We're dressing up basic chicken legs with our favourite middle Eastern flair in this Za'atar Chicken recipe. Pack full of fresh flavours of the Mediterranean. Think – Za'atar, lemons and plenty of garlic! And my secret trick to take the taste to the next level.
This simple chicken recipe is just so easy, it's the must-have almost-not-a-recipe, recipe. Seriously—just arrange the chicken thighs in a pan, add rub garlic and lemon and sprinkle some za'atar spice and bake.
A simple aromatic chicken with our secret flavour-upgrade trick!
I'm sure you're wondering what kind of flavour-giving trick I'm referring to my almost-not-recipe, recipe?
It's Za'atar Sauce! Yep, that right sauce!
Za'atar is a Levantine signature spice mixture that makes a perfect quick-to-make chicken marinade. All you have to do is spoon some extra za'atar marinade over the chicken as soon as it comes out of the oven. Your chicken is going to be bursting of fresh, bright, herby flavour—and who doesn't what that?
What Is Za'atar?
Za'atar is an absolutely irresistible and famous Levantine spice blend that is a must-have in your life spice! Without a doubt, it will make just about anything you cook taste extra delicious!
Za'atar is so flavorful; it's no wonder why it's a staple in the Levantine pantry.
It's essentially the only spice we're using on this simple chicken recipe. Like most spice blends, the exact combination of spices in a container of za'atar varies a bit from jar to jar, as a result, za'atar comes into two different colours green and red.
Why is that, you may ask? Well, it comes does to the inclusion of sumac and sometimes fillers like wheat. So, consequently due to the possibility of wheat be used in the blend, it's best practice to read the ingredient label if you have celiac, allergies, and intolerances.
but typically za'atar is made up of:
- Wild thyme
- Sumac (in the red variety)
- Toasted sesame seeds
One Exotic Ingredient—Za'atar! Got It. What Else Do I Need?
Not much really! The za'atar gives this chicken recipe so much flavour; you don't need much else. Sometimes, I fry up some chicken breast with only Za'atar and olive oil. It's seriously that delicious!
Red blends of Za'atar include Sumac in the mix; if you have the green blend of za'atar you may want to add sumac to the recipe, however, it's optional. It's entirely up to you.
All you'll need is:
- Chicken legs
- Olive oil
- Sumac (optional)
- and za'atar of course!
How To Make This Easy Za'atar Chicken Recipe
Do you have a baking dish? Do you have a working oven? Do you know how to turn it on? YES! Mabrouk! Then you will be able to make this recipe. I Promise! Here's how to do it:
- Rub the chicken legs with half of a lemon then rub some mashed garlic on each leg.
- Sprinkle some za'atar and sumac, lightly rub it into the meat. Ensure, it evenly coats the chicken. Spread the chicken out on a sheet pan or any baking dish you have. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover and let marinate for 30 minutes or up to 6 hours in the fridge.
- Bake! Now you get to relax for 30 minutes well the chicken bakes.
- While the chicken bakes, whisk up some za'atar sauce—basically just lots, and lots, of olive oil, za'atar, half a lemon, a little garlic and salt.
- When the chicken thighs reach an internal temperature of 165°, and they're done! Pull them out of the oven. Embrace the smells of this chicken.
- Spoon on the za'atar sauce to finish, and then dig in.
Frequently asked questions
Can I use chicken breast?
Yes, chicken breast works very well for this recipe. And since they have light meat, the internal temperature will be lower than the whole chicken leg. You also need to cook for only 15 minutes at 400ºC, of course, the timing depends on the size and cut of the chicken breast. You're looking for the internal temperature to reach 160°F then you know the chicken is ready.
Can you marinate the chicken overnight?
No, I do not recommend marinating the chicken overnight. For most chicken marinades, it’s a great idea to marinate overnight. But since lemon juice makes up such a big part of this recipe, I would not recommend it here. You can marinate for a few hours, but any longer than that will result in tough and chewy chicken.
Where can I find za'atar?
you can find Za'atar in most well-stocked grocery stores, WholeFood, Middle Eastern grocers, and online
How do you store za'atar?
Storing za'atar is the same as any other spice, Likewise, an airtight container in a dark cool place is best.
Tips For Making Za'atar Chicken
- Allow the chicken to marinate. This is the time to allow the herby lemony flavour to infuse the chicken. You only need 30 minutes, and no longer than 6 hours to avoid tough chicken.
- Use a thermometer to indicate doneness. This is the most precise way of telling if the chicken is done and to avoid dry chicken. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 165°F degrees for dark meat.
- Rest the chicken before cutting. Resting the chicken is important because it allows the juices to redistribute themselves back through the chicken after cooking. It’s basically what keeps the chicken juicy.
- Brine your chicken! This is an optional step but one I regularly do to all my chicken. You simply clean and soak your chicken in a bath of water, vinegar, and salt.
Let's Make A Night of It!
This Za'atar chicken recipe makes for addition to an easy weeknight meal. But with big flavours and deliciously roasty chicken pieces, it's also perfectly fit for the guest. Just spruce it up with some Mediterranean side dishes to make it feel a bit more well-rounded. We love to serve Za'atar Chicken with:
- 4 chicken legs
- 4 large garlic cloves mashed into a paste(remove ¼ teaspoon for the za'atar oil)
- ½ lemon juiced
- 2 tablespoon za'atar
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- olive oil as needed
- a pinch of sea salt omit if the chicken has been brined
- 2-3 tablespoon za'atar
- ¼ teaspoon garlic
- ½ lemon juiced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- pinch of sea salt
- Prepare the chicken. Clean the chicken to remove excess fat and slimy bits. Cut four slits in to the chicken legs. Place the chicken in a baking dish or on a sheet pan.
- Flavour the chicken. Using half a lemon squeeze a little juice on each leg of chicken. Once the lemon juice has been add to each chicken leg, then gently rub the lemon peel against the chicken legs (be careful not to rip the skin) Remove ¼ teaspoon from your garlic paste and set aside for the za'atar sauce. Equally, distribute the garlic to each chicken leg, then rub the garlic all over the chicken.
- Sprinkle the za'atar. Your going to sprinkle ½ tablespoon of za'atar on to each chicken leg (if using sumac, add ½ teaspoon for the leg) Lightly pat the za'atar to ensure equal distribution of the spice but don't rub it or you'll end up without any spice in patches.
- Drizzle the oil. Quickly drizzle your olive oil over each chicken leg, your looking for a light drizzle not a bath of oil.
- Marinate. Cover your chicken, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes up to 6 hours. But no longer than 6 hours or you'll end up with tough chicken.
- Preheat oven. Heat to 400ºF. Once you've turned on the oven, take out the chicken from the fridge, this gives a chance for the chicken to lose some chill from the refrigeration before cooking.
- Bake. Bake the chicken for 40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165º. Once the chicken is cooked allow to rest 5 minutes before serving, this will allow the chicken to redistribute its juices and allow the za'atar sauce to infuse with the chicken.
- Make za'atar sauce. Mix together the za'atar sauce, well, the chicken is cooking. In a small bowl add the lemon juice, reserved garlic, za'atar and olive oil. The sauce should be a paste-like consistency and may thicken slightly once resting. If the sauce is too thin add more za'atar, if it's too thick add more olive oil. Taste for saltiness, you may not need any and if you do just add a pinch.
- Serve! enjoy this recipe with your family and friends