Chicken Marbella over Couscous

Cooking in my cast iron skillet…a new chicken recipe to get excited about…sometimes it’s about the simple pleasures in life.

When I stumbled upon this recipe for Chicken Marbella, I knew I’d love it. The combination of olives, prunes, and capers caught my eye, and indeed, it tasted just lovely. Little did I know, many before me have discovered the wonders of this dish. It is apparently one of the most popular recipes in the Silver Palate Cookbook. Well, where have I been?

Not to worry, I’m making up for lost time and have taken to making my version of Chicken Marbella frequently. What changes have I made? Well, mainly:

  • I don’t marinate the chicken (who has the time or forethought to marinate these days?)
  • I use my trusty skillet instead of a Dutch oven
  • I give the chicken a good sear in said skillet before it goes into the oven
  • And, I add slivers of onion on top which melt down and caramelize beautifully as the chicken cooks.

I stole the idea for adding the onion from another favorite skillet chicken recipe — this Tuscan-style number. In fact, this Chicken Marbella is like the Spanish Costa del Sol bestie to my Tuscan Chicken. Totally different flavor profiles, but similar preparations, and both are utterly delicious.

Chicken Marbella ingredients

Each ingredient really plays its part here. The prunes impart a rich, smoky sweetness that is just spot on. Note to self: prunes are really under appreciated. They are seriously tasty and not to be relegated to strictly “practical” applications.

The olives and capers bring great briny saltiness to the party. Lemon and garlic play well with chicken, we already know this. Slices of onion, as I mentioned before, transform into gorgeously caramelized loveliness. Rosemary, oregano, and bay leaves fragrance the dish. Red wine vinegar punches up the acidity. Brown sugar makes everything better. And white wine deglazes all the yummy bits and creates the sauce with zero effort on your end.

Here’s a play-by-play of how this dish comes together:

brown the chicken

First things first, rinse and thoroughly pat dry the chicken pieces. Season both sides with salt and pepper, then sear the chicken in the skillet, skin-side down, until golden brown.

skillet chicken

Flip the chicken pieces skin-side up, and add the garlic, prunes, capers, olives, bay leaves, oregano, and rosemary, distributing everything evenly. Juice the lemon quarters over everything and tuck them between the pieces of chicken. It should look good enough to eat at this point, but wait, there’s more!

scatter onions

Scatter the onion slivers on top.

add red wine vinegar and evoo

Drizzle the olive oil and red wine vinegar over everything.

add brown sugar

Sprinkle on the brown sugar and slide the skillet into the oven for 30 minutes.

add white wine

Take the skillet out, and pour the white wine over the chicken (no stirring necessary). I used this white blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris & Viognier from 14 Hands, a Washington State winery. Cover the skillet with foil and put it back in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, until it looks like this…

chicken marbella

Top with some finely chopped parsley for hit of something green and fresh, and enjoy! I love serving this with couscous cooked in fresh orange juice instead of water. I add some orange zest to it, and a handful of roughly chopped green olives. It’s a perfect side dish to go with this Chicken Marbella if I do say so myself.

Skillet Chicken Marbella

An updated take on this classic chicken dish, you fall in love with the sweet, salty, subtly smoky combination of prunes, olives, and capers all over again with this skillet version.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 4 chicken quarters (legs and thighs)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine (whatever you plan on drinking with this meal will do just fine)
  • A handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Rinse and thoroughly pat dry the chicken pieces. Season both sides with a sprinkling of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour a little olive oil in a skillet (or Dutch oven) and place over high heat. Pan-sear the chicken skin-side down, until golden brown.
  3. While the chicken is browning, cut up the onion into half-moon slivers, and peel and smash the garlic.
  4. Flip the chicken pieces. To the skillet, add the garlic, prunes, capers, olives, bay leaves, oregano, and rosemary, distributing everything evenly. Juice the lemon quarters over everything (catching and discarding any seeds) and tuck them between the pieces of chicken. Scatter the onion slivers on top.
  5. Mix together the olive oil and red wine vinegar. Drizzle this over everything. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the top and slide the skillet/Dutch oven into the oven for 30 minutes.
  6. Pour the white wine over the chicken (no stirring necessary), and cover with foil or lid. Continue cooking for 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Remove from the oven. Top with parsley and serve.
Cast Iron Skillet Cooking: Chicken Marbella recipe 11 October,2012Stephanie Hua

  • I was surprised with the use of cast iron for this dish. I was always told to avoid using highly acidic ingredients when cooking with cast iron as it will strip the seasoning and leach iron into the food, especially when cooking for long periods of time.

    • Hi Jeff, I’ve done a little research on the topic of cooking acidic foods in cast iron, and it seems like the consensus is that if your pan is well seasoned, you should be ok. I’ve never had a problem with my pan…but use your own judgement.

  • Dana @Foodie Goes Healthy

    I love the idea of cooking couscous with orange juice. Thank you for posting this chicken marbella recipe– I have been looking for it!

    • Hi Dana, glad you found this 🙂 And yes, the OJ in the couscous is fantastic and goes so well with the olives. I add the orange zest too for extra orange flavor.


Stephanie Hua

Stephanie Hua is the creator of Lick My Spoon, a place for all things delicious. So far she has learned that she very much enjoys salted caramel anything, a good soup dumpling is worth a scalded tongue, and there is no room in life for non-fat cheese and crappy chocolate. Also, a barrel of cheese balls never ends well.

Stephanie has been known to choose her company based on how much they can pack it down. Ability to endure cramped quarters, sketchy back alleys, and uncharted paths to seek out that special dish is also a plus in her book. If you fit the criteria, drop a note. You’ll probably get along just fine.

Stephanie’s writing and photography have been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Serious Eats, and Sundance Channel. Follow her on Facebook and @lickmyspoon.

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