Chicken Marbella

Although the original recipe calls for 2 small chickens to be quartered, you could easily do this recipe with 5 pounds of chicken pieces, thighs and breasts.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 5-8


  • 2 chickens, 2 1/2 lbs each, quartered, bone-in, skin-on
  • Cloves from 1/2 head of garlic, peeled and finely puréed
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes
  • 8 large pitted Spanish green olives, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped


1 Marinate the chicken: In a large bowl combine garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers with caper juice, and bay leaves. Add the chicken pieces and coat completely with the marinade. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, several hours or overnight.

2 Place chicken in baking pan, top with marinade, brown sugar, wine: Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle brown sugar over the chicken pieces and pour white wine around them.

3 Bake until done: Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with the pan juices. Chicken is done when a sharp knife inserted into the thigh pieces, at their thickest point, run with clear yellow juices (not pink).

4 Serve with pan juices: With a slotted spoon, move the chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Pour some of the pan juices over the chicken and sprinkle generously with parsley. Serve remaining juices in a gravy boat.

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  • LynneM

    Thanks for reminding me of this recipe. I’ve made it several times, years ago, and it was really very good. I have several favorites from The Silver Palate Cookbook.

  • Robert

    Man that looks good. I love that combination of flavors: salty, tart, with the peculiarly pine-like aroma of capers.

    • Laura ~ Raise Your Garden

      Do capers really have a pine-like taste or scent? I have never cooked with them, only enjoyed them in restaurant meals. Now I’m eager to try my hand at this recipe for several reasons 1) I think the Capers & Prunes is really intriguing in this recipe 2) This chicken Marbella surely will impress and I appreciate ANY recipe that doesn’t require tons of hands-on time and 3) The name Marbella is so pretty it almost sounds like something I’d name a kid!

  • Elise

    Hi Lynne, yep I had it a few years ago at a friend’s house and begged the recipe from her. It really is quite surprisingly good.

    Hey Robert – nice to see you here!

  • Abby

    I just tried this recipe. I had had it at a dinner party where I was suitably impressed by the complexity of flavors.
    I really loved making the chicken this way. Thanks!

  • april andrews

    One of my all time favorite dishes. It is delicious. Don’t hesitate. You can always call them “dried plums”

  • Jamie

    I made this for my ladies Bible study dinner last night and it was a hit! Being in a hurry during prep, I accidentally added the brown sugar and wine to the marinade, rather than adding just before baking – but the dish turned out fine. I also baked and served in the same dish, and the presentation was still beautiful. This is a delicious meal – definitely one I will make again and probably one that I will prep & freeze, so I can just thaw and throw in the oven. Thanks!

  • Rebekah

    I always add dried apricots to this recipe too. Just throw half a cup of them in with everything else and they really add to the dish.

  • Marian McEnerney

    I have made this many times, but since I do not like prunes, I have used dates – delicious none the less! Also good with boneless cutlets,

  • Jorunnita in Costa Rica

    I made this recipe yesterday for my Mahjongg friends and everybody liked it. I forgot to add the sugar, but it was still delicious, I will definitely make it again

  • Anonymous

    My aunt made this for us last summer…so delicious…simple and elegant…a winner!

  • Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    I make this with chunks of boneless, skinless chicken breast — marinate overnight with all of the ingredients except the wine (but including the brown sugar), and add the wine and bake the next day. With the boneless chicken, it becomes a perfect buffet dish, and if the chicken chunks are at least one inch square, they don’t dry out.

  • Cathy

    I love it too and think I may try it with boneless chicken breasts. Will I need to cut back on the cooking time?

  • Coreen

    This is one of my all-time favorites. The flavors blend so nicely, and it is an attractive dish to serve to company. Also a plus…it is marinated the night before, so there is minimal mess on the day of the party.
    I tried it with boneless skinless chicken breasts and did NOT like how it turned out. Stick with bone-in breasts and legs.

  • Grace

    This is a classic recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook, with the quantities halved for a smaller, more manageable dish. This recipe is foolproof and delicious! The first time I made it following the ingredients to a T, it turned out fantastic. The second time I decided I preferred dried figs to the prunes, and omitted the sugar, and liked it even better! I use boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders and it’s easy. Comes out plenty moist as long as you make sure the chicken pieces are well coated with the pan juices. A cinch and a pleasure to make.

  • Mary B.

    I made this today for 2 friends who are sick and their families. My “picky-eater” 8 year-old nephew ate every bite. It is a great dish to take to someone and it is even better the next day.

  • Anne

    Has anyone ever used black olives instead of green in this recipe? Seems like visually it would be better and I like black olives taste better.
    Also, can I just mince the garlic and not puree it?
    Please advise since I have never made this before. thanks!

  • Melanie Cogdill

    I love, love, love this recipe! So easy to make for a crowd. Great dish for entertaining. Rarely make it though due to my 12 year old’s food allergy to garlic.

    PS To: Mary B. do not use black olives and you can mince garlic for it. I do.

  • Dana D

    I haven’t made this in several years but it was a hit when I did. I have done it with chicken breast and also chicken wings for a new year’s eve party! FABULOUS

    Was going nuts trying to decide what to cook for mother’s day and this popped in my head. I’m sure it will impress all :)

  • Hayli Weitz

    Hi everybody,

    I am planning on making this dish at a party coming up. I was just wondering if there were any good dishes that would go well with this dish.


  • Josh

    @ Hayli

    I haven’t tried this combination yet, but I plan on serving this dish for a family dinner this evening. Because of the flavors of this meal I feel that it will be complimented quite well by other Mediterranean flavors. Side dishes will be a quinoa tabbouleh and a salad.

    The recipe for the quinoa tabbouleh has a recommendation for making this the night before. I did that to make my preperation for the family dinner easier, as well as allowing the flavors to develop further overnight. You can find the link here:

    The other side dish that I’m making is a salad, which will contain:

    1. Fresh spinach leaves
    2. Fresh sliced nectarines
    3. Crumbled feta cheese
    4. Dried cranberries
    5. Pine nuts
    6. Raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing

  • Joanne M

    I saw a prep & freeze comment and was wondering if anyone has ever actually done this. I’m planning on feeding a crowd on a camping trip and this would be a great option.



  • Ancaruci

    I did not have time to marinate the chicken, so I just did it in the stove using chicken legs (that have much more flavor than breast). I sealed the chicken with the dry ingredients, and then I added the wet ingredients and capers, olives and prunes. and let it cook in medium heat for 30 min. The result was fantastic!

  • Judy Phelps

    Sheila Lukins, the author of this recipe originally published in a great cookbook called the Silver Palate, died the other day.

    I have never made this recipe but will try this weekend in her honor. Sounds like it is a winner.

    The recipe calls for ‘quartered’ chicken pieces but the picture shows smaller pieces. What is the reason for the recipe calling for such big pieces? Any ideas?

    Perhaps the chickens were smaller? Sometimes thighs and legs are served together, uncut. We tend to get big chickens, so usually part out the chickens into more parts. ~Elise

  • Susan

    I baked this recipe today after marinating overnight (about 12 hrs) and it is absolutely scrumptious. I was skeptical when I read the recipe because of how I thought the olives and capers might overpower and make it too briney in flavor. But, it is so well balanced by the herbs, prunes, sugar and wine and becomes something entirely savory and rich in flavor instead. I can’t say enough good things about this recipe.

    I cut the whole chicken into individual pieces, skinned the breast and thighs. I decided to bake it this morning at about 10am to avoid cooking in the predicted high heat of the day. I’m anxious to taste it tomorrow since the recipe says it even improves with a couple of days in the fridge. I can’t imagine it getting better! Thanks for presenting this, Elise. (late to the party though I am)

  • Zora

    Does anyone know the origins of Chicken Marbella other than being a recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook? It seems it has some Spanish origins, however I live in Marbella and have never come across this recipe, although there are similar ones. Just curious as to why it was referred to as Marbella.

  • amy

    I made this dish for Christmas dinner last night and it was DELICIOUS! I did not have red wine vinegar and so used sherry with a splash of acv. I also used both prunes and dates, and I mixed bone-in thighs with boneless breasts. Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Desiree

    Thanks Elise for this wonderful recipie. I made it for my boyfriend and he’s now always asking for it! I have my parents visiting this weekend all the way from Egypt and Germany (I’m in New Zealand) and my boyfriend asked I make this for their welcome to NZ dinner the day they arrive.

  • judynadon

    We women were using the Silver Palate Cookbook back in the ’70s up in the Yukon, and we really wowed them when we seved Chicken Marbella. I dug out my book again today and am checking the needed ingredients so I can serve it to a special group next Wednesday. I was very sorry to read that Sheila Lukins had passed away….
    One thing with which I’ve always struggled: what to serve with it. I think rice was never good, and pasta worked well, but how about spaetzle, my favourite new noodle? Cheers!

  • ann

    Judy, I think this goes well with Israeli couscous. Sometimes I put the leftover parsley and sun-dried tomatoes in it.

  • Mike

    I too love this recipe…but does anyone have any tips for what wine would work well with it? I have found it difficult in the past to match a wine to the sweet and sour flavours…

  • Terry


    Has anyone ever used quinoa as a side dish to this recipe?

  • Liz

    I prefer to use quinoa – I ladle the chicken right on top of it – yummy!

  • Joy

    I make this dish, a VERY close approximation, and enjoy serving it to guests. They are always hesitant, at first, and take a small portion to start with. And they always end up asking for seconds! There is such depth of flavor yet it’s really so easy. (I JUST today discovered this site, if you can believe that. I am thoroughly enjoying it.)

  • Meryl O'Bryan

    My mom used to make this for dinner parties when I was little. Having discovered the wonders of the slow cooker, I have found that I can just put all of the ingredients in the slow cooker, and the results are the same as marinating it overnight (I haven’t found the need to brown the chicken, but one could). Therefore, I don’t have to wait a day if I am craving this childhood favorite.

  • Dawn

    One of the best chicken dishes that I have tried on this site. Thanks for introducing me and my family to something new!

  • bigmike.ak

    I am going to try this in the slow cooker. I assume 6-8 hours on low should be acceptable?

    Also for those who have tried either way, have they noticed a difference in taste via cooking methods?

  • Jennifer

    We call this Wedding Chicken at our house. My Aunt first served it at her wedding about 20 years ago, then it is served at Christmas dinner every few years, finally it was served with wild rice at my wedding 2 years ago. I had more requests for the recipe than I thought possible! It is very good cold or hot and it is very easy to make in large batches. We served about 300 people at my wedding!

  • jen

    Has anyone tried to make this dish without the garlic? I have a garlic allergy but would like to try it if I could find a substitute for the cloves of garlic.

  • Sarah

    Jen, can you have shallots? They would probably be very good in this dish.

  • Susan Jordan

    I am about to make this but just for two people. Somehow halving the ingredients (other than the chicken) seems like there will not be enough sauce. And I think I read somewhere to just use one chicken but keep the rest of the recipe the same.

    If anyone knows the answer, please let me know.

  • jacob


    We’re cooking this recipe for a group dinner, but we also have a vegetarian joining us. We were thinking about making a small side of this with eggplant or portobello mushrooms. Has anyone ever tried this? Any success?

  • KateC

    I am sitting at my desk eating leftover chicken marbella that my mom made for my 29th birthday the other day, and it is exquisite. It’s always been a favorite of mine. Time to start making it myself! Mom cuts a few corners, using boneless, skinlees chicken thighs (the dark meat is perfect for this!) and just cutting up her garlic instead of pureeing or mashing it. I think I’ll double the amount of prunes in it, as they are my favorite and I always wish I had more.

  • Marilee

    It seems silly to say it again, but this recipe is fabulous, especially to serve to company. It looks elegant and complicated, but it’s easy and the flavors are complex without being snooty. LOVE this recipe.

  • Lida

    I made it with dates instead of prunes, and it was WONderful!!

  • Robin

    Stumbled across this website tonight by doing a chicken and prunes’ search as I had both to use up. Never heard of it but it’s marinating now and can’t wait to try it tomorrow.

  • NCDesigner

    Had this cookbook for years and years, never made this recipe before. I marinated chicken the night before and cooked it during Hurricane Irene for dinner. First bite I thought the dish was just okay. The more I ate it, the more I loved it. I served it over orzo. I’d make even more sauce the next time and cut the brown sugar down a bit. Cooked it for an hour and turned the heat up to 375º for the last 15 minutes to brown up the chicken. My hubby had 3 servings. Excellent.

  • Kathy

    Can I use chicken tenderloins / strips for this recipe? I want to serve something that can be fork-cut; am having a large group and don’t want the trouble of bones, knives, etc. It is one of my faves, but not sure if the strips will dry out.
    Tha k you!

    Hi Kathy, I think the strips might cook too quickly, not giving the rest of the ingredients enough time. I would use boneless thighs and breasts, and then just cut up the pieces into bite-sized portions before serving. Or you could try the tenders and see it if works for you. If so, please let us know how it turns out. ~Elise

  • JoAnn

    WOW…I used bone-in, skin on thighs and large chicken cutlets , arranging the thighs on the outside of a baking dish and the chicken breast on the inside to keep them from drying out. I did use the dried apricots instead of the prunes because I had them on hand but followed the recipe as written. We really enjoyed this dish and will make again for guests. I did have some breast/juice leftover, sliced it thin, warmed it up in the oven and made over the top *chicken quesadillas*….to die for!!!! The breast meat had absorbed more favor from the juices and they were DELISH!!!!
    An elegant dish

  • J

    How long could this dish be kept in the fridge? also can anyone tell me about freezing it?

    Oh, a few days. Probably up to 5 days, depending on how cold you keep your fridge. As for freezing it, I haven’t done so but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work fine. ~Elise

  • Paul Lazaras

    This is a response to the Susan Jordan post on March 27, 2011. Easy answer. If you half the chicken, ALWAYS keep the rest the same to duplicate the best results. Better yet, why not make the whole thing – leftovers are always better the next day or two, or, freeze and reheat. I’m a single “foodie” (widower) who loves to be in the kitchen. Even cooking singleton, I always do a full recipe. It beats doing it all over again from scratch just for two and you always then have a nice variety of frozen full meal entrees to choose from. It sound as if you may also be a new chef in the kitchen – do get The Silver Palate 25th Anniversary Issue – it’s updated and has a bunch of great new recipes in it. Four great beginners cookbooks you need to get are “The New Making of a Cook” by Madeleine Kamman, “The Gourmet Cookbook” by Ruth Reichl, “James Beard’s American Cookery”, and, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan – it’s the Bible for Italian cooking and reads like a novel. Hope this helps.

  • Julie

    Leftovers make the best chicken salad EVER!

  • Mike Cherry

    Regarding black vs green olives, I used kalamatas because that was what I had on hand. It tasted great but the green olives would have looked better. The green olives provide more visual contrast to the dark prunes, the Ks (or blacks) make it visually a bit drab.

  • Linda Keller

    Chicken Marbella! Haven’t had it in years, but did today with a side of quinoa and sauteed brussels sprouts/corn/garlic. Absolutely delicious! My friend Carol always served it with faro or bulgur – also pretty delicious. What a wonderful trip down memory lane! Thanks!

  • Robin S

    Love this recipe. I’ve made it with just red wine, kalamata instead of green olives, chicken breasts instead of whole chickens, white sugar instead of brown and it still tasted great. Someday I’ll make the original recipe.

    The one thing I’ve always been nervous about is the GARLIC! I tend to stick to one or two cloves. Isn’t this really garlicky as is?

    Hi Robin, the garlic gets cooked for a good long time, mellowing out its intensity. I don’t recall this dish being especially garlicky in taste as a result. ~Elise

  • Laura

    The pictures of the recipe look great….but how do the chicken pieces get that nice browned effect without actually browning the chicken in a pan with butter?

    Because they’re baked in an oven, at a temperature high enough to brown the tops. ~Elise

  • Abby

    This is such an elegant but very simple recipe!

    My thoughts:
    – I only use 2 cloves of garlic
    – Have only ever made it with Kalamata olives as I prefer them. Definitely provide less colour but flavour is more important to me.
    – I have been in a rush and only let it marinade for an hour and it still turns out great!
    – I use about 1/2 the brown sugar
    – If it isn’t brown enough at then end of the cooking time, broil it for a few minutes (but watch very carefully)!
    – I usually serve with roasted potatoes and a light salad.

  • Lindsay

    Love this dish with rice and roasted root vegies. Yummy!

  • KariVery

    I made this for the second time this weekend, but this time, I didn’t look at the ‘method’ part of the recipe, and I put the wine and sugar in the marinade. I did not sprinkle the sugar and pour the white wine over the chicken before roasting as directed. A small thing, but I didn’t think this batch was as good – so don’t miss that step! It made a big difference to me. My company thought it was great, however :-)

  • Nancy Lee

    I make this recipe all of the time with huge success. I spent a summer in Marbella, Spain and think the recipe is named for this town as olives are grown nearby and used frequently in cooking. I never use garlic as I don’t eat it, but no one has ever complained! Also, I use skinless breasts and as long as you baste, all is fine. I always make the full marinade/sauce recipe no matter how little chicken and pass the sauce as everyone loves it. Sometimes I add extra olives and capers as I love that saltiness. Don’t use black olives…you will lose the saltiness and lose the Mediterranean flavor.

  • Deb T

    What liquid can be substituted for the wine? I would like to serve this dish and one of the guests is in recovery and cannot have the wine [it doesn’t all cook off]. Thank you.

    Try using chicken stock with a splash of lemon juice. ~Elise

  • Janice Johnson

    I made this recipe for my family and they loved it – once they got past the fact that prunes were in it. It is really wonderful! I want to make it for a large party and am trying to make as much as possible ahead of time. Would it be best to make it a day or so ahead and reheat it or should I make it a week ahead and freeze and reheat?

    Good question, no idea. I’ve not made this ahead. ~Elise

  • James

    Why is it red wine vinegar but white wine in the dish?

  • MSH

    Elise, This is one of my family’s favorites (and a favorite to serve company, too). I was just wondering what you think of using lamb chops instead of chicken? I know, a totally different flavor, but I was thinking it would work as braise–more slow cooking, less marinating before hand–what do you think? (I might try it tonight. If I do, I’ll post how it turns out.)

  • Susanne Perez

    holy moly ! made this last night and it turned out looking exactly like your website pics ! the flavors are quite subtle. going to buy some crusty bread to soak up the delicious pan juices for tonight’s dinner. thank you !!!!!

  • Gloria M.

    When I saw you share this recipe on Facebook, I actually gasped. A friend and I ate this at a church group dinner more than 10 years ago while in school in SoCal, and have never forgotten it. I was horrified when the hostess informed us that the entrée combined prunes and olives (neither of which I liked until I was older and a much more experienced foodie/cook), and something called “capers” (which I had literally never heard of). I was politely dubious until the first bite–after that it was amazed reverence. I didn’t know the name of the dish or where it came from, but I have been obsessively dreaming of it and searching for this recipe for the last 10 years.

    I got goosebumps as I read through the recipe on your site and realized this was “The One.” I bought The Silver Palate on Amazon immediately, and am impatiently waiting for a free weekend when that friend from 10 years ago (who also never forgot this amazing dish) can join us with her family and we can make it together. How’s that for full circle? :)

    I can’t thank you enough!

    • Elise

      What a great story Gloria! The first time I had this dish it was a revelation too. Prunes? Really? Wow, did they make the dish.


    hi Elise! it looks delicious, good marinated! I cook chicken with red wine and black olives: but I will try this recipe, prunes and chicken are a perfect mixture! xo

  • Sheila

    Best party recipe ever! This is one of my goto dishes. And you cannot marinate it too long, I think the record here is 3 days before party. I’m drooling, not I want this for dinner!

  • Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen

    One of my very favorite party dishes that always gets rave reviews. I’ve been using boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half, and really like it for a change. Thanks for reminding us of what a fabulous dish this is.

  • Brian

    Looks like the French version of the Pollo Estofado recipe you’ve published, differences being in the savory additions. Intrigued by the thought of the capers, olives & prunes playing off each other. Great meal for a busy weeknight too, because you can prep is ahead of time. A real winner!

  • Rebecca @ Bring Back Delicious

    I’m assuming this is calling for dried prunes? It’s definitely not something I’ve cooked with before but I’m trying to expand into unfamiliar territory so this sounds like something worth trying.

  • Simone

    this looks awesome. I love capers and I think I have some bresse chicken thighs left in the freezer. Perfect :-)

  • Sammie

    Wow. Just made it tonight and it was magical. I can’t believe how awesome olives+prunes+chicken can be! Simply wonderful!

  • Greg

    Oh, Elise! You’ve done it again!

  • Lyn

    Thanks for reminding us sometimes the “Oldies are Goodies”…This certainly is a blast from the past. Can’t wait to try an old favorite…

  • Kristina

    This is one of the best chicken recipes EVER!! I was given the recipe many years ago and it never fails to impress but is relatively simple to assemble and cook. Glad you posted it as a reminder of its greatness!

  • Monika

    Whoa!! This was SO good! Thank you, thank you, thank you. We’ve indulged last night, for dinner, and it will go on my fav list immediately.

  • nola2chi

    This is a favorite of ours as well. Just have to pass along that we believe we’ve discovered the perfect side……spaghetti squash ! It just loves the juices and is quite attractive.

  • Michael Zubitis

    Excellent recipe! I saw the photo of this and instantly knew I had to make this.
    Last time I made this I threw in about a cup of dried cherries along with all the other ingredients….. it just added to the scrumptious, alternating flavours.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful website….I’ve never been disappointed with the recipes on here.

  • Bombay Chowparty

    I’ve made this recipe so many times that it’s high time I come over and thank you for it. I recently made a whole roast chicken that was inspired by the sweet-sour-piquant flavours of this dish that turned out rather different but was absolutely delicious too and thought I should stop lurking and finally come around and say hi. Do check out the recipe on my blog.
    Thanks for sharing so many wonderful fool proof recipes here. Your dedication is inspiring.

  • k

    Will a moscato be alright in this recipe?

    • Elise

      Hi k, I typically would use a drier wine than moscato for a recipe like this. But if you do try it with the moscato, please let us know how it turns out for you!

  • Elena

    I love this recipe! Thank so much Elise. Yummmmmm!!!!!!

  • Megan

    Quick question! In the case or the oregano, should I omit it completely or sub Italian seasoning?

  • Jen

    Just made this for a group dinner. I doubled the recipe and because I didn’t have oregano, I used marjoram. Because I didn’t have prunes I used dates, and the result was fantastic! Seems pretty fool-proof!

  • Phyllis shess

    Everyone loves this dish! I’ve doubled the recipe with great success and highly recommend it as a super-easy yet elegant dinner party entree. Add a lovely salad, a fresh vegetable side and crusty bread…wow!

  • Halzonski

    Aloha, I’ve made this recipe a few times and it has always turned out well… Tonight I actually read and followed the directions! It is much more subtle when you let the chicken marinade! Great recipe Mahalo