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Sweet, savory, crispy and saucy, this Dutch oven recipe for Chicken Marbella delivers a “gourmet” campfire experience but without any of the work.

You'll never believe how easy it is to make this gourmet camping meal! Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella is perfect for cooking over the campfire.

What separates a good camp meal from a great one? We’ve all had our share of middle-of-the-road meals while camping: perfectly adequate at the time, but entirely forgettable in hindsight. But we’ve also had a handful of dinners that have completely knocked our socks off. So, what’s the difference? The truth is nobody cares how good dinner tastes if it takes three hours to prepare. It simply can’t live up to expectations. A great meal in the outdoors, therefore, delivers big “production value” with a minimal amount of time and effort. And that is exactly what this one-pot dish does.

It’s called Chicken Marbella and the recipe originally appeared in the Silver Palate Cookbook in 1983. This Mediterranean themed baked chicken dish uses chopped prunes and olives to produce a sweet and savory combination that’s absolutely irresistible. However, every version calls for a piece of equipment unavailable to most campers: an oven. So after a bit of tinkering, we came up with a way to make it in a Dutch oven.

You'll never believe how easy it is to make this gourmet camping meal! Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella is perfect for cooking over the campfire. You'll never believe how easy it is to make this gourmet camping meal! Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella is perfect for cooking over the campfire.

What makes this meal so extraordinary is how easy it is to prepare. The only secret ingredient is foresight. At home, combine the ingredients in a large freezer bag and then toss it in your cooler. Not only does this cut down on the supplies you need to bring, but it lets the flavors marinate and build.

To get the skin crispy, the original recipe calls for you to bake the chicken. But that type of dry heat isn’t really possible in a Dutch oven, so instead, you’re going to brown the skin with a little oil. Then you’ll add the marinade into the pot, which won’t cover the chicken entirely but be just enough to braise it.

The result is a crispy-skinned chicken dish with a super-flavorful sauce that takes less than 45 minutes to cook. Serve with couscous, and you have the makings of campfire meal worth remembering!

You'll never believe how easy it is to make this gourmet camping meal! Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella is perfect for cooking over the campfire.
You'll never believe how easy it is to make this gourmet camping meal! Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella is perfect for cooking over the campfire.

Why It Works for Camping

‣  Big gourmet flavors from an easy-to-make one pot meal.
‣  Aside from browning the skin, there is practically no active cooking time.
‣  No onsite prep work. This marinade can and should be made ahead of time.

Mastering the Technique

‣  Could be made with any type of dark meat, but we suggest thighs: bone in, skin on.
‣  It’s OK for the chicken to be crowded in the Dutch Oven, just don’t submerge any pieces. You’re going for braised, not boiled chicken.
‣  You’re looking to heat your Dutch oven to about 425° F. For a 4 qt (10 inch) Dutch oven, you will need to use 18 coals on top and 9 coals on the bottom. If you’re using wood embers from your campfire, you’ll have to approximate.

Ingredient Notes

‣ It might seem superfluous, but using white wine in the marinade is essential. We tried a version without it and it was definitely missed. Pack the rest of the bottle along in the cooler and enjoy it with dinner!

You'll never believe how easy it is to make this gourmet camping meal! Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella is perfect for cooking over the campfire.

You'll never believe how easy it is to make this gourmet camping meal! Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella is perfect for cooking over the campfire.

Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella

Makes 4 pieces
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped prunes
  • 1 cup olives, pitted & halved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar

Instructions

  • MARINATE THE CHICKEN: Place all ingredients except for the oil and brown sugar in a freezer bag to marinate. Place in your ice chest for at least 6 hours and up to 48 hours.
  • PREP YOUR CAMPFIRE: Prepare 27 coals. You can use wood embers if you must, but you’ll have to guestimate the proper heat ratio (you’re aiming for 425F). Once all the coals are ready, knock them into a flat pile and place dutch oven on top of all of them. This will produce the high heat required for browning.
  • BROWN THE CHICKEN: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the Dutch oven. The oil is hot and ready when a drop of water instantly sizzles when it hits the pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and dust 1 teaspoon brown sugar over the skin side of each thigh. Brown the thighs skin side down over high heat until the skin is crispy and deep golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Flip to brown the other side, 2 minutes.
  • BAKE: Remove Dutch oven from heat. Add the marinade (liquid, prunes, olive, capers and all!) to the dutch oven and cover. Evenly distribute 18 coals on the lid and set the Dutch oven on a bed of 9 coals. Bake for 30 minutes, until the thighs are cooked through and their juices run clear when pierced with a knife.
  • SERVE & ENJOY: Serve over couscous, rice, or pilaf with some of the sauce spooned over the top.

NOTES

EQUIPMENT NEEDED
4 qt (10 inch) Dutch Oven with lid
Tongs
Dutch oven lid lifter
Plates & utensils for serving

Nutrition Info (per serving)

Calories: 475kcal
*Nutrition info is an estimate based on information provided by myfitnesspal.com


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  • This was fantastic! Super easy! Packed full of flavor – chicken fell off the bone. I did omit the tsp of salt and the brown sugar. Served over brown rice and quinoa (Costco packets). This one is a keeper and will be a camping favorite! Thank you and plan to see what other gems you may have on here.

  • Could you adapt this recipe using thigh fillets for a large group

    • You could definitely scale it up for larger groups. You will probably want either a large Dutch oven or possible a second Dutch oven so the chicken doesn’t overcrowd. Braised chicken is wonderful, boiled chicken is less so.

    • I would imagine that you could. You’ll need to size up to a 12″ (6 qt) Dutch oven so that the chicken sits in one layer. Using a larger oven means you’ll also need more coals/embers (start with ~21 on top, ~10 on bottom).

  • This was our first Dutch oven dinner and it turned out fantastic! My husband keeps raving about how wonderfully it turned out saying it’s the best home-cooked chicken he’s ever had. Since we were at home, we did do the searing portion on the stove in a cast iron skillet and then transferred the food to a foil lined Dutch oven.5 stars

    • Heidi,
      Glad to hear that you and your husband enjoyed this! Thanks for sharing your tips about cooking it at home 🙂
      Megan

  • Leslie Raffin says:

    The recipe was awesome and cooking it was one pot simmer/enjoy, with leftovers for next day. The only downside is the PRUNES lol while CAMPING!! Hahahaaaa we laughed every time we made another trip to the loo:)5 stars

  • Wow. I have looked at a good dozen of your recipes in planning for an upcoming family kayak camping trip. I’m the chef in the family and the “organizer dude”…and I am into this! I cannot wait to cook the Chicken Marbella!

    You guys are fantastic. The choices of dishes you make, the backstory, the narratives about technique, ingredient notes and suggestions…all make this really top notch. Oh, did I mention the fantastic photography? The blend of gourmet attention to detail, quality and ingredients and the ease and simplicity on the trail is really unique. Hats off to you both…great job. I’ve seen blogs from “expert” outdoor adventurers about ther “best” meal they cook….granola with snickers bar? canned spaghetti? Tuna casserole??? We’re in a different zone here…and it’s a zone I like! These recipes will be in my rotation at camp AND at home!

    Now I just have to convince my son that its super cool to be the chosen one that carries the dutch oven.

    • Thank you so much for the incredibly kind and encouraging comment Blackdog! It’s great to hear that you and your family have been enjoying the recipes – that’s exactly why we do what we do 🙂

      Megan

    • Thank you so much! Words of support like this completely make our day! It’s just the two of us working on Fresh Off The Grid and sometimes we feel like we’re going insane trying to keep all the balls up in the air. So words like this go a long way. Thanks for the support! It means the world to us.

  • Scott Marron says:

    Any suggestions for how to modify recipe to cook 8 thighs?

    • For 8 thighs, I’m thinking you will either need a pick up another 10″ Dutch oven or get a 12″ Dutch oven. You definitely want to avoid overcrowding in the pan. So find the right size Dutch oven(s) that will allow for all the chicken cover the bottom evenly, but without stacking.

    • You can double the ingredients, and you’d need to size up to a 12″ (6 qt) Dutch oven so that the chicken sits in one layer. Using a larger oven means you’ll also need more coals/embers (start with ~21 on top, ~10 on bottom). Let us know how it goes!

  • we tried this last week – it was absolutely, unbelievably delicious! best meal I’ve ever made while camping – and SO EASY! thank you for sharing!

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