Chicken marbella is the briny, sweet, tangy baked chicken recipe from the famous Silver Palate Cookbook. It’s a classic recipe originally designed to serve a crowd but we cut it down to serve a family. Capers, prunes, white wine, brown sugar, and olives pack this recipe with flavor!
If you’re looking for a baked chicken recipe that is dinner party worthy, but also simple enough to whip up for your family whenever the mood strikes, try chicken marbella. This recipe turns the sweet and salty ingredient combo of olives and prunes into a special dinner you’ll make over and over again.
Chicken marbella is a classic recipe from the famous 1982 Silver Palate Cookbook. At the time, the cookbook and its corresponding gourmet shop, were considered revolutionary for bringing flavors of the Mediterranean to U.S. home cooks.
While they say you should never mess with a classic, I did make a couple of small changes. The original recipe serves a big crowd, so I cut it down and used only one 3 ½ pound chicken rather than two. I also reduced the sugar from 1 cup to ¼ cup (less if you like), relying on the prunes for most of the sweetness.
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How to create briny-sweet flavor
Chicken marbella’s distinct flavor is its main draw. While an unexpected combination, the ingredients come together to create a sweet and salty flavor combination that has universal appeal.
- Pitted prunes: Yes, prunes. This humble, easily accessible dried fruit is so sweet, and it’s how we start to build flavor in the marinade immediately.
- Pitted green olives: For some salty tang and brininess.
- Capers and a bit of the juices in the jar: Similar to green olives, capers have a briny flavor, but are also a little tart.
- Red wine vinegar: Vinegar adds some acidity here to help season and tenderize the chicken. If you do not have red wine vinegar, you can use apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, or even lemon juice. Keep in mind that the taste of the finished meal will be a little different.
- White wine: White wine brightens and lifts the other flavors in this dish. The alcohol will cook off so you won’t notice it’s there, but you will miss it if you leave it out!
- Sugar: You only need ¼ cup brown sugar. While the original recipe uses much more, I decided to rely more on the natural sweetness of prunes, and I didn’t miss it. The chicken still had a subtle sweetness, and the skin turned a beautiful golden brown.
How to make chicken marbella
Making chicken marbella is as simple as marinating the chicken, allowing it to sit for 30 minutes and up to overnight , and then roasting it. I’ve let it marinate for both long and short periods of time, and honestly it’s plenty flavorful either way.
Here’s more detail about how to make it:
- Make the marinade: To a large bowl, add 3 bay leaves, garlic cloves, ½ cup each pitted prunes and pitted green olives, ¼ cup capers (plus a little juice), ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper. Stir or whisk together to combine.
- Place a whole cut up chicken into the bowl and toss it carefully to coat it in the marinade. Get some of the marinade under the skin as well.
- Let the chicken marinate: Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge overnight. This is optional. If you are short on time, let the chicken sit in the marinade for 30 minutes to 3 hours.
- Roast the chicken: When you are ready to cook the chicken, transfer the chicken and all of the marinade — including prunes, capers, etc. — to a large baking dish. Spread the chicken out so the pieces don’t overlap. Pour ½ cup white wine into the baking dish before sprinkling the top of the chicken with ¼ cup brown sugar.
- Place the dish in a 350°F oven and allow it to roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Baste the chicken occasionally with the pan juices.
- Remove from the oven: The chicken is ready when its internal temperature reaches 165°F or the juices run clear and the skin has turned a golden brown. Transfer the chicken marbella to a serving platter and top with the prunes, olives, and capers.
- Make the sauce and serve. Don’t throw away the juices in the roasting pan! Instead, bring the juices to a boil over medium heat and reduce them to about ½ cup. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle some chopped flat-leaf parsley on top. Dinner is served!
What to serve with chicken marbella
Chicken marbella is chock full of flavor, so you don’t need anything super complicated to go along with it. Here are some ideas:
- Rice: Either plain basmati rice or rice pilaf
- Salad: Parmesan lettuce salad or panzanella salad
- Potatoes: Herby boiled potatoes
- Bread: Your favorite crusty bread
How to store and reheat leftover chicken marbella
Leftover chicken marbella will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
To reheat: Place the chicken and sauce in a skillet over medium heat and warm through.
More baked chicken recipes
- 1 whole chicken, cut up
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- ½ cup pitted prunes
- ½ cup pitted Spanish green olives
- ¼ cup capers, with a little bit of juice
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup Early Harvest Greek extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup white wine
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, optional
- Cut the chicken: Take a whole chicken and using sharp kitchen scissors cut the backbone out. Then press down on top to separate the rest of the bones. Remove the legs and thighs, then remove the wings and tips.
- Make the marinade: In a large bowl combine bay leaves, garlic cloves, prunes, olives, capers, red wine vinegar, olive oil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir it together then add the chicken. And smoosh it around. Make sure you lift up the skin a little bit so the marinade clings to the flesh of the chicken as well.
- Let the chicken sit: Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge overnight. (If you don’t have enough time, allow at least 30 minutes of marinating time.)
- Roast the chicken: The next day preheat the oven to 350°F. Transfer the chicken and the marinade, including the prunes, olives, etc., into a large oven safe skillet or baking dish and spread it out a bit so the chicken pieces don’t overlap. Pour the wine into the baking dish. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with brown sugar and place in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Baste with the pan juices a couple of times while the chicken cooks.
- Remove from the oven: The chicken is ready when its internal temperature reaches 165°F and the skin has turned a golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a large serving platter and spoon the prunes, olives, and capers on top.
- Make the sauce and serve. Bring the juices in the roasting pan to a boil over medium heat and reduce until you are left with about ½ cup of sauce. Strain the sauce into a bowl, then pour it over the chicken. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve and enjoy!
- Red wine vinegar substitutes: You can use apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice. The flavor will differ slightly.
- Marinating time: If you do not have time to marinate the chicken overnight, even 30 minutes will make a difference!
- Serve chicken marbella with: Plain rice or rice pilaf, boiled potatoes, or crusty bread.
- How to store and reheat leftovers: Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Place the chicken and sauce in a skillet over medium heat to reheat.
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