Braised Moroccan Chicken and Olives

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

This flavorful dish was inspired by two of my favorite Moroccan ingredients- olives and preserved lemons. They work beautifully together in this dish to add a ton of flavor to the sauce. In addition, braising the chicken makes the meat wonderfully tender and juicy. Serve this dish over a bed of couscous to soak up all of the delicious sauce.

Sonali aka the Foodie Physician

Food52 Review: This is a pitch-perfect take on a classic dish. Sonali assembles a mouth-tingling spice mixture of ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, saffron and then adds green olives and preserved lemons to the party. The chicken is browned in oil (it's worth taking your time with this step, as you don't want it to burn) and then coated in the spice base before simmering gently in chicken stock until tender. Adding the lemons and olives towards the end helps retain their integrity and perfume. You may want to discard some of the fat after browning the chicken (this will depend on the meat you buy) -- we kept about 2 tablespoons. And couscous is a must. We used our favorite Israeli couscous (which Amanda blogged about a while back) and it was such a perfect foil for the rich, spicy sauce that we couldn't resist forking up every last grain. - A&MThe Editors

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 40 min


  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds chicken legs and thighs
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste
  • 1 pinch Black pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups small diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock, more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 cup green olives, rinsed
  • 2 preserved lemons, pulp removed; rind cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
In This Recipe


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet or over medium high heat. Dry the chicken pieces and season them with salt and pepper. Place them in the skillet in batches and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken and place on a plate.
  2. Add the onion to the skillet and cook until slightly softened. Add the ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric and cayenne pepper and stir together. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Pour the chicken stock into the skillet so that 2/3 of the chicken is submerged. Add the saffron and stir to combine. Bring liquid to a simmer, cover the skillet and simmer on medium low heat 20-25 minutes. Add the olives and preserved lemons. Cover and cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and turn the heat to high. Cook for another 6-8 minutes until sauce reduces slightly. Stir in the cilantro. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  3. Serve chicken on a bed of couscous. Spoon sauce over the top. Garnish with cilantro.

More Great Recipes:
Stew|Moroccan|Cilantro|Coriander|Cumin|Olive|Paprika|Saffron|Turmeric|Chicken|Braise|Make Ahead

Reviews (188) Questions (4)

188 Reviews

Chris P. December 16, 2018
Amazing recipe. Absolutely love the spices and the way the sauce mixes with the olives.
Natalie November 26, 2018
Is the chicken supposed to be skinless or skin on??
Linda November 27, 2018
Skin on
Natalie November 27, 2018
Amazing!! I just made it for dinner. I did make the mistake of adding more salt before I added the olives and preserved lemon -- they add a ton of salt to the dish! I did find the chicken skin a little bit unpleasant since it's not crispy, but soft and chewy. Is it meant to be this way?
Max September 20, 2018
Added dried apricots along with the olives. Everything came out so freaking good. Nice and flavorful, especially on day two. Will keep this in my recipe rolodex for sure.
Linda June 20, 2018
OMG...this is just the most flavorful dish! I made this last week-end for friends who have just returned from Marrakesh and they said it was better than what they ate there. I made it the day before to allow the flavors to settle in. Served it with Moroccan carrots and Israeli couscous. It was so outstanding that I'm making it again in 2 weeks for our gourmet dinner group. The only change I made was adding more olives.
MBE June 17, 2018
Yum! The only thing I will change next time is to omit the saffron. I fell like it gets overwhelmed by the cumin etc. so will save this $$ ingredient for recipes where it shines. The best part of this recipe is that the leftovers are as good if not better than the day it is cooked :-)
ASeaWulf May 1, 2018
One of my favorite recipes of all time! I make this constantly and have started to add lots of other veggies and dried fruits to the mix like carrots, zucchini, and prunes.
Analida B. February 22, 2018
This dish sounds lovely!<br />I like to take a whole roaster chicken and cut it into pieces and slow cook it in a tagine on the stovetop or slow cooker and add some thinly sliced potatoes at the end.
steve February 15, 2018
I use a very similar recipe that I found in Molly Stevens classic cookbook, All About Braising.<br />
Karen B. February 13, 2018
made this last weekend and it was wonderful! i added some red peppadew peppers when i put the olives in and it was a nice addition to the Moroccan Chicken dish.
rebecca P. August 15, 2017
I made this a few days ago for friends. I found preserved lemon at a specialty store and used that. Once I tasted the lemons (after rinsing and removing pith) I only used about half what the recipe called for to avoid too strong a flavor. Results were really delicious! I used mostly thighs w some breast meat. Breast was fine but not as good as the thigh, as predicted.
catdaddysammy July 20, 2017
I made this last night in my new dutch oven and it turned out fantastic. I couldn't find preserved lemons so I just baked some lemon slices until they were tender and it worked famously. Such great flavors here!!! I also popped the chicken thighs under the broiler for a few minutes while the sauce was reducing to crisp up the skin and it turned out delicious!!! Great recipe.
Stephanie B. March 25, 2017
I've made this several times. It's earned a place in my rotation, it's absolutely one of my favorite chicken stew type recipes. I think what really makes it for me is the preserved lemons. I make these ones: I think they're absolutely worth the 4-5 day wait. They make this recipe and if you can plan to make the lemons the rest of the recipe comes together quickly. I use a different type of olive than the usual green, I wish I remember what they're called, but they're more round and a brighter green with a more mild flavor.
Gina B. February 17, 2017
This is my new fave recipe. I use Smoked Paprika Dolce and half the cayenne. Also add 1 TB honey to balance. And reduce the sauce! Excellent flavor.
liz January 7, 2017
I have a few picky white-meat eaters coming to dinner. Do you think this could work with breast meat on the bone or cut into chunks?
liz January 7, 2017
nevermind! comments answered my question :)
Author Comment
Sonali A. January 7, 2017
I was going to say definitely bone-in chicken breast so that it doesn't dry out :)
mizerychik January 7, 2017
You might also want to brine the white meat ahead of time. A lemon zest and cumin brine would definitely add moisture and great flavor to the chicken breasts.
girlwithaknife December 11, 2016
Made this tonight as written except I subbed fresh lemon zest for preserved lemon, and added more zest and juice at the end. Served with roasted cauliflower and dinner was SO good!! Not exactly a weeknight meal as it took at least 45 minutes but I think it would freeze great.
girlwithaknife December 11, 2016
We had the chicken with naan. So good that we saved the sauce and added the cauliflower to it. Will add chickpeas for another meal!
CanadaDan August 15, 2016
I made this without saffron since i didn't have any, and replaced the coriander with parsley and it was beyond good. Super easy and quick and packed with flavour, i wouldn't have changed a thing. thanks!
Yayita July 30, 2016
I absolutely plan to make this again because it was delicious despite some deviations: 3lbs of chicken instead of 2.5, skinless thighs, using 2 cups of beef broth instead of chicken (didn't have chicken), and adding slices of lemon as I didn't have preserved lemons. Every time I reheated it for lunch my coworker would say it smelled good and tasted even better the following day. And to top it off, my BF, picky eater that doesn't like "sauces" said that it was the type of food he could keep eating. This one is keeper! Thanks :D
Janet June 20, 2016
I found this bland, probably because there was too much broth. I might try it again but will really scale back the liquid. The chicken thighs I used cooked really quickly after browning; next time I might try removing the skin and dredging them in chickpea flour to reduce the fat and provide some thickening to the sauce. I like the idea of adding apricots.
Christina S. July 11, 2016
I just made this and it was out of control flavorful (and I'm used to eating heavily spiced food). I used skinless chicken thighs. I also used a Dutch oven that had a loose fitting lid so I ended up skipping the last step of reducing the sauce. I'd definitely try it again if you fancy!
linda June 15, 2016
thank you for sharing! we took this stew and a large bowl of couscous and had a mini dinner party al fresco last night. it was wonderful.
ghainskom April 3, 2016
Reminiscent of poulet yassa. But the spices blend lends it another dimension. Yummy, really.