Warmly spiced, this ultra comforting Moroccan chicken is a rich and earthy dish. Prepared with tomatoes, onions, garlic, chickpeas, notes of citrus, plus smokey spices, this abundantly saucy chicken recipe comes complete with a quick and easy lemon and toasted almond couscous for extra coziness!
Split Chicken Breasts with a Saucy, Moroccan Twist
Living in an incredibly food-centric and diverse city such as Los Angeles, I get the wonderful opportunity to sample many delicious international cuisines at our local restaurants.
As a recipe developer, I use these dining experiences as inspiration when creating my my own comforting recipes to enjoy and share, using a little of this and a pinch of that, in the same way that I would spices.
This Moroccan chicken recipe is a divinely comforting offering when I'm looking to turn simple split chicken breasts into a meal that's brimming with lots of spices to warm our bellies.
The notes of cumin, cinnamon, coriander, smoked paprika, plus orange and lemon zest create a rich, earthy, and slightly citrusy depth to this chicken dish.
And the diced tomatoes, onions, garlic and chickpeas add a layer of texture and hearty comfort that makes each spoonful utterly delectable.
Served over a lemon and toasted almond couscous, this Moroccan chicken is my personal way of making use of some of the classic flavors and ingredients found in Moroccan cooking, and to pay homage to a fantastically flavorful and rich cuisine, made very simply in my home kitchen.
My Recipe for Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Toasted Almond Couscous
For my Moroccan chicken dish, I like to use two pairs of split chicken breasts with their bones in and skin on. This is the equivalent of four individual chicken breasts that have been separated.
I then like to gently braise the split breasts in the rich sauce that I create, to allow them to become extra tender and juicy, with a succulent texture once simmered.
After a quick sear in the pan, the sauce is prepared and then the chicken is added back in to slowly braise for about 40 minutes, just until cooked through and tender.
When finished, one can either leave the split chicken breasts whole and serve them that way, or cut the meat from the bone to create slices, or even shred the meat, if desired.
Spooning all of this deliciousness over top of the lemon and toasted almond couscous, which takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, completes this dish and tastes a little like heaven!
Here's a glance at my Moroccan chicken recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I season my split chicken breasts and sear them off for a few minutes until golden brown in my Dutch oven. I remove the chicken breast to make the sauce.
- To create the sauce, I caramelize some onions, and add some garlic and spices, followed by diced tomatoes, chickpeas, orange zest and chicken stock.
- Then, I add the seared chicken breasts back into the pan, cover with the lid askew, and simmer for roughly 40 minutes.
- While the chicken braises, I prepare my simple lemon and toasted almond couscous, and keep it warm.
- Finally, I finish the Moroccan chicken with some fresh herbs and lemon zest, and spoon some of the chicken (you can leave it in whole breast form, or slice the meat from the bones) and lots of the sauce over the lemon and toasted almond couscous, and enjoy.
by Ingrid Beer
This Moroccan chicken is prepared in rich sauce of warming spices, tomatoes, chickpeas and citrus, and served over fragrant couscous!
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 851 calories (per serving with about a generous ½ cup of couscous)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Moroccan Chicken Ingredients:
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Black pepper
- 4 bone-in, skin on, split chicken breasts (smaller ones are better for this)
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, quartered and sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 (15 oz) can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 2 cups chicken stock, hot
- 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
Lemon and Toasted Almond Couscous Ingredients:
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups couscous
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup toasted, sliced almonds
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of your chicken ingredients according to the ingredient list above to have ready and organized for use.
- In a small ramekin, combine the cumin, coriander, cinnamon and smoked paprika with a fork, and set aside.
- Place the 4 split chicken breasts into a large bowl or onto a large platter, and drizzle them with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Next, sprinkle about half of the spice mixture from the the ramekin over the chicken breasts, along with a couple of generous pinches of salt and black pepper, and rub the spices into the chicken. Set the remaining half of the spice mixture aside for a moment.
- Place a large, heavy-bottom and deep pan or Dutch oven over medium-high/high heat, and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Once the oil becomes very hot, add the chicken breasts, skin-side down, and allow the skin to sear and become golden-brown, about 5-6 minutes. Then, flip the chicken over, and allow it to sear on the bone-side for another 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the pot, and set them aside for a moment. Then, reduce the heat to low/medium-low, add in the sliced onion, and allow it to lightly caramelize for 2-3 minutes (add a touch more olive oil if needed), scraping up any brown bits from the bottom.
- Add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the remaining half of the spice mixture from the ramekin, and stir to incorporate.
- Next, stir in the tomato paste, and allow it to cook for just a moment or two, then add in the chopped tomatoes, the chickpeas, the orange zest and the hot chicken stock, and stir to combine.
- Nestle the chicken breasts back into the pot, bone-side down and skin-side up, and cover the pot with the lid slightly askew to vent. Simmer the chicken gently on low for about 40 minutes.
- While the chicken simmers, gather and prep all of your couscous ingredients according to the ingredient list above to have ready and organized for use.
- To prepare your couscous, add the water, olive oil and salt into a small pot, and place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and stir in the couscous. Cover tightly with a lid for 5 minutes until all the water is absorbed, and after 5 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork.
- Add in the lemon zest and the almonds, and fluff with fork to incorporate the ingredients, then keep the couscous warm.
- To finish the Moroccan chicken, stir in the chopped parsley, chopped cilantro and lemon zest, and add a pinch or two more of salt/pepper, if necessary. At this point, you can leave the chicken breasts on the bone, whole, or remove the bones/ribs and cut the breasts into slices and place back into the sauce.
- To serve, spoon some of the lemon and toasted almond couscous into a bowl or on a plate, place chicken on top, and spoon a generous amount of the sauce with the chickpeas, tomatoes and onions over top. Garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro, or some toasted almond slices, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my Moroccan Chicken recipe:
- Split chicken breasts for succulent flavor: I like to use split chicken breasts with the skin on and bones in for this recipe, as they yield a juicy and tender result when gently braised in the spiced, rich sauce. You can substitute skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs, if you prefer, and this will make the dish even richer, with the darker meat. You can also use a combo of thighs and breast, or thighs and legs, if desired.
- Serve with fragrant couscous for an easy side: Couscous is the classic side dish served with meat dishes in Moroccan cuisine, and I love this fragrant version prepared with a hint of lemon and some toasted almonds for crunch. It takes only about 5 minutes to cook, and then five to set before you can fluff with a fork an enjoy. Other tasty options would be roasted potatoes, rice, or mashed potatoes.
- Prepare ahead for deeper flavor: A saucy dish such as this always benefits from a day or two of allowing the flavors to mingle together, which creates even more intense flavor and depth. So if you'd like to allow the flavors to mingle a bit more, you can prepare this recipe a day or two ahead of when you'd like to enjoy it with fantastic results. Then, simply reheat and serve.
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2013, and has been updated with even more love!