Sweetly Spiced Chicken Thighs with Sunkist Minneolas

I hear a lot of complaints that healthy food is bland. Hah! And this meal is proof of just how delicious nutritious can be.

healthy chicken thigh recipe

This recipe is a full meal with chicken, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and even legumes!

Thanks to Sunkist for sponsoring this recipe blog post. Sunkist has compensated me for my time, but my words, advice and opinions are my own.

As with most of my cooking, I set out to cut sodium and saturated fats, boost nutrition and make the flavors explode. This recipe does all of that. In fact, here’s what my daughter said in a text message when she ate it for the first time.cut sodium in chicken

Here’s how I did it.

  • I added a bunch of delicious spices. In this recipe, I was inspired by some Middle Eastern seasonings. If you haven’t had cardamom before, it’s worth the effort to pick some up. Cardamom is fruity and delicious. If you have a store nearby that sells spices in bulk (like Whole Foods), you can pick up just a spoonful of this exotic spice.
  • I used citrus. It’s simple to cut sodium with the addition of lemon or other citrus. I frequently squeeze a lemon over a finished dish to brighten flavors. In this chicken recipe, however, I have the flavors popping with the addition of a couple tablespoons of orange juice and the juiciest, sweetest tangelos around – Sunkist minneolas. To make it easy for us, the smart folks at Sunkist devised this cooking guide to show us exactly how to cut sodium with lemon juice and lemon zest. They cleverly call it the S’alternative®. And it’s just the guide many of my patients need.
  • I used a reduced-sodium broth too. When cooking the whole-grain couscous, I used both broth and water to cut sodium, but I added some cinnamon and zest of the minneolas to leave it anything but bland.
  • I carefully chose health-boosting foods. We’ve got skinless chicken thighs (and they are quite nutritious and cook up more moist than breasts), lots of vegetables, legumes, and delicious citrus fruits. This dish is really a full meal!
healthy flavor ingredient

Citrus zest adds a flavor punch

These super delicious Sunkist tangelos are still in season, so grab them while you can. In later months, substitute the minneolas for another favorite juicy orange citrus fruit.

Sunkist Minneolas

Sunkist Minneolas

The portions in this dish are large enough for hearty eaters, but many of us will enjoy leftovers for lunch. For my carb-counting patients and friends with diabetes, keep in mind that the health-boosting fiber is a significant contributor to the total amount of carbohydrate – a full 13 grams fortunately. If the carb count in this recipe is still greater than your meal allotment, you can cut the couscous by half and save about 13 grams of total carbohydrate (4g of which are fiber).

Healthy chicken recipe

The flavors pop in these Sweetly Spiced Chicken Thighs with Minneolas

Sweetly Spiced Chicken Thighs with Sunkist Minneolas

This recipe is a full meal loaded with health-boosting nutrition. In addition to the chicken, you'll get legumes, whole grains, nearly a full serving of fruit and 2 full servings of vegetables. The portions are large, so you might have leftovers for lunch!
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Course: Dinner - a full meal
Cuisine: Middle Eastern Inspired
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 2 cups chicken mixture and scant 2/3 cup couscous
Calories: 535kcal
Author: Jill Weisenberger MS, RDN, CDE, FAND


  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 4 large carrots, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
  • 1.75 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon divided (save 1/4 teaspoon for the couscous)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth divided (save 1/2 cup for the couscous)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 6- ounce bag baby spinach
  • 4 Sunkist minneolas peeled, separated into sections and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 1 cup dry whole wheat couscous
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon zest from the minneola


  • Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the oil. Sauté the onions and carrots until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir.
  • Add the chicken, chickpeas, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly so the spices are evenly distributed.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and the orange juice.
  • Increase the heat to bring the contents to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a low boil and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is done. Stir periodically.
  • Meanwhile prepare the couscous. Put the water and remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth into a medium pot. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and the zest from the minneola. Cover and bring the contents to a boil. Then add the couscous and stir. Return the lid and remove the pot from the heat. Allow the contents to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Then fluff with a fork.
  • Just before serving, add the spinach to the chicken mixture and mix to wilt, about 2 minutes. Then add the chopped minneola.
  • Serve over couscous.


Serving: 2cups chicken mix, 2/3 cup couscous | Calories: 535kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1.5g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 127mg | Sodium: 540mg | Fiber: 13g

Cheers to delicious, nutritious eating!

Jill Weisenberger

I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.

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  1. Jenn@KreativeKouple on May 15, 2017 at 10:58 am

    This recipe is delicious! I’ve never cooked with cardamom before, and it was amazing. The tanginess of the orange combined with the sweetness of the spices and the texture of the chick peas made for a wonderful dinner that made more than plenty for my husband and I to have leftovers. Thank you!

    • Jill Weisenberger on May 15, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      So glad to hear it! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Michaela on September 20, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    I tried this. You’re right. The flavors do explode!

    • Jill Weisenberger on December 21, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      Yay! So glad to hear that you like it!

  3. Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND on January 27, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Thank you for this great example of how low-sodium dishes can be loaded with flavor. Love it! And extra thanks for sharing the link to the S’alternative cooking guide. Terrific ideas that I am enjoying the chance to share in my conference presentations and in social media.

    • Jill Weisenberger on January 27, 2018 at 10:51 am

      So glad you have ways to share this info. I agree; the S’alternative guide is clever and terrific. And makes food taste great!

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Jill Weisenberger

I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.

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