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Spiced Chicken with Lebanese Couscous

Lebanese spiced chicken
Zach Pagango / TODAY

Chef notes

Shawarma spices flavor the chicken in my one-pot, low-and-slow Djej b Finden with Moghrabieh. The moist, tender chicken shares the stage with pearl onions and cremini mushrooms, all finished with fresh herbs, butter and white wine sauce over Lebanese couscous. This can be presented as a formal, special-occasion meal or as a rustic comfort food served straight from the pot.

Technique tip: I like to sear the chicken first to seal in all the natural juices before braising it with aromatics and herbs.

Swap option: If you cannot find moghrabieh (Lebanese couscous), substitute Israeli couscous or regular couscous. When using regular couscous, the cooking method will be different, and it should be prepared according to the package directions.


Shawarma spice (makes 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • teaspoons ground cardamom
  • teaspoons ground ginger
  • teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 bone-in, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • teaspoons shawarma spice, divided (recipe above)
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound pearl onions, peeled
  • teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • cups white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour or cornstarch
  • 2 cups Lebanese couscous
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon shawarma spice (recipe above)
  • 1 cup chicken broth


For the shawarma spice:

In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, cardamom, ginger and garlic powder. Stir well and set aside.

For the chicken:


Preheat the oven to 325°F.


Pat the chicken breasts and thighs dry with paper towels and place on a large baking sheet. Generously season both sides of the chicken pieces with 2 teaspoons of the shawarma spice.


Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once it starts shimmering, add the chicken and sear in small batches for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate.


In the same pot, melt 3 more tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is shimmering, add the pearl onions, season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Transfer the onions to a plate.


Melt another 3 tablespoons of butter in the same pot until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until they are slightly softened but still maintain their shape. Return the onions and chicken to the pan.


With the heat still on medium-high, pour the white wine into the pan and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the white pepper and allow the wine to cook off for just a few minutes.


Add half of the thyme, half of the rosemary, half of the sage and all of the shallots and stir thoroughly. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and transfer to the center rack of the preheated oven. Braise for 30 to 35 minutes.


Once the chicken has cooked through (the thickest part of the breast should register 160°F, and the juices should run clear) remove it from the oven. Transfer the chicken, onions and mushrooms to a serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.


Strain the pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve and pour back into the pot.


In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup cold water with the flour or cornstarch until smooth, then stir into the strained pan juices. Heat the mixture over high heat, stirring continuously, until it begins to thicken. Finish by stirring in the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon shawarma spice. Cook for another few minutes until the sauce is smooth and shiny. Turn off the heat.

For the couscous:

In a large pot, bring 8 cups of water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and season with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Once the water is boiling, stir in the couscous and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes until the grains have swelled, doubled in size and cooked through. Drain the couscous.

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the couscous to the pan with the butter and toss for a few minutes to coat completely. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon of the shawarma spice and thoroughly stir. Pour in the chicken broth and simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes so that the couscous absorbs the majority of the chicken broth. Remove from the heat and let rest for a few minutes.

To serve:

Spoon the couscous onto a large serving platter, layer the chicken on top and surround with the mushrooms and onions. Spoon the sauce on top, and sprinkle with the remaining thyme, rosemary and sage. Serve immediately.