Braised Moroccan Chicken & Olives

April 11, 2021
44 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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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223 Reviews

Miriamm April 7, 2024
Year after year, this is my go to Moroccan Chicken recipe with olives! Delicious!
brushjl February 27, 2024
Great chicken, wonderful with couscous.
Katie October 24, 2023
Loved this dish- it was perfect, but borderline too salty for me, so I added a teaspoon of sugar and that tempered it out. Also added young potatoes and carrots during the last half of cooking and they were a delicious addition served over spiced Moroccan cous cous. My husband ate his plate and more than half of mine! Definitely going to make this again.
Elizabeth T. January 31, 2023
I loved this dish so did my too. I often cook with preserved lemon. This was easy to make and has been requested again. The second time I made it, I made a day before and just reheated it and it was out of this world. Great flavors.
Nickie January 29, 2023
Made this today as written-delicious! Well, almost as written-I did add a few more olives. No access to preserved lemons where I live, so I made my own. This dish is so well balanced. Served over couscous as advised and it was perfect!
Gwen F. January 12, 2023
Haven’t made this yet. If you want to make the day before, where would you stop and refrigerate? And When ready to serve, would you heat uncovered in the oven or covered? 350 for ? 30 min? Worried about overcooking the chicken.
Dniseny January 13, 2023
I ended up just putting whole pan into fridge. Then next day reheated slowly on stovetop covered. Worked perfect
Dniseny January 10, 2023
Very easy. Def more time consuming than I had allowed for. Super tasty. Makes lots of leftovers
jfernandez January 4, 2023
I can't have couscous so I served this over some Jasmin rice and it was lovely. I added some raisins (since I didn't have apricots as someone else suggested) and still got the salty/sweet effect. The heat was a bit intense when I first tried it but the lemon and cilantro (and rice) all blended perfectly together to cut the heat w/o eliminating it all together.
Lynnie February 1, 2023
If you can’t have couscous because of gluten issues, there are some fantastic gluten free couscous available. One we use is made from corn. It’s awesome; made in Italy.
Victoria January 4, 2023
could you do this in a tagine if you have one?
FiberVoodoo January 5, 2023
I don’t see why not, just brown the chicken in a different pot, as tagines aren’t stovetop worthy. You’ll lose some of the brown bits unless you deglaze the pan with a little of the broth and transfer them to the tagine. I have one that was my mom’s- I’m going to try this!!
Lynnie February 1, 2023
Actually, some tajines have enameled cast iron bases … and Emile Henry’s stoneware tajine and some others are stovetop worthy. This dish is essentially an adaptation of a tajine recipe so yes, iy would be great made in a tajine.
Arrxx January 4, 2023
Delicious. I suggest removing the skin after browning. If you braise covered with skin on it gets rubbery and really unappetizing. For some reason many recipes don't mention this and it results in rubbery skin after you go to all the trouble of browning. The other option which works is to braise in the oven UN-covered with the liquid half way up the pieces. Don't worry the chicken cooks fully in the hot liquid and the skin stays crisp and not need to broil. Like all braises this tastes better after a day (or even a few hours) in the fridge.
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.
Shirin G. January 4, 2023
Hi, I haven't made this dish yet, and looking forward to it. I just wanted to comment on the saffron. I make a lot of Persian dishes that use saffron (I'm Persian.) It's not a flavor that you want to be aware of- it's mainly used aesthetically, the beautiful deep orange/red color, and just to give off a slight aroma. I never order a dish in a non-Persian restaurant that uses saffron. I feel it's overused and overpowers everything else. So I'm guessing from your comment that the appropriate amount is used here! Hope that's helpful! Thanks.
Deirdre W. January 4, 2023
We buy bottled saffron water from the Arabic store (my husband is Iraqi) and I think I will try that for this recipe.
Lynnie February 1, 2023
We are Moroccan and love the flavor of saffron for exactly what it is. Excellent in a wide range of dishes, from N African to some paella recipes, Indian kulfi (ice cream) and more. So, each their own.

Part of my family is Persian and we eat a lot of Persian food and true that saffron is not a prevalent flavor … so easy to understand what might influence your opinion …
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?
Deirdre W. January 4, 2023
It might be sticking to the pan with too little oil?
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.
Sonali A. June 19, 2019
So glad you liked it!