One-Pot Wonders

Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Dates and Shallots

March  7, 2016
2 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

This is a variation of a recipe I found in Bon Appetit years ago which was on the French side of things (prunes and Armagnac). I’m a fan of dates and love the combination of dates with Moroccan seasonings, so I modified the dish for a trip to North Africa. The main flavor component is the Moroccan spice mix, Ras El Hanout. It’s a complex blend of spices; a jar of which I found at Williams-Sonoma (you might find McCormick brand at your supermarket), but you can also make (I've included a recipe below, adapted from Once you solve the spice mix sourcing or making, the recipe is pretty easy. This recipe is killer if you modify it to braise lamb shanks. On another note, it seems to have a lot of dates, it all depends on how big they are. You be the judge on if you need to use less. —Pete

What You'll Need
  • For the Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Dates and Shallots:
  • 3 tablespoons Ras El Hanout spice mix, plus more for seasoning (see recipe below)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 6 large chicken thighs (or 8 smaller thighs)
  • 32 large, pitted dates (Medjool), divided
  • 3/4 cup brandy, divided
  • 10 medium shallots, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pimenton (or other smoked paprika, go mild to suit taste)
  • 3 large sprigs thyme plus 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • For the Ras El Hanout spice mix:
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 20 threads saffron, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground anise (from star anise)
  1. For the Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Dates and Shallots:
  2. Mix the Ras El Hanout spice with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil and tomato paste until a paste is formed. Smear the spice paste on the chicken thighs, place in a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 4 hours, or up to overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.
  3. Boil 24 dates with 1/2 cup brandy in small saucepan for about 2 minutes. Cover and set aside. (Use less dates if desired)
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken thighs to skillet, skin side down; cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer to plate.
  5. Pour the rendered fat from the chicken into a glass container. (Here, I had a lot of “browned bits” which normally you keep and cook with. I was afraid it might be a little burned and would add a bitter taste. I scraped and wiped most of it out with a paper towel. Sacrilege? Maybe. But better safe than sorry—you be the judge.) Add 2 tablespoons of the drippings back to the wiped pan.
  6. Add whole shallots; cook until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Note: You can halve the shallots and they will end up separating during the cooking process. They will end up very soft and tender this way. Your choice.
  7. Add remaining 1/4 cup brandy; boil 30 seconds, scraping up anything left from the chicken. Add broth, garlic, dates, 1 teaspoon (more or less to taste) Ras El Hanout spice, pimenton, and thyme sprigs; bring to boil. Add chicken in single layer, skin side up, and any accumulated juices. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes or more as needed (an instant-read thermometer should read 165° F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat). Transfer chicken to plate.
  8. Stir vinegar into sauce. Add butter, and allow to melt, and stir. Cook at a gentle boil until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with chopped thyme. Top with remaining dates.
  1. For the Ras El Hanout spice mix:
  2. Mix together all ingredients store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • JanetRoss
  • SpinachInquisition
  • Anna Francese Gass
    Anna Francese Gass
  • sexyLAMBCHOPx
  • Pete

13 Reviews

jstains January 11, 2023
I'm not crazy about Moroccan food but I wanted to try Ran el Hanout spice so I tried it. I used less dates than called for (about 20 dates/cut in half) and added a little flour to thicken the sauce ......It was delicious... i think I would have cooked with some small carrots to have a vegetable in the dish as well.
Cherylannmc April 4, 2021
I made this for Easter Dinner! WOW! I just used boneless skinless chicken dark thigh meat. Medjool dates. Served on Jasmine rice.
OMG! This is amazingly wonderful aromatic food.
Definitely will be making again.
JanetRoss March 9, 2018
I just made this with dried apricots, prunes, dried tart cherries and red flame, muscat and yellow raisins with a side of tah dig or Persian rice. It was quite good; even better the next day!
Amy H. March 6, 2018
Just made this and it is so delicious! Can't believe I actually made such a lovely meal. Thank you so much for such a fab recipe.
Jaimee July 16, 2017
Wow! Paired with Chilean red Alma Libre per Winc's recommendation & this was an outstanding meal! Arguably one of the best I have ever prepared. Thanks for a great recipe!
Diane K. May 14, 2016
Can anyone recommend a substitute for the brandy in this recipe? I have a well stocked liquor cabinet but brandy is not included.
Pete May 23, 2016
The original recipe called for Armagnac, which is even more unlikely to be in people's liquor cabinets. A dry white wine or dry white vermouth would work. A hard apple cider (or even unsweetened apple juice) could work.
Diane K. May 23, 2016
Thanks for the info! Meanwhile, I've purchased a small bottle of brandy. :)
JanetRoss May 12, 2016
Looks great but I don't care for dates. What other dried fruit would you use?
Pete May 23, 2016
Apricots, raisins, cranberries ... just go with what you like.
This is what I make when I want to use my ras el hanout - it's nice, because it uses both a roasted and raw version of the spices/one on the cauliflower itself and one in the tahini sauce:
Anna F. May 12, 2016
Ive made this dish and it is utterly delicious! A must try!
sexyLAMBCHOPx March 7, 2016
looks great!