Chicken Marbella is an iconic chicken dish from Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso’s The Silver Palate Cookbook, first published in 1982. The recipe is a careful balance of sweetness, acidity, and saltiness. This is my delicious, modern take on the beloved classic.–Ronda Carman

Chicken Marbella FAQs

How does the modern chicken Marbella recipe differ from the original version?

This version uses dry sherry in addition to white wine in the pan sauce, and also includes caperberries along with the brined capers. The chicken is marinated and cooked in walnut oil, while the original recipe calls for olive oil. All of these minor changes add up to incredible flavor.

Where can I find Castelvetrano olives?

A quick internet search from your local market website should help. We’ve found them at Walmart, Target, and Amazon, as well. Look for natural Castelevatranos, if possible.

What do Castelvetrano olives taste like?

Castelvetrano olives are buttery and rich, with a mild flavor that is both salty and sweet. This type of olive is often palatable to those who tend to not care for the stronger, more briny varieties.

Can I make this with boneless, skinless pieces of chicken?

Yes, but your cooking time will vary. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest piece of chicken and bake until it reads 165°F (74°C), covering and resting your dish per the instructions below. Using bone-in chicken will result in tastier, more juicy chicken.

What should I serve with chicken Marbella?

It goes without saying that you’re going to want something to soak up the incredible pan sauce. We recommend roasted garlic mashed potatoes, but buttery egg noodles, or risotto alla Milanese would work well here, too.

Pieces of chicken Marbella in a white serving dish with prunes, olives, and capers, garnished with fresh thyme and a serving spoon on the side.

Modern Chicken Marbella

4.67 / 3 votes
This updated version of chicken Marbella is an easy make-ahead meal that's perfect for entertaining. The combination of juicy, tender baked chicken with olives, prunes, and capers is a classic for a reason.
David Leite
CourseEntree
CuisineAmerican
Servings6 servings
Calories743 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time9 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup walnut oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives
  • 1/4 cup caperberries
  • 1/2 cup capers with their brine
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (about 2 1/2 lbs total) bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
  • 4 (about 1 1/2 lbs total) bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, caperberries, capers and brine, bay leaves, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan and spoon the marinade evenly over it. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and pour the wine and sherry into the pan.
  • Bake until the thigh pieces yield clear juice when pricked with a fork or the chicken reaches 165°F (74°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 50 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
  • Transfer the chicken pieces to a warm serving platter and top with the prunes, olives, caperberries, capers, and garlic, reserving the pan juices. Garnish the chicken with oregano sprigs and keep warm.
  • Place the roasting pan with reserved juices over medium heat and bring the pan juices to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Strain into a heatproof bowl and serve alongside the chicken.
The Art of Pantry Cooking

Adapted From

The Art of Pantry Cooking

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 743 kcalCarbohydrates: 43 gProtein: 46 gFat: 40 gSaturated Fat: 7 gMonounsaturated Fat: 13 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 179 mgSodium: 1795 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 30 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2022 Ronda Carman. Photo © 2022 Matthew Mead. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This modern chicken Marbella is an easy and delicious “throw it all together” meal that tastes like it was much more work than it actually was. With a little effort in the morning to get your chicken marinating, you can come home from work, pop it in the oven, and have juicy chicken with a complex yet comforting sauce within the hour.

A pieces of modern chicken Marbella on egg noodles with green beans on the side.

I love the tango of the briny capers and olives with the sweet brown sugar and prunes, the tangy vinegar, the bright wine and the yeasty, nutty sherry. They all harmonize to become much greater than the sum of their parts.

I served the chicken with roasted green beans and buttered egg noodles. Couscous, rice, or pumpkin mashed potatoes would also have been great to soak up the sauce.

I served the chicken with the Harvest White Blend from Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock, Texas. It’s 68 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 32% Chenin Blanc. It’s the wine I used in the dish as well, and it was great in both applications.

Remember years ago when Oprah gushed over Chicken Marbella?! I have been making it ever since. I love the sweet and tangy flavor of this dish and Mediterranean flavors really “float my boat”.

This recipe is easy, looks great and can easily be doubled, to feed a crowd. Many items can be found in your pantry, making it economical to make. With this specific recipe, I appreciated the addition of sherry, which I love to cook with. Overall, this recipe nails it, especially if you have a pallet similar to mine!

I served the chicken over brown rice and served skillet-charred broccolini alongside it.

While not markedly different from the original, this modern version of chicken Marbella remains a great hands-off dinner. The walnut oil didn’t change the flavor much, but the fresh oregano at start and finish, lower amount of sugar and extra salty ingredients were welcome.

We served this with baked quinoa with lemon and parsley, which was perfect for soaking up the briny sweet sauce, and steamed broccoli.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also 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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7 Comments

  1. Just discovered your site. This recipe looks interesting, but if I bake the breasts and thighs for the same amount of time at the same temperature, won’t I either overcook the breasts or undercook the thighs? Maybe the breasts should come out of the oven sooner?

    Thanks, and I’m looking forward to discovering more interesting recipes on your site.

    1. Welcome, Paul. Thanks for your question. It will likely take longer for the chicken breasts to fully cook through, but bone-in chicken thighs are very forgiving, so I don’t think you’ll have issues with over-cooking. The alternative would be just to use all thighs or all breasts instead of both.

    2. I heartily recommend using all thighs. Have been doing it this way for many years – they’re always juicy.

  2. Chicken Marbella has been one of my go-to’s since the ‘80s, but I have an update of my own. Using only thighs, I add robust maple syrup to the marinade in stead of sprinkling with brown sugar. Reducing the pan sauce, as in this recipe, makes all the difference as it coats each piece with that sweet and savory flavor. All done in 12” cast iron pan (1/2 recipe).

    1. Thanks, Roni. The maple syrup would add great depth to the flavor. Your photo is making my mouth water!