This Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemons and Olives is a weeknight meal dream! Bright, lemony and zesty, this chicken dish is one of our family favorites. The overnight marinate and preserved Meyer lemons make this dish extra special. This sheet pan chicken recipe is low-carb, paleo and Whole30. Cooked to tender perfection, this will be your new chicken crush! Make extra and use it for meal prep during the week.
Bright, lemony and zesty, this chicken dish is one of our family favorites! This has fast become my second favorite sheet pan dish and has already been on a regular rotation in my kitchen. This sheet pan Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemon and Olives is infused with a flavorful marinade. It was a dream of mine to make this once my preserved Meyer lemons were ready.
A real no-fuss chicken recipe which makes a perfect weeknight meal. It all starts with the easy to make and very flavorful marinade that is made with preserved Meyer lemons, garlic and spices. The chicken rests overnight in this delicious marinade and when you’re ready to cook it, it is oven roasted until crispy golden brown and so tender!
Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemons and Olives is one of the most well-known dishes of Morocco, where it is called Djej M’Chernel or Chicken Tagine Mchermel As it is with all the traditional Italian recipes I have shared here, there are so many variations to this delicious chicken dish. It could even vary from family to family and each home cook as their own method and version.
I came across Paula Wolfert’s adapted version from The Food of Morocco (Ecco, 2011). Paula’s original recipe calls for a whole chicken that is rubbed with a spice mixture, and marinates overnight in the fridge.
What pan is Moroccan Chicken cooked in?
This chicken with preserved Meyer lemons and olives is usually made in a traditional tagine (the actual recipe is also called a tagine) or slow roasting in the oven. I don’t happen to have a tagine, and now after making this recipe, I sort of wish I did!
You could use a Dutch oven as an alternative to a tagine, and if you don’t have one, you could use a high sided large skillet with a lid.
I chose to make the chicken on a sheet pan. This is all part of my idea to put together a collection of recipes that can made on one of the dozen sheet pans I own. You see, I have to prove to my husband that I need each and every one of them! And more importantly, to show all of you how versatile the humble sheet pan truly is.
How do you make Moroccan chicken with preserved Meyer lemon and olives
The first step is to gather all the ingredients the night before. It all begins with marinating the chicken. I put together my spices and rub it all over the chicken. It’s important to let it marinate at least few hours. If it’s possible, it’s best to let it marinate overnight.
I have seen recipes where they have not marinated the chicken and the chicken looks fantastic. I can only say I’ve made it with an overnight marinade and like my mojo chicken, I truly believe the overnight marinade (even 3-4 hours is fine)makes the chicken extra flavorful.
Next important part of the recipe is the preserved Meyer lemons. I did finally make preserved Meyer lemons over a month ago. I seriously could not wait to make this chicken recipe with those lemons. I don’t believe it would be the same using fresh lemons. You get a hit of unami from the salty and citrusy preserved Meyer lemons that you can’t really get with regular lemons.
If you don’t happen to have your own preserved Meyer lemons on hand, you could find them at a Middle Eastern market (even Whole Foods) or even online. But it’s really simple and inexpensive to make your own preserved Meyer lemons…all it takes is some time (takes a month to cure the lemons in the salt). The Meyer lemons make it zesty and salty. I have seen this recipe made with thin slices of Meyer lemons that aren’t preserved, but I never tried it like that.
Another important component is the spice mixture. There are some recipes that use the incredible Moroccan spice mixture ras el hanout, that has cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, paprika and 30 other spices! This is also something you’ll find at a Middle Eastern market and online (Target, Whole Foods have it), which includes, among thirty other spices, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, cloves, and paprika. I followed an adapted version of Paula Wolfert’s recipe and used paprika and cumin. For the next time, I will use ras el hanout and test out the flavor.
One more important step in the recipe is the saffron water. If you can get a hold of some saffron, in combination with the turmeric, it does add spectacular fragrant flavor and bright color.
The original recipe does call for grating the onion. I chose to slice my onions thin instead of grating. If you have time to grate your onion, I think that’s also great.
Finally, the spice marinade (with the preserved Meyer lemons)is all tucked in together in a zipped lock bag (or an airtight container) and left to marinade for hours or overnight. I chose to marinade the chicken with the Meyer lemons instead of just the spices.
I wanted the chicken to have more time to absorb the fabulous flavor of the salt cured lemons. Next, it is all roasted to golden brown and tender perfection. I do baste the chicken and rotate it. I like it to have crispy skin, so be sure to end the cooking with the chicken skin side up!
What ingredients are needed to make this Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemons and Olives
This is what you will need to make this flavorful chicken recipe:
- extra-virgin olive oil
- preserved Meyer Lemons
- fresh ginger
- ground cumin
- ground black pepper
- saffron threads
- pitted green olives
- chicken broth, or vegetable broth
- cilantro, optional (or parsley)
Are chicken thighs or chicken breasts best for preserved Meyer lemon chicken?
We prefer chicken thighs and legs for this recipe. You could use chicken breasts (cut them in half to marinade) just keeping in mind that they would be done in about 18-20 minutes.
How do I know that the roasted chicken is fully cooked?
My preference is to cook thighs and drumsticks to internal temperature 185F. I find the meat is not as tender and falling off the bone if it’s cooked to less than 185F.
If you make this recipe with chicken breasts, the internal temperature is safe at 165F. Use an instant-read thermometer for safest way to check if chicken has reached the correct internal temperature.
Calculate 15 minutes of cooking time per pound of chicken if you make this recipe using a whole chicken.
Is this a freezer friendly chicken recipe?
Yes, this recipe is perfect for meal prep and to freeze. You could make the chicken on the weekend when you do your meal prep. Let the chicken cool completely, remove the meat from the bone, and shred it. Once it is shredded and frozen, it’s super easy to reheat and serve.
Simply portion out the shredded chicken in zipped lock freezer bag or air-tight containers. The chicken will could stay frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge.
What can you serve with this sheet pan chicken recipe?
There are various side dish ideas that go great with this very tasty chicken dish.
If you are staying totally low-carb, paleo, Whole30 and keto, serve it with cauliflower rice, roasted broccoli, or a nice salad. Also goes well with roasted potatoes (if you’re not keto).
If you aren’t Paleo/low-carb or in a Whole30 cycle and you would like to enjoy a more traditional way, serve it with couscous. Also, if you’re not counting carbs, rice would be lovely.
PIN for later!
Some other chicken recipes we love:
Adapted from Paula Wolfert's recipe found in Sunset
Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemon and Olives
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 minced garlic cloves (I also added a few whole cloves)
- 2 pieces 1/2 lemon preserved Meyer Lemons or 1/2 store-bought preserved Meyer lemon, sliced crosswise
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken pieces I used a mix of thighs and drumsticks, be sure to trim excess skin off thighs
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 large onion sliced thin
- 1 cup pitted green olives
- 2 pieces 1/2 lemon peserved Meyer lemon or 1/2 store-bought preserved Meyer lemon, sliced crosswise
- 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro optional (or parsley)
- In a small bowl, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, preserved Meyer lemon slices, ginger, paprika, and cumin.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken pieces.
- Transfer the chicken pieces to a zipped lock bag or air-tight container.
- Add the marinade to the bag or container with the chicken pieces.
- If you have the chicken in a zipped lock bag, seal it and massage the chicken with the marinade to completely coat.
- If it’s in a container, use your hands to massage it all over the chicken (use disposable gloves if you have on hand).
- Place the zipped lock bag (or container )in the fridge and marinate for at least three hours. Even better, marinate overnight. Realistically, if you have 30 minutes-1 hour, and that is fine too, but the longer it marinades, the more flavorful the chicken will be.
- ROAST CHICKEN
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425F. In a small bowl, combine saffron with 2 tbsp. hot water and let sit 5 minutes. Add the broth and turmeric. Stir to combine.
- On a foil paper lined baking sheet or a 12-in. ovenproof frying pan (or cast iron pan), add the chicken pieces (skin side down) and the marinade.
- Place the onion slices and olives around the chicken.
- Spoon the saffron water all over the chicken.
- Transfer baking sheet to the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
- Spoon the marinade all over the chicken and turn over chicken pieces to skin side up.
- Lower temperature to 375F. Bake until the chicken is completely cooked through and the skin is nice and crispy; about another 30-45 minutes. Total cook time is about 1 hour-1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Let chicken rest 10 minutes tented with foil paper before serving.
- Sprinkle chicken with cilantro (or parsley) and serve with your side of choice (couscous or cauliflower rice if staying low-carb).
*When cooked and completely cool, you can also freeze it in a freezer-safe container for 1-2 months.
*If you’re making chicken breasts: The safe internal temperature for chicken breasts is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
*If you’re making a chicken thighs and legs (like I did), you should check by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and temperature should read 185F.
I’ve started the marinade and it smells delicious. I see olives as an ingredient. Do I add them before cooking?
Hi Sandy-When you add the onion slices, you can go ahead and also add the olives around the chicken (step 10 in the directions). Hope you enjoy the recipe!
Willy G says
It’s in the oven. Added orzo so also added bouillon and broth. I covered it in a cast iron skillet although your instructions leave that off but in your pot recommendations you said something about a lid. Will put olives in when I turn chicken. Wish me luck.
Hi Willy...the addition of orzo sounds wonderful! I'm sure it turned out delicious!!