Moroccan-Spiced Chicken and Rice with Dates and Pistachios

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

Serves: 6 to 8
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 1 hrs


  • 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.

More Great Recipes:
Moroccan|Chicken|Date|Grains|Pistachio|Rice|One-Pot Wonders|Fall|Winter|Gluten-Free|Entree

Reviews (62) Questions (1)

62 Reviews

Rhianna M. 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!<br />
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. <br /><br />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! <br />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!<br />
Author Comment
Alexandra S. April 29, 2017
Awesome, thanks so much Mit!! Dying to try this now, both the harissa and the grilled cheese!
Hina April 4, 2017
I made this recently with a combination of dried apricots and dates but otherwise followed the recipe, and we loved it. Thanks for a terrific and easy recipe!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. April 4, 2017
SingingCook March 28, 2017
Brown rice takes 50 minutes to cook in the oven covered with a double layer of foil to seal in the moisture (Cook's Illustrated receipe). Trying to figure out whether to start rice, spices, onions etc. in the oven covered and then add the chicken later. FYI you also can cook quinoa in the oven this way.
Author Comment
Alexandra S. March 29, 2017
I think you're plan sounds good! Report back bc a few people have tried unsuccessfully with brown rice, and I would imagine they would like to make it work.
Whats4Dinner March 21, 2017
So wandering about Williams & Sonoma looking for a larger skillet, I realized I did indeed have a large enough skillet. I made this tonight, only change was to use the juice of the whole orange (because I don't like to waste). Hands down house favorite, and I've been making many of the latest new chicken recipes from here and NYT.
Author Comment
Alexandra S. March 21, 2017
So happy to hear this! So did you use the pan you mentioned in the comment below? I think my pan is the same. Love the idea of using the whole orange — I hate waste, too.
Whats4Dinner April 13, 2017
I did use the pan mentioned below (all-clad 13") and it worked famously!! This is now my fav dish and I need to control myself from making it too much. I figure once every 10 days is a healthy rotation :-)
Author Comment
Alexandra S. April 13, 2017
Totally healthy!! :) :) :)
Susan A. March 20, 2017
I am all prepared to make this for dinner tonight. I thought the recipe sounded wonderful when you originally posted it. I have read and re-read the recipe and comments several times and wonder if you altered something since you first posted it. I had added eggplant to my shopping list. The only reference for eggplant that I can find is commenter Jourdan's question about quantity. I recall that adding eggplant was one of the ways you tweaked this recipe. Is my reading comprehension going down hill or did something change since you first posted this? <br />Do you saute the eggplant with the onion? Thanks!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. March 21, 2017
Hi Susan! I know, it can be confusing—here is the link to the post you were looking for: Your reading comprehension is just fine :) The original recipe just calls for throwing everything in the pan at once, but I think browning it with the onion sounds really nice. I have never made it with eggplant, but I think in the fall, when eggplant are still around and the nights start getting chillier, it will be such a nice addition. Hope that helps!
Susan A. March 22, 2017
I realized that the first time I saw the recipe I also looked at Diana Henry's original recipe which does call for eggplant. I did saute a cubed eggplant to the onion and it turned out wonderful!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. March 22, 2017
Oh, fantastic!
Whats4Dinner March 20, 2017
A large skillet doesn't seem big enough. Would it be okay to use my giant Creuset dutch oven? Or are the sides too high?
Author Comment
Alexandra S. March 20, 2017
How big is your largest skillet? The one i'm using is 13 inches. What worries me about the Dutch oven is that you may not get as good browning on the chicken, because the air won't circulate as well. But if this doesn't bother you, then go for it.
Whats4Dinner March 20, 2017
Exactly!! That's why I was worried about the sides of the dutch oven. My all-clad is 13" across the top and 9" along the bottom, 4 quarts. Is that like yours? Thanks :-)