Chicken Braised with Saffron, Cinnamon, Lavender, Almonds

Chicken Braised with Saffron, Cinnamon, Lavender, and Almonds Recipe

Based on a list of ingredients in an anonymous 13th-century Andalusian cookbook, this recipe for chicken braised with saffron, cinnamon, and lavender reflects the way aromatic spices were used in Islamic Spain. I think they create an exotic yet homey dinner in cold or wet weather. You can buy dried lavender buds in stores that sell bulk teas and spices, or by mail; make sure they are pesticide-free and fit for human consumption. The flavor of this dish improves over time, so it’s a good candidate for making ahead and reheating; or for leftovers for later in the week. Serve the braised chicken it over rice, couscous, rosemary mashed potatoes, or polenta.–Deborah Krasner

Chicken Braised with Saffron, Cinnamon, Lavender, Almonds Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 2 H
  • Serves 4


  • 2 tablespoons peppery olive oil
  • 4 whole chicken legs, thigh and drumstick separated or 1 whole chicken, cut up
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry or Marsala
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 1 tablespoon very hot water
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 heaping tablespoon dried lavender buds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds


  • 1. Heat a large heavy Dutch oven or braising pot over medium heat until the pot’s edges are warm to the touch; then add the olive oil. When the oil is hot and shimmery and is beginning to thin and flow, add the pieces of chicken, skin side down, until the bottom of the pot is filled. Don’t overcrowd the pot. You will need to brown the chicken in at least two batches unless your pan is very large. As the chicken pieces brown, turn them and sear the other side. Remove the browned pieces and hold them on a platter. When all of the chicken is seared, drain off all but a very thin film of fat and oil.
  • 2. Add the onions to the pot and cook over low heat until limp and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Then add the spices and cook for another minute or two. Mix in the sherry, saffron water, and balsamic vinegar and return the chicken to the pot. Cover tightly and let cook slowly, over the lowest possible heat, turning once, for 45 minutes or until just cooked through.
  • 3. Remove the chicken pieces, and pour the excess fat into a defatting pitcher or scoop it off with a spoon. (If you are serving the braised chicken later in the day or the next day, you can chill the liquid and then remove the hardened fat with a spoon). There will be about 1 1/4 cups liquid.
  • 4. About 20 minutes before serving time, heat the vodka to just below boiling in a small pan. Take it off the heat and add the lavender buds. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Then strain out and discard the flowers, and add the vodka to the defatted pan juices. Heat the juices to cook off the alcohol, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • 5. Return the braised chicken and its sauce to the pot and heat gently until warmed through. Pour the honey over the top, add the toasted almonds, and serve.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

The divine medley of tastes from this dish is still sumptuously smacking on my palate. Tender chicken that succulently falls from the bone, boldly flavored with a unique spice blend and enlivened by the sweet toasty crunch of the honey and almonds, brings to the table a very surreal and ultra-satisfying dining experience. I served this for a small dinner party with a spinach and dried cherry salad, crunchy baguette with an herbed compound butter, and a toasted-almond banana ice cream—my appreciative sated guests swooned. This dish is undoubtedly in the top ranks of my frequently made recipe list.

This recipe’s long list of small amounts of ingredients had me wondering if they were all necessary and worth the bother (though only the lavender buds took any effort to track down). The resulting aromas and complex flavors of the dish convinced me that I wouldn’t have wanted to leave out a thing. I was unable, however, to verify the headnote’s contention that the dish improves over time because there was not a morsel left over. This is definitely going on my short list of potluck dinner dishes.


  1. This is the recipe that got me hooked on the LC website 5+ years ago. I still make it every so often and marvel at how wonderful it is. I’ve tried it with couscous and polenta and it’s great both ways.

    1. I can’t think of a finer thing to say to me (or Deborah Krasner) early on this spring morning. Thank you!

  2. Just made this tonight- unbelievable recipe!! I couldn’t find the lavender so I used rosemary instead. So delicious- toasting the almonds made a huge difference! I did skip the part about pouring off the excess fat after it had been cooking as well- didn’t seem greasy or fatty at all! Also made my kitchen smell amazing! Thanks!

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