Skip to content

Chicken Bstilla

Here is my slightly lazier version of bstilla (a.k.a., b’stilla), a savory pie with chicken, eggs and almonds. Well, lazier in the sense that its form is more like baklava in a pan, rather than the beautifully decorated disk you’d get at a Morrocan restaurant.

This recipe does take a while to prepare: Over an hour to poach the chicken, making the egg custard, pie assembly, baking… It also took the better part of another hour to reduce the broth for the egg custard —other than just using a smaller, undiluted amount of broth (less flavor), I wish there were a faster way to reduce it! Know where I can get an affordable, kitchen grade rotary evaporator? 😉

But it’s so good!

You could prepare the chicken filling and reduce the broth one day, then make the egg custard, assemble and bake the bstilla another day.

About sumac berries: These are in the same family as cashews and mangoes, and are available at Middle Eastern shops, often already dried and ground. Penzeys also sells sumac online.

Chicken filling

  • 2 chicken breasts, including bones and skin (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons safflower or olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped into small pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • a knuckle of peeled ginger sliced into a few chunks; or, 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • boiling water
  • zest of 1 lemon; strips made with a vegetable peeler works well
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • a generous pinch of saffron threads
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ground dried sumac berries

Egg custard

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of broth and onions, reserved from the above chicken preparation
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 2 tablespoons mint, minced
  • (optional) more salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • (optional) 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Remaining ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, chopped (slivers work well)
  • filo pastry
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup clarified butter (such as ghee) or extra virgin olive oil, or a mix of the two


  1. Cut each chicken breast into 2 or 3 pieces.
  2. Heat the safflower or olive oil in a large sauce pan. Over medium high temperature, fry the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes per side.
  3. Add the onions, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cumin and coriander to the chicken. Sauté until the onions become a bit translucent.
  4. Add enough boiling water to cover the chicken. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, saffron, salt and pepper. Gently simmer the spiced chicken at the lowest possible heat setting for 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Take the chicken off the heat, and cool (sitting in the liquid) for about 30 minutes, or when it’s easy to handle.
  6. Remove the chicken pieces and reserve the liquid and onions.
  7. Discard the skin and bones, then shred the chicken into a bowl. Toss with the sumac berries.
  8. Strain the broth and onions with a strainer into another bowl.
  9. You want to keep the onions, so pick out and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon sticks and ginger chunks (if used).
  10. For the reserved broth, remove the top layer of fat. You can save and freeze the fat for later use (e.g., matzo ball soup).
  11. Put the onions and broth into a medium sauce pan. Reduce over medium high heat until there’s only about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of broth remaining.
  12. Stir the eggs, parsley, cilantro and mint into the onion broth. Adjust with additional salt and pepper, if you wish. Reduce heat to low and cook until the eggs form a softly scrambled custard.
  13. Remove from heat. Stir in ricotta cheese, if desired.
  14. Mix the sugar with the ground cinnamon. Stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons of this into the egg custard.
  15. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Grease a glass or ceramic baking dish.
  16. Put a sheet of filo in the dish, then brush a thin layer of olive oil or butter on top of the entire sheet.
  17. Repeat the above step for half (about 10 to 12 sheets) of the filo sheets.
  18. Spread the shredded chicken over evenly, allowing about 1/2 inch from the edge of the dish. Pour the egg custard on top.
  19. Add 2 more sheets of filo, again with butter or oil in between.
  20. Spread the almonds on top, the sprinkle with the rest of the sugar cinnamon mixture.
  21. Apply the remaining sheets (with butter or oil in between), then tuck in any overhanging sheets. Brush the surface of the bstilla with a thin layer of butter or oil.
  22. Bake for 40 minutes, then raise the heat to 400F degrees, and bake for another 15 minutes until the bstilla becomes golden.
  23. Slice, serve, consume.

Submit a comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked with a red diamond, .