This za'atar/ zaatar chicken is easy to make, wonderfully moist and the flavors are gentle but fragrant. It's a delicious way to prepare chicken that pairs well with a whole range of sides.
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I wasn't brought up with Middle Eastern flavors, but they are definitely ones I have grown to love. Like Spanish food, which I have been lucky enough to try a lot of, I love that so many are relatively simple recipes that rely on good quality ingredients.
And in the case of many Middle Eastern foods, plenty of herbs. In many cases, this means fresh herbs such as in a Persian herb frittata or tabbouleh salad. But in this case, dried herbs take a turn to shine.
What is za'atar?
Za'atar is both a herb and a spice blend found in the Levant region. The herb is a kind of wild thyme and it is traditionally used as part of the spice blend of the same name. However it has become more scarce due to over-harvesting and it not generally commercially cultivated.
As a result, za'atar spice blend often uses other herbs in its place. In all cases, the herbs are blended with sumac and sesame seeds, plus sometimes a little salt and/or aromatic spices like cumin.
It's pretty widely available to buy these days, though do take care to check the ingredients, as not all versions are as good as others. Some skimp on sumac and use citric acid, or add other unnecessary fillers. You can also make it very easily at home (check out my recipe linked above!).
You can use the herb blend in a number of ways and it makes a lovely simple seasoning for chicken, with just a few small additions.
I've adapted this in a few ways, generally to make things easier but keeping the essential flavors of the dish. I also wasn't as keen on a heavily za'atar-crusted chicken as I have seen as I felt it could be overly bitter.
See how it comes together in the short video!
This combination is easy to make and with a delicious balance of flavors. You have citrus from the sumac and lemon and the gentle aromatics of the herbs.
Za'atar chicken pairs perfectly with couscous and salads (especially Middle Eastern ones, or relatively simple as we had here). It also works with a range of vegetables and legumes like chickpeas, green beans or cauliflower. Whatever you serve it with, this is one delicious meal.
Try these other chicken recipes:
- Palestinian sumac chicken - mussakhan
- Aji de gallina (Peruvian chicken stew with a chili, walnut and cheese sauce)
- Chicken Provençal (with tomatoes, herbs, olives and wine)
- Goat cheese stuffed chicken with spinach and cranberries
- Chicken saltimbocca (topped with prosciutto and a wine-based sauce)
- Plus get more mains recipes in the archives.
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice approx ½ lemon
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoon za'atar
- ¼ red onion or ½ small
- 1 ¼ lb boneless chicken thighs 560g, approx (or can use chicken breast if you prefer)
- 1 ½ tablespoon pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and za'atar in a baking dish large enough to snugly hold the chicken when opened up.
- Thinly slice the onion and add this plus the chicken to the marinade. Toss to coat the chicken all over then cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Take the chicken out of the fridge as the oven is pre-heating to come to room temperature. Bake the chicken for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces of chicken, so that it is cooked through.
- While the chicken is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet/frying pan until gently browned. Finely chop the parsley. Sprinkle the parsley and pine nuts over the chicken once cooked and serve.
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