Braised Moroccan Chicken and Olives

April 11, 2021
4.6 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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&M —The Editors

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • 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.
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204 Reviews

Kate B. February 12, 2022
Excellent and very reminiscent of tajines we had in Marrakech and Fez. The spice combination was spot on. I question how much the saffron added because the other flavors are so dominant. I used saffron I bought at the spice market in Istanbul but really couldn't discern its flavor. Next time I'll try it without the saffron and see if I can taste the difference. Because we don't like soggy chicken skin I ran the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the skin. It worked very well. I served it over couscous and agree with other reviewers that it's the perfect complement. I'll definitely make this again.
Margo January 10, 2022
This recipe was easy and super delicious! I used both skin-on-bone-in and boneless skinless thighs - browning was not an issue in an enamel cast iron pan. I did not have preserved lemons (I will make for the next time), but did have Penzey's dried minced lemon peel, which was a perfect substitute! I also added chopped apricots and sliced carrots 1/2 way through the cook time as suggested by other reviewers. Served with Israeli (pearl) cous cous!
eatchimac March 30, 2021
Oh, I didn’t try Braised Moroccan Chicken Recipe. Now I can make it at home. So glad for sharing this recipe Now I can make it at home. It looks delicious. Now I can share your blog with my friend circle. I am so glad after seeing your recipe, Thanks for sharing this recipe. Food is one of the biggest topics of conversation online and offline. Keep it up, I am waiting for your next recipe!
Leah H. March 18, 2021
Cook this recipe!! Cook it when you're tired on a weeknight, cook it when you're trying to impress your in-laws, cook it when you feel like there's nothing in the fridge but you find a pack of frozen chicken legs in the freezer! It's still delicious without the preserved lemons (squeeze a fresh lemon on top right at the end), it's delicious with any meat, veg, or tofu, it's delicious over rice, or couscous or flatbread. It's a testament to a well written recipe and it lives on as a family favorite in my home.
Margo W. February 14, 2021
Skipped the olives and used only one lemon per personal preference. Next time would double the chicken for the amount of sauce.
Andrew H. March 24, 2022
Trust me, it is much nicer with olives included - changes the dish completely.
Tina February 3, 2021
Love this dish, however whenever I make it I can’t seem to get the browning of the chicken right. The skin falls off and I never achieve a nice “brown”. Any suggestions?
Afsana A. November 29, 2020
Somarico November 5, 2020
My husband and I adore this recipe. Thank you!! We love to add carrots and zucchini and dried apricots. We also just use the juice of one lemon since we don't usually have preserved lemon on hand. Enjoy!!!
Paula T. January 11, 2020
You can make your own preserved lemons. Just make sure you scrub the lemons first to get rid of the wax on the outside. Poke holes in them, pack in a jar, laying with kosher salt and cover, and let sit for a week or two in the refrigerator. Very easy. Good luck and God bless!!!
Sarah S. January 12, 2020
Just tried my first round of preserved lemons - thanks for the tips!
Paula T. January 12, 2020
Just remember the longer they sit the better they will be and they will not get bad because of the salt God bless
Sarah S. June 6, 2019
Made this for dinner when meeting my boyfriend's parents for the first time--knocked it out of the park! So delicious, simple, and more importantly - easy to do most of the work ahead of time so you're not distracted or afraid of burning something when guests arrive. Skipped the saffron as it wasn't readily available - still amazing. Definitely going into my top 20 rotation.
Author Comment
Sonali A. June 19, 2019
So glad you liked it!
Lauren B. May 3, 2019
This has quickly become a favorite in our house and our go-to recipe when we have guests over.
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!
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.
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.