This riff on the iconic Chicken Marbella with dried figs and olives is bursting with sweet, savory, tangy, salty, briny and garlicky flavor! It’s a deceptively easy dish to make – toss the fig chicken with marinade, let sit in the fridge overnight and simply bake before serving!
What is Chicken Marbella
Chicken Marbella is an iconic American-Jewish dish, consisting of prunes, olives, capers, garlic, vinegar and wine.
Marbella is a resort town off the Mediterranean coast and the flavors draws inspiration from the cuisines of Southern Spain and the tagines of Morocco. But the dish was actually developed in Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the late 1970s by the food store, the Silver Palate.
As soon as the Chicken Marbella recipe was published in the Silver Palate Cookbook it became wildly popular, especially at Jewish Holidays, such a Shabbat dinner and Passovers seders across the US. It’s served every year at my family High Holidays that are just around the corner in mid Sept. Traditionally it’s made with prunes and this version swaps them for dried figs.
Dried figs really shine in chicken dishes. They melt in the oven and thicken the marinade adding a sweet earthy flavor in this memorable fig chicken—it will become one of your go-to dried fig recipes.
Chicken Marbella with Figs and Olives: Ingredients
Chicken Thighs: for juiciest most flavorful results, use bone-in, skin-on chicken! The original recipe calls for 4 whole chickens and technically any cut can work. Simply adjust cooking times accordingly.
Dried Figs: Any Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Dried Fig variety can work.
Olives: bright green olives with a meaty, buttery flesh, and a mild flavor, such as Castelvetrano olive Cerignola, pair best but any type at all can be used. They add just a touch of bitterness and pack the dish with aromatic flavor! They can also be omitted. Tip: buy un-pitted olives and pit them yourself if you can spare the time. Un-pitted olives will consistently have much better flavor and be higher quality than their pitted counterparts.
Capers: briny capers and some of their liquid add a wonderful saltiness to the dish. They’re intense pungent, salty, and tangy flavor bombs. They can also be omitted.
Wine: The dish is traditionally made with white wine but red can work as well.
Garlic: the original recipe calls for an entire head of garlic, peeled. Which means a lot of time spent peeling garlic. This version quickens the prep by simply cutting an entire head in half and roasting it with the chicken. A couple minced cloves are added as well for an extra garlicky flavor. It’s possible to just stick with the whole head or the minced cloves.
Sherry & Red Wine Vinegar: the classic Chicken Marbella is traditionally made with only red wine vinegar. We’re scaling back the amount of brown sugar and introducing additional sweetness with the sherry vinegar. The vinegar tames as it cooks and beautifully balances the other flavors. You can experiment with different vinegars alone or in combination.
Brown Sugar: sprinkling brown sugar on the chicken helps achieve that beautiful golden brown chicken skin during baking and sweetens the marinade.
How to Make this Fig Chicken Marbella
The day before you want to cook this chicken, toss the chicken with the marinade and let is sit overnight in the fridge to soak up all the flavor. Then simply place the chicken in a baking dish, season generously, sprinkle with brown sugar, pour in the wine and bake.
The result is tender, juicy chicken nestled between sweet dried figs, meaty green olives, briny capers in an aromatic sweet and tangy pan sauce. The flavors are bright and bold.
The quantities can easily be scaled up or back. It’s a perfect recipe for entertaining a massive crowd that can be prepared ahead of time. Or scaled back and just as perfect for an easy family weeknight dinner. Enjoy!
Chicken Marbella with Olives and Figs
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups Orchard Choice® or Sun-Maid® California Dried Figs
- 3/4 cup green olives , pitted such as Castelvetrano or Cerignola varieities
- 1/4 cup capers , with a bit of juice
- 2 dried Bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 3 pounds chicken thighs
- 1 head garlic , split in half (with several minced cloves, optional)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup wine (red or white)
- Fresh herbs for garnish, such as parsley or cilantro (optional)
- Whisk together the olive oil and vinegars in a medium bowl and add the figs, olives, capers, bay leaves, minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.
- Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag and pour in marinade. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible and squish the marinade around so all the thighs are evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer, skin side up, on a roasting pan. Add the head of garlic, cut in half. Carefully pour in the marinade. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with brown sugar, 1/2 more teaspoon of salt and pour the wine around the chicken.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, basting the chicken every 15 minutes with the pan juices, until the internal temperature of the chicken thighs are 165 F and the skin is nicely browned.
- Discard the bay leaves.
- Simmer the pan juices on the stove and reduce by half (optional) or serve straight from out of the oven. Top with fresh herbs (optional).