Spicy Chicken Thighs with Apricots and Olives


I’m going to have twist your arm and insist you make this…it’s so unbelievably full of flavor, it left me speechless.  That’s pretty hard to do.  This also does not have to be spicy.  For the record, mine was not.  I only used 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  The suggested amount is one teaspoon for spicy, but I knew that would leave the kids out, so I went easy. 

The trick to this dish is a 24 hour marinade.  It infuses the chicken, making it unbelievably flavorful, tender and juicy.  It’s nothing less than incredible.  Honestly, when I tasted it, I wanted to use it as salad dressing. 

This is a great weeknight dish but it is by far company worthy.  It’s sweet and spicy (if you choose it to be) and looks so beautiful.  Makes sure to serve it over rice or couscous so you can drizzle the sauce from the pan and catch all the wonderful flavors.

Put this together while you are making dinner the night before and throw it in the fridge.  The next day all you have to do is bake it, it’s so simple. 

If you have someone in the family who does not appreciate olives, it’s easy to just push them to the side.

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, cumin and smoked paprika.  Stir in the olives, apricots and cilantro.

Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs and place in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Pour the marinade over and seal the bag.  Turn to coat all of the chicken and refrigerate for 24 hours (do not skip this part), turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer in a shallow 2-quart (no larger) baking dish.  Pour the marinade with the olives and apricots over the chicken.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the chicken registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer and juices run clear with a fork.  (I used my meat thermometer that I placed in the thickest part of one of the thighs towards the middle of the dish so I did not even use a timer.)

This is how it looks right out of the oven.

Garnish each portion with a little chopped cilantro.

To.  Die.  For.

Spicy Chicken Thighs with Apricots and Olives
Adapted from
FOODday

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Crushed red pepper flakes
(determine your own amount of spice, 1/4 teaspoon for non-spicy or 1 teaspoon for spicy)
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (do not substitute, it’s available everywhere)
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs (4 large thighs)

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, cumin and smoked paprika.  Stir in the olives, apricots and cilantro.

Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs and place in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Pour the marinade over and seal the bag.  Turn to coat all of the chicken and refrigerate for 24 hours (do not skip the 24 hour part), turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer in a shallow 2-quart (no larger) baking dish.  Pour the marinade with the olives and apricots over the chicken.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the chicken registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer and juices run clear with a fork.  (I used my meat thermometer that I placed in the thickest part of one of the thighs towards the middle of the dish so I did not even use a timer.)

Garnish each portion with a little chopped cilantro.  Serve over rice or couscous.

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83 Comments and 6 Replies

  1. Various fields of people’s life utilize lots of efforts, thus why should we expend life time for critical essay composing? That would be bright to utilize some experienced custom writing service to buy the essay topic from, I think so.

    Reply
  2. deeba 2

    Oh Cathy Cathy … I can’t stop gasping at this. Saw spicy chicken in my inbox & I raced across. Gorgeousness in a dish!!

    Reply
  3. oh my…this is really to die for.

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  4. You had me at cilantro. I’m in and will make this soon. Sounds wonderful and so colorful. Can’t wait to give it a try.

    Reply
  5. Julia 5

    Olives and apricots are such a wonderful (albeit surprising) combination. This does look delicious!

    Reply
  6. Lorna 6

    Shouldn’t the marinade be discarded after the raw chicken has been sitting in it? Could the marinade be divided and half saved for pouring over the chicken just prior to baking?

    Reply
  7. nina 7

    That looks like something I can cook in my tagine……love the apricots in there!!!

    Reply
  8. grace 8

    it’s a looker, that’s for sure. i’m seeing more and more main dish recipes using apricots–they really are a delicious addition!

    Reply
  9. Debbie 9

    You do not have to twist my arm to make this!!! It looks incredible and I’m keeping this recipe to try it!

    Reply
  10. Koek 10

    That looks SO good. I’m always rying to find new ways with chicken – thanks for a fabulous idea.

    Reply
  11. Alta 11

    Sounds AMAZING. Definitely want to make.

    Reply
  12. Debbi 12

    I’ll have to leave the olives out but you win, I’ll make this. It looks fantastic!

    Reply
  13. Pam 13

    Love olives and it looks absolutely awesome. Going to cook it this weekend.

    Reply
  14. You convinced me to try this, Cathy. I like chicken thighs because they absorb marinade flavors so well. Love all the spices you’ve used, and the olives too.

    Reply
  15. Noble Pig 15

    The chicken is cooked in the marinade…all of it.

    Reply
  16. Lisa Sipple 16

    The chicken sounds delish with all those flavors, wow. After a 24 hour marinade I can only imagine how yummy it is.

    Reply
  17. June 17

    Too funny. I’m making chicken much like this on Sunday for a dinner party. Can’t wait! Hope it’s as good as yours looks!

    Reply
  18. paul 18

    Looks great BUT… this one could truly be one to die for. Literally. I’m thinking about the hefty dose of salt you use. As a salt sensitive hypertensive that amount of salt on only 4 thighs would send my B.P. through the roof.
    Is it really necessary to suggest making it that salty? I would not use that amount of salt but many of your readers might.

    Reply
  19. elra 19

    Cathy, I am definitely convinced!. I can imagine eating this with harissa. YUMMY!

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  20. I love olives!

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  21. Noble Pig 21

    You obviously realize all food choices and ingredients are personal to your likes, dislikes and health status. This recipe contains ingredients which are part of an original creation. You are ultimately responsible for your food choices.

    Reply
  22. Awesome! I love the addition of apricots and olives, yum!

    Reply
  23. Laurie 23

    Well you certainly convinced me to try this! I’ve already printed the recipe. Now I need to go find Spanish paprika on this barren sand bar I live on.

    Your olive comment on FB makes so much sense right now!

    Reply
  24. Marjie 24

    Sounds like a great idea! I cook a lot of chicken, and always need new ideas.

    Reply
  25. I am crazy for green olives! Can’t wait to try this one!

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  26. Tammy 26

    I’m always on the lookout for new chicken recipes! This one is a must make!

    Reply
  27. babs 27

    THis looks delicious! I’ll set aside the olives, though. How long or to what temperature would I cook it if I’m using chicken breasts, because my Honey doesn’t eat thighs?

    Like Lorna, I was wondering about using the marinade that the raw chicken had been in, because I’ve heard it can make you sick…not true?

    Reply
  28. babs 28

    OH, I get it! It’s that you’re not supposed to baste chicken with marinade that hasn’t been cooked, but this will have been cooked, along with the chicken.

    Reply
  29. Bob 29

    I’m not really an olive fan, but that looks awesome! I would totally try it.

    Reply
  30. Meghan 30

    I love everything in this dish! It looks so colorful and flavorful. My husband will just have to pick around the olives because I love them :)

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  31. This dish sounds amazing. My local store has chicken on sale so I think this will be my Sunday meal.

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  32. Lena in VT 32

    What an amazing array of flavors, I am going to make it for Monday night dinner. Love the apricot-olive combo.

    Reply
  33. Melynda 33

    Yes, a must make for sure!

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  34. pam 34

    I am soooo making this.

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  35. I think that I am going to love this recipe!!! What do you think about using breasts instead of thighs?

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  36. Noble Pig 36

    Breasts just don’t have the same flavor as thighs.  You can try them, I’m not sure if the result will be of the same caliber.

    Reply
  37. The flavors in this sound delicious! Perfect for couscous.

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  38. HoneyB 38

    This did looks awesome! I love all the components …. would probably make mine on the spicer side cause I love heat with my sweet! I also love OLIVES! All kinds!

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  39. BEAUTIFUL!!!! I love anything with apricots. ~LeslieMichele

    Reply
  40. Chris 40

    Oh my. That does look fabulous. There’s not a chance in the world that my picky kids will even taste it, but I don’t care. I’m definitely going to make this for hubby and me!

    Reply
  41. Corine 41

    Yum! I love spicy food and chicken thigh is my favourite part of a whole chicken. Well done! :)

    Reply
  42. Pam 42

    Love it! It looks beautiful, flavorful and so unique. Can’t wait to try this one Cathy.

    Reply
  43. Nanan 43

    Oh my Cathy, you seem to post food I would love to eat… I think I will have to make this soon! Your photos are beautiful!

    Reply
  44. Mary 44

    You’ve knocked the ball out of the park with this one, Cathy. This a a true must do for me. I love the flavors my brain is playing with as I read the recipe. Very nice!

    Reply
  45. Amanda 45

    Beautiful presentation and sounds fabulous Cathy! :)

    Reply
  46. Cath,
    I think this will be our Sunday dinner tomorrow nt. I love thighs and I have a lovely bag of apricots waiting to be eaten!
    Enjoy your weekend!

    Reply
  47. Michelle 47

    After reading your blog I decided to try this recipe. I only used a teaspoon of cinnamon and I forgot to buy cilantro. It was really good and my family enjoyed it. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Reply
  48. Cassie 48

    Why do I read these recipes so late at night?

    Reply
  49. Molly 49

    the picture of your dish before baking had alot more liquid/sauce than mine had. I did exactly as written, put in a 2qt dish and the only sauce I had, barely covered the thighs- am I missing something?

    Reply
  50. Noble Pig 50

    Molly or Margaret-not sure why your comment was posted twice under different names but I deleted one.  Anyway, somewhere your measurement must have been off as this dish has sufficient liquid without having to add extra.  The error must have been in the lemon juice, honey, size of the dish, or the thigh weight was greater than 1-1/2 pounds.  I wish I knew what happened.

    Reply
  51. This looks like the most wonderful dish. I can’t wait to make it. At 9 am in the morning, it seems sort of wrong to want this so badly, but I can make do. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  52. June 52

    Cathy – this was the main event at our dinner party last night and it was absolutely the BEST chicken dish I’ve ever made, EVER. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. We toasted you and your talent many times during the evening!

    Reply
  53. I’ve been wondering what to cook when my SIL/BIL come over from the UK as they are fond of really spicy dishes and my sister in law, LOVES apricots! I think this will do nicely!

    Reply
  54. Leslie 54

    I marinated the thighs last night, I am cooking it today. I am glad I did this. I don’t feel well at all, but still want my husband to have a good meal. Most of the prep work was done last night when i was feeling fine!

    Reply
  55. Liz C. 55

    I’m not a great fan of anything sweet in my dinner but this actually sounds perfectly delicious. And, bring on that salt! I’ll just take a pill later, LOL!

    Reply
  56. Steve 56

    My wife (Jbug) cooked this last night for dinner. With all due respect to all that have commented positively about this dish – you really don’t know how good it is. I saw the picture and asked that it be substituted for another dish Jbug was going to fix. Long story short I Have a new favorite chicken recipe. Thank-you so much for this one!

    Reply
  57. Noble Pig 57

    You guys are awesome. Isn’t it amazing how much flavor this chicken takes on? I was pleasantly surprised! I’m making it again this week!

    Reply
  58. Heather 58

    I am disappointed that I can’t find smoked paprika. Obviously this recipe calls for it and others I’ve wanted to try do too. I live in Portland and have tried Fred Meyer and (a smallish) Whole Foods without luck. Where do you find yours? It would be with the rest of te spices, right? Thanks for any enlightenment. :)

    Reply
  59. Lydia 59

    I’ve bookmarked this one; the flavor combination is one used in tagine cooking, and I’ve come to love it.

    Reply
  60. June 60

    Cathy – if your wine making talent is equivalent or even half as good as you cook, can you put us down for your first 1,000 cases?

    Reply
  61. Mrs. L 61

    This sounds right up my alley! Yum! And for the reader a few above me who asked…I found my smoked paprika at my local Cost Plus/World Market.

    Reply
  62. Noble Pig 62

    Heather-I can’t believe you can’t find it, especially in Portland!! It’s often not in the regular spice containers like Schilling but in a tin. Have you tried a higher end market like Whole Foods or Zupan’s? Also Cost Plus will definitely carry it.

    Also here’s a link to the brand I buy, they sell it on amazon to make it easy.

    link to amazon.com

    Reply
  63. Kara 63

    I live in Portland too, and it can be hard to find here for a good price. I know that Barbur Foods carries it but I tend to get mine online because I use it in a lot of dishes. My favorite is My Spice Sage, they have great prices and fresh spices. I always get 4oz or more at a time, it is a savings. Best of luck!

    link to myspicesage.com

    Reply
  64. Kristi 64

    I made this last night and it was UTTERLY FABULOUS! I made it with tenderloins, which may be slightly less flavorful (not a thigh gal) and it was still very flavorful. The only thing I might do next time is reduce the salt a bit as I was using chicken with the sodium solution, so it is already salty. Keep up the awesome work; yum!

    Reply
  65. Lindsay 65

    I made this for dinner last night and it was absolutely to die for. I think I will make it for my next dinner party. Thanks so much for the great flavor combos.

    Reply
  66. Dylan 66

    Just put it in the fridge to rest overnight!! Can’t wait to try it tomorrow!

    Reply
  67. Colleen 67

    Hi NP,
    I’ve been a “ghost” follow of your blog forever and have used several recipes in the past, all delish. I actually cooked this dish and it was seriously to die for!! I just want to thank you for your wonderful recipes!!!! Keep them coming!!!!

    Reply
  68. Kristi 68

    I know I already commented on this recipe but I have to again say how fabulous it is! It is marinating in my fridge as we speak.

    Reply
  69. nice article

    Reply
  70. Aliza 70

    I made this tonight along with the couscous with dried fruit and feta, and it was awesome! My husband said it’s one of my top 5 dinners… and he is a picky eater and hard to please. Thank you!!!

    Reply
  71. Frankie 71

    This dish sounds and looks awesome, just wondering if anyone has used black olives instead of the green. I’ll use the green olives but just want to know my options if black is all I have at the time. I stumbled upon your site when looking for a scallop recipe. I’m loving this site with all the delish recipes. Yummo! Thanks for all your amazing ideas.

    Reply
  72. Noble Pig 72

    I wouldn’t suggest it, the flavor would be off.

    Reply
  73. Greg 73

    Well, I finally got around to fixing this yesterday/today. Phenomenal blending of flavors. Reminds me so much of the dishes I prepare regularly from Paul Prudhomme’s very best cookbook, “Fiery Foods that I Love”. It would fit right in the “Well-Traveled Chicken” chapter. Spicy, intense, intriguing, emotional. All the things that make a meal special. I can see fixing this 4-5 times/year.

    Reply
  74. Robin 74

    I have this in the oven right now. It smells wonderful. Not sure if I should leave it uncovered or not. I decided to leave it uncovered. I have rice in the steamer with an addition of a small can of mushrooms. I can’t wait to try it in about 30 minutes.

    Reply
    • Robin 75

      Well, this turned out great. Hubby loved it and will join the recipes that I routinely cook. I might reduce the cinnamon next time. The mushrooms in the rice did not add much to the overall dish.

      Reply
  75. Joy 76

    Thanks – this is wonderful, and it’s even better the 2nd day! Wish I hadn’t waited so long to try it 😛

    Reply
  76. naomi 78

    I just had it for dinner, this will become a regular dish – phenomenal. I did not have honey and used Agave, and I also used regular Paprika the dish was still ammmmmazzzzing.

    Reply
  77. Piper 79

    I found your recipe when I was laying around thinking about chicken thighs, apricots and green olives (really!). It looks the best out of what I saw. I’m making this tomorrow and I intend to blog it too, and give you credit.
    Aren’t people silly about the marinade??? People, people, people, YOU COOK IT!
    I love your blog, now I just gotta find where to buy your wine in Seattle. ; )

    Reply
  78. Kakibelly 80

    Awesome. I am a no sodium person, though. Used Trader Joes canned green olives –5% sodium content–World Spice Merchants in Seattle have a killer smoked paprika that really MADE my dish. Ordered on there website.

    Reply
  79. Marilyn 81

    The ingredients call for Spanish Paprika, but the directions say Smoked Paprika??

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    • Cathy 82

      Hi, sorry about the confusion. Directions say smoked and ingredients state smoked Spanish Paprika. It’s considered one in the same. Look for smoked paprika in your store.

      Reply
  80. Angelina littrell 84

    Am making this tomorrow with yellow saffron rice. What wine do you usually pair? I was thinking a dry Riesling or buttery Chardonnay.

    Reply
    • Cathy 85

      Well since I make wine, I usually pair my own. It’s awesome with Noble Pig Pinot Gris Or Noble Pig Pinot Blanc, both very dry and crisp.

      Reply
  81. Steve 86

    This was excellent. 1/4 teaspoon of pepper flakes was plenty for us as to heat, but the overall flavor was outstanding. We served it over brown rice with a side of slaw. Life is good.

    Reply
  82. Linda Orris 87

    Not enough marinade, will double the next time I make it.

    Reply
    • Cathy 88

      Really, I have been making for years and it has always been enough. Any chance of a mis-measurement?

      Reply
  83. Ginger Rice 89

    Way toooo sweet for our taste

    Reply

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