Feast-worthy spicy lemon za’atar chicken with shallots is succulent chicken thighs roasted in a punchy marinade. Serve with flatbread for a quick and easy kebab, or make a meal of it with multiple mezze sides.
Love a Middle Eastern spiced chicken dish? Then you have to try Chicken Musakhan. It’s another marinated and roasted chicken recipe but this one comes with a generous helping of soft red onions and pine nuts piled on a freshly baked flatbread.
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What is Za’atar?
It’s another Middle Eastern spice blend to add to your growing collection. It comes after both baharat and sumac on your orderly and alphabetised rack. But do I really need another, you ask? Yes, you do.
Za’atar is primarily dried herbs; thyme, oregano, and marjoram making the mix predominantly woody and earthy. However, with a hefty proportion of toasted sesame it’s also nutty and sweet.
Although variations are regional and personal, so blends can be wildly different, you’ll most likely detect the acidic tang of the sumac berry in there too.
Got room on that shelf now?
Za’atar roast chicken
It’s an explosive marinade of aromatic za’atar, chilli flakes, lemon juice and garlic locking in all the moisture of roasted chicken. The finished dish is irresistibly succulent meat bedded between lemon wedges and soft, syrupy shallots.
My twist on the traditional recipe is all about legs and thighs. A whole bird can be used but roasting smaller pieces suits me time wise, and I find the meat is more evenly coated making every bite juicy and intense.
Finally, I like to drizzle some cool and creamy tahini dressing over the ever so slightly charred chicken. It’s optional, but if you love lemon and garlic, as I do, you won’t be able to resist it either.
Recipe tips and notes
- The longer you can marinate, the better! I suggest 30 minutes as a minimum, but 3 hours will give you maximum flavour.
- Roasted shallots are sweet and buttery, and a pleasure to eat! However, regular onions will do if they’re what are available to you.
- I tend to use bone-in chicken thighs and legs. The meat is juicier and tastes more flavoursome. If you prefer to work with chicken breast, go ahead! Just reduce the oven time to 30 minutes.
- The tahini sauce in this recipe is optional, but it really adds a whole other flavour dimension that shouldn’t be skipped. The sauce can be used in so many other dishes too, like my Israeli salad or with roasted carrots, so I see it as an investment of time to make up a batch at any opportunity.
- A golden tinge to the cooked chicken skin makes it visually appealing. If it looks a little pale, you can put it under the grill, or broil it (US), for 2-3 minutes to give it that crispy edge.
- Serve the chicken with a side of baby potatoes, or with a heap of rice or couscous.
This delicious za’atar chicken is begging to take centre stage among a mezze table of Middle Eastern delights. Here’s how I serve mine:
With a homemade flatbread that is so easy to throw together. One, if not two salads: Fattoush salad which is lemony and refreshing with cucumber and ripe tomatoes, and/or Israeli salad which is finely chopped and crunchy with robust chickpeas.
Storage and leftovers
As delicious as it is hot, this chicken can be served cold too. So save those leftovers for a lunch time salad or a middle eastern- inspired sandwich or wrap. Cover the leftover chicken with cling film and it will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
If you prefer it hot, cover it with foil in and reheat it in the oven for 15 minutes at 180C/ 350F. Make sure the chicken is piping hot in the centre.
Other chicken recipes to try
- Chicken Provencal
- Spanish Style Baked Chicken Thighs with Potatoes
- Chicken Satay with Easy Peanut Sauce
- Chicken Paprikash
Spicy Lemon Za’atar Chicken with Shallots
- 1kg / 2.2lbs chicken thighs and legs bone in
- 2 tbsp 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp za'atar spice mix
- ¼ tsp red chilli flakes
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 5 shallots halved
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
For the lemon garlic tahini sauce
- 70g/1/3cup This is an affiliate link.tahini
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 lemon, juice of
- 4-5 tbsp cold water
- Parsley and mint for garnish
- In a large bowl combine the za’atar mix, olive oil, zest and juice of one lemon, chilli flakes and smashed garlic cloves, add the chicken thighs and legs, toss to coat, cover with cling film and let marinade for anywhere between 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on time availability.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Arrange the marinated chicken on a roasting pan, scrape the marinade on the chicken pieces and spread evenly, and add the halved shallots and lemon wedges and roast in the preheated oven for 50 minutes.
- Make the tahini sauce by combining the tahini with lemon juice, grated garlic and water until pourable consistency. Serve with the roasted chicken, sprinkled with fresh herbs.