One-Pot Wonders

Moroccan-Spiced Chicken and Rice with Dates and Pistachios

March  4, 2017
9 Ratings
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
Author Notes

Adapted From Diana Henry's Simple.

What struck me about this recipe from the start was the method: you don't have to brown the chicken first to render the fat and crisp up the skin — everything just gets added to the pot and baked uncovered for 40 minutes. The method yields beautifully brown skin, juicy meat, and cooked rice.

I did make the recipe somewhat more fussy: the original recipe truly calls for throwing everything in the pot, sticking it in the oven, and baking it. I didn't love the taste of the raw onion, so I added one more step, which is to sauté the onions for 5 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients one after the other.

I prefer toasting whole cumin seeds then grinding them in my mortar and pestle. Do this if you prefer as well. I also don't love ground ginger, so I used a teaspoon of coriander seeds (not similar, but works here), which I also toasted and ground.

Harissa is spicy prepared Moroccan sauce/paste. It varies in heat level, so you may have to adjust to taste. I found the 1.5 tablespoons called for in the original recipe not spicy enough for me; 4 tablespoons is quite spicy, however.

Original recipe calls for 12 dates. I prefer fewer, but use as many as you wish.

The original recipe also calls for 2.5 cups of water. I found the rice to be too soft with this amount of water. I tried with 2 cups and also found that to be too soft. So I then went down to 1 1/3 cups. This yields a mix of soft and crisp rice, which I love.

Brown rice: several commenters tried unsuccessfully to use brown rice. It's possible that a larger amount of water could help the brown rice cook properly, but I've never tried, so I can't say for sure. I would look to the package instructions for guidance re water and time. —Alexandra Stafford

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 6 to 8
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 pieces bone-in, skin-on thighs and/or drumsticks
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons harissa
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin or whole cumin seeds (see notes above)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional, see notes above)
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed until water runs clear, do not use brown rice, see notes above
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 to 12 medjool dates, diced (see notes above)
  • 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) chopped pistachios (I use roasted unsalted)
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a large skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until it shimmers. Add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Add a pinch of salt, and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the chicken in a large bowl. Season all over with salt and pepper. Pour in the remaining tablespoon of oil and 1 to 2 tablespoons of harissa, depending on your heat tolerance. Toss to coat.
  3. Add the garlic to the onions, and cook for another minute more. Add the spices and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the harissa (depending again on your heat tolerance). Stir to coat the onions in the seasonings. Add the rice and stir for another minute or until each grain is glistening. Add the dates and zest the orange right into the pan. Halve the orange and squeeze the juice right into the pan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan. Stir to combine. Nestle the chicken over the top of the rice. Pour 1 and 1/3 cups water (see notes above re water) all around. Nestle in the bay leaf.
  4. Transfer pan to the oven (uncovered) and cook for 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Scatter pistachios over top. Serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • ctgal
  • Alex Wetter
    Alex Wetter
  • Rhianna
  • Tenely Smith
    Tenely Smith
  • msmely
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

68 Reviews

Marjorie D. May 20, 2021
This is insanely good. I do add ginger and also a quarter ton of turmeric or maybe a little more.
Margo W. February 19, 2021
I made this with fresh ginger, eggplant, and 4tbsp harissa. The rice cooked perfectly, but I think I under-salted both the chicken and the rice mixture because the flavors didn't come through as I thought they would.
NXL November 24, 2020
This is an extremely flavorful recipe. I followed the suggestion to use only 6 dates. Also added carrots to make it a one-pot meal. Used leg/thigh quarters, which were done in 45 minutes.
ctgal April 29, 2019
I made this for tonight's dinner, and it was delicious! I did use 1.5 cups of rice and 1.5 cups of water. It came out perfectly. I am with you, Alexandra. I used 10 dates and even that was too sweet for me. So some number less next time. I have a homemade harissa mix, very hot, and used a lot of it. Actually, there were so many tastes in the chicken dish that the heat was balanced perfectly. I also quickly toasted the coriander and cumin seeds and ground them. I thought that really added to the taste, so thanks for that suggestion. I cut up 3 carrots and added them at the start, and they were perfect at 40 minutes in my 400 degree oven. My husband is not always a fan of my eclectic dinner choices, but he liked this one! Many thanks!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. April 30, 2019
So happy to hear this! Love the idea of adding carrots here. Glad the husband approved, too!
Alex W. April 6, 2019
I did make it with a brown rice blend and it worked out well! I gave the rice a bit of a head start in the pan before putting the chicken in. Unfortunately, I read the packaging on the rice wrong and used a bit too much water, but the more nutty flavour of brown rice went with this dish very well. Overall a great success and I'll be adding this to my chicken roster!
Rhianna January 16, 2019
Can you offer more guidance on pan size? 8 thighs is a lot to fit. E.g. how wide? how much depth? Can I use a Dutch oven or would that prevent browning? If I didn't have a big enough pan could it be transferred to a 9x13 glass dish prior to baking?
Tenely S. December 10, 2018
I loved the orange flavor in the rice. I am moving this to my "keepers" file. I didn't have dates but added a bit of tumeric-honey. I think currants or raisibs would be good. Next time I'll leave off the pistachios and top with cilantro
kara March 13, 2018
This dish is exceptional IMO. I really liked that everything is cooked in one pan, the rice is perfectly cooked based on the quantity of water suggested and overall it was so easy. Perfect for a dinner party since everything can be done in advance and in the oven. My chicken pieces must have been a bit smaller than normal because they were already at 175 degrees at only 30 min, so I would suggest checking around 20 or so for doneness but with thighs they are forgiving so it was all good. Definitely making this many times in the future and sharing with all of my friends!
msmely January 6, 2018
Added 1/2 a preserved lemon and lemon juice instead of orange zest and orange juice. Liquid ratios were on point. I added 3 carrots and 1 zucchini nestled on top of the rice with some herbs and then the chicken on top of that. The added vegetables required another 20 minutes of cooking at 400F so a total of 60 minutes at the very least for fully cooked chicken and tender-crisp vegetables. The chicken skin may still be a bit blonde at this point, I used a deeper/narrower pan so this was my experience. The broiler on high for 5 minutes smartened it up. I omitted (I forgot) the dates but the recipe was delicious nonetheless. Just be aware that if your pan shape is not shallow and wide and/or if you add chunks of vegetables to make it a one pot meal that your cooking time may extend significantly. An instant read thermometer is a good friend.
msmely January 6, 2018
I should also mention instead of the cumin and ginger I used an equivalent amount of ras el hanout plus 2tsp of whole cumin seeds fried first with the onions before spice powder was added.
Tricia December 6, 2017
Just put this in the oven and on board a few tips : honey and home made harrissa....Cant wait to try it....smells good. Thanks for this recipe idea
Fancy A. December 5, 2017
This recipe is fantastic, and SO easy!! I didn't have any Harissa so subbed a rub of spicy paprika. Also used fresh ginger instead of dried. Came out absolutely delicious. Will definitely be making it again this winter.
deborah L. October 22, 2017
Question: do you typically use dried dates or fresh ones and does that change the recipe? Thanks!
Kathy F. October 9, 2017
Just tried this, love it! I used my Lodge 15 1/4" skillet. Used 1 delicata squash, peeled and cubed. Added a touch of cloves. Used 2 cups of rice and 4.5 cups of liquid (wate + juice from orange) and it was perfect! Maybe the large surface area of my skillet promoted lots of evaporation. Can't wait to serve this to guests. Maybe add a little parsley next time.
Author Comment
Alexandra S. October 9, 2017
Wonderful to hear all of this. Delicata squash is my absolute favorite. Have yet to try it here. Will now!
samantha S. October 5, 2017
Can I make this a day before and re heat?
Author Comment
Alexandra S. October 5, 2017
Yes! I suggest reheating it covered stovetop over low heat until heated through or in the oven at 350 also covered until heated through. Once it is heated through, you could uncover it briefly in the oven to let the skin crisp up again or you could run it under the broiler briefly.
Kathleen H. August 26, 2017
Would this recipe work well with breasts? I'm not crazy about thighs and legs. If so, should I use boneless or bone in?
Author Comment
Alexandra S. September 2, 2017
Hi Kathleen, you can definitely use breasts. I would use bone-in, skin-on. Maybe remove them or at least check them for doneness around 30 minutes? If they are done, take them out, and return the pan to the oven to let the rice continue cooking. Should work just fine.
Tracy July 1, 2017
What would you suggest to make this into a sheet pan meal? I would leave out the rice regardless and serve it with couscous.
Diane May 3, 2017
Made this for the first time and loved it. Some of my family thought it was a little too spicy for them (not for me) so next time I might reduce the Harissa (I used a total of 4 tablespoons). Really nice recipe. I will definitely make it again.
clumsychef April 27, 2017
Made this for dinner tonight (a weeknight!) and it was delicious and pretty easy! The only thing I'd change next time is to double the amount of rice (and liquid) but keep the spice quantities the same. With eight pieces of chicken there wasn't quite enough starch to go around. But YUM! Thank you for posting this!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. April 29, 2017
Yay!! So happy to hear this!
lindsay April 13, 2017
Can you use a cast iron skillet for this recipe? I have a 9" one I'm hoping might work to make this!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. April 13, 2017
I don't see why not. My only concern is that it will be a little cramped for everything. I might consider using 4 bone-in, skin-on thighs or drumsticks or a combination instead of 8. You might be able to get away with keeping the same amount of rice and other ingredients.
Mit April 9, 2017
This was great. I made a 1/2 batch (single person) - and the only thing I think I would change is to make the full amount of rice. Also - once the dish was done - I drizzled a small amount of honey on the chicken and then broiled. It increased the golden/crisp aspect of the skin.

I found a recipe on the site for the Harissa, so made it instead of buying. So glad to be introduced to this condiment. I think Harissa/Avocado toast is in my future!
ps: used my Le Creuset dutch oven in place of a skillet. That also worked well!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. April 9, 2017
Awesome, so great to hear all of this! Which harissa recipe? I'd love to make it AND then make grilled cheese :)
Mit April 29, 2017
Alexandra - this is the one I used. Ooooooohhh ... Harissa & avocado grilled cheese!!! Now there's a recipe idea!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. April 29, 2017
Awesome, thanks so much Mit!! Dying to try this now, both the harissa and the grilled cheese!