)—were picked up by the diced onion, so be sure to spread the onions evenly over the meat. I like the use of chicken thighs, the juiciest and the most flavorful part of the bird and cheaper than breast meat. When I serve this as a tapas plate, I’ll probably do it the Middle Eastern or Indian style: with pita or naan on the side. Grab a piece of chicken with a torn piece of flatbread instead of using toothpicks—small children can join for tapas, too.

This was one of the tastier chicken dishes I’ve made in a while. It is simple to prepare and requires very little hands-on time. I cooked this dish as an entree to serve four for dinner, and not as a tapas snack as recommended. Alongside some herbed fingerling potatoes and a crisp green salad, these bites were delicious. The marinade, which I made with tawny port as opposed to ruby, was a bright brick-red wonder, pungent with garlic but with a surprising depth brought about from the bay, port and paprika. I don’t believe I’ve ever blitzed a bay leaf in a processor before, it was a brilliant idea. I gave the chicken a full two hours in the marinade before I cooked it in a well oiled and very hot skillet. While the marinade is not hot, the paprika leaches into the oil as the chicken cooks, leaving behind what looks to be a fine slick of chili oil when the chicken is removed from the pan. This oil combines with the sugar from the onions and darkens to a beautiful ruby red as the onions cook. If you have a sufficiently hot cooktop, the chicken will take no more than five minutes to cook, the onions about the same. On the plate, the bed of cilantro leaves topped with the caramelized chicken bites and a few spoons of ruby-red diced onion was a delightful riot of color. Finished with a few flakes of Maldon salt, and the vibrant taste and texture of the dish lived up to its gorgeous presentation. I may serve this as a tapas-style cocktail snack one day, but am concerned that the popularity of the tasty bites may lead to a shark-like feeding frenzy when offered. Given that concern, I may just keep serving it an an entree, guaranteeing that everyone gets their fill without having to fight for it.

It was very hard to stop nibbling these tasty bites. While I wasn’t able to get mine to brown as described, and there was a lot of liquid left in the pan after each batch, they were very good nonetheless. I heartily recommend that the dried bay leaves be ground, as they don’t crumble small enough and so you still have to pick pieces out of the finished dish. I doubled the recipe and I found that it was an easy-to-make dish that we served as a main dish for five with a wild rice pilaf and roasted vegetables for dinner and a couple of lunches left over the for the next day. The next time I make this, I think I would change the sweet smoked paprika for the hot type just to add a little more zing.

Loved it, would fix it again anytime. The recipe was easy to follow and was delicious, and everything came together exactly as dictated by the recipe. After inviting my son over to eat–he is a “super taster”–I was a bit hesitant whether he would like these chicken bites. Well, he loved them. He thought that they were perfectly seasoned, and not, as is much food, “overwhelming” to his “super tastebuds”.

It was a very good dish. The marinade flavored and tenderized the meat. Also, of course, the dark meat does have more depth of taste then the white. I would like to use smoked-sweet paprika (Pimenton de la Vera), Marsala wine instead of port, and place the meat on skewers with different type of grapes placed in between each piece of chicken on the skewers.

This recipe is absolutely delicious–so much flavor with very little time and effort. I made this recipe as an entree rather than a tapas-style dish. It is divine! I used tawny port as that is what I had. I marinated the chicken in a plastic bag in the fridge for exactly two hours before cooking. The chicken gets nicely brown and caramelized. The paprika brings extra color to the dish. I served it with basmati rice and we loved it–ate every bite!

I have to admit that I used the same pan after cooking the chicken and the onions to make some “scrambled eggs to go” for the next morning–the flavor was incredible. Would definitely make this again for friends. Next time for nibbles with drinks.

The hardest part about this recipe is remembering the marinating time. I wanted to try this several times for a weeknight dinner, but kept forgetting to allow enough time. When I did, it was well worth it. The flavors of the paprika and port definitely came through (I used tawny port). I served this over escarole and diced bell pepper for a filling dinner salad. Will definitely make again.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Loved the ease of recipe…I did manage to make a happy mistake. I coated the chicken after marination with a dusting of flour and sautéd from there. And also added a blend of parsley with cilantro (the family learning to like cilantro). Served with a potato and bacon dish. Big hit. We normally have a pretty standard palate this was awesome for us!

  2. Hi, I’m giving this recipe a shot but am planning on a 2 day marinade. Will this affect the recipe at all?

    1. Ryan, glad to hear you’re trying the recipe! A 48-hour marinade is quite a long time for the chicken to be exposed not just to the flavors but also to the acidity. I’m worried the taste and texture may be compromised. How about a 6-hour marinade?