Grilled zaatar chicken is juicy and delicious. The key to this recipe is a simple marinade of zaatar and citrus.
We love grilling and if you do too, you're in the right place. Feeding a family? Try our grilled spatchcock chicken. Grilling for a party? Bring on the Persian style grilled wings and if you're looking for a ton of flavor, give this grilled zaatar chicken recipe a try and you'll be hooked. Despite its simplicity, this recipe will give you juicy grilled chicken bursting with middle eastern flavors. Serve it alongside some grilled vegetables for a delicious meal!
Table Of Contents:
What is zaatar?
Zaatar is a Palestinian spice made from combining thyme, oregano, sumac and sesame seeds (plus other additions based on the region). It's commonly used in the Middle East, especially Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. Zaatar has a zesty, herbal and earthy flavor that's different from any other spice.
Zaatar can be used in different ways, the most common one being served with fresh pita bread and olive oil or used to flavor pita chips. Another common way to use zaatar is to make manakish, which is a delicious zaatar bread.
Why this recipe works
Everyone loves grilled chicken, whether it's shish tawook, grilled whole chicken, chicken kebabs or marinated pieces of chicken. When marinated with zaatar and lemon, the chicken gets a special flavor that's hard to resist.
This is an easy grilled chicken recipe that's packed with so much flavor. It's quick and perfect for a nice summer dinner. There are so many ways to serve this chicken including plates and wraps, more on that below!
Here are the essential ingredients you'll want to have on hand:
- Chicken thighs: I love using boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe because they're juicy and don't dry out. However, it's possible to make this recipe with boneless skinless chicken breast as well.
- Olive oil: Get your hands on a quality extra virgin olive oil if possible and use that in your cooking, you'll notice the difference.
- Garlic: I usually use a lot of garlic in cooking, but for this particular recipe, I only used 2 cloves to make sure it won't overpower the flavor of zaatar.
- Zaatar: This is what's going to give the chicken all the flavor so don't be shy using it.
To make the herb yogurt sauce, you need a few ingredients as well:
- Yogurt: I love using my homemade instant pot yogurt, but you can use Greek yogurt or any other kind of plain yogurt.
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a bit of brightness to the sauce.
- Tahini: Yogurt and tahini go very well together.
- Parsley and cilantro: Herbs are essential for this sauce so make sure you use some fresh herbs.
Marinate the chicken
Cut small slits on the chicken thighs and set aside. In a large bowl mix extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, zaatar and salt. Place the chicken in the bowl and make sure they're completely coated with the marinade. Cover and marinate for at least one hour up to 6 hours.
Grill the chicken
Preheat the grill to 400°F and make sure the grates are clean. Using tongs and an oiled kitchen paper towel, grease the grates so the chicken won't stick. Place the chicken thighs on the grates and grill for a for about 6 minutes. Flip and grill for another 6 minutes until cooked through.
Serve with yogurt sauce
Make the yogurt sauce by mixing yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, minced garlic and chopped herbs. Slice the chicken and serve with the yogurt sauce and your favorite side dishes.
Frequently asked questions
This really depends on the heat and the thickness of the chicken. For chicken thighs, it usually takes between 6 to 8 minutes on each side to grill and cook. As for boneless skinless chicken breast, it usually takes about 5 minutes for each side to grill if the piece is not too thick.
The chicken should be pretty firm when poked with finger. You can also use a meat thermometer, the chicken is cooked when the thermometer registers at 165°F.
Yes, you can make this recipe with bone-in skin-on chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts. Cooking time may vary depending on the cut of chicken you're using.
If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. You can reheat them in the microwave, oven or in a pan. Serve the leftovers on salad, in a wrap or with rice.
The best way to serve this middle eastern grilled chicken is to have a middle eastern feast! You can make wraps using fresh pita or lavash, hummus, serve with green bean salad, fattoush salad, grilled asparagus or grilled Mediterranean vegetables and maybe even some labneh and toum on the side, you can have a delicious feast in the comfort of your home.
You can also serve this grilled chicken on a plate with some Lebanese rice and vermicelli and tabouli salad, the combination is totally a winner!
Another favorite way to have grilled zaatar chicken is with a side of Mediterranean potato salad or cucumber tomato feta salad, perfect for a summer bbq party.
More grilling recipes
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Grilled Zaatar Chicken Recipe
- 2 lb chicken thighs boneless and skinless
- 3 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lemon juice of
- ¼ cup zaatar
- ½ teaspoon salt
Yogurt Herb Sauce
- ¾ cup yogurt
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoon tahini
- 2 tablespoon parsley chopped
- 2 tablespoon cilantro chopped
- Cut a few small slits on each chicken thigh and set aside. In a large bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, zaatar and salt. Place the chicken in the marinade and make sure all pieces are coated with the zaatar and olive oil mixture. Marinade for at least one hour up to six hours.
- When ready to grill, preheat the grill to 400°F and clean the grates. Using tongs and an oiled kitchen paper towel, grease the grates.
- Place the chicken thighs on the grill. Grill for about 6 minutes on one side, then flip and grill for another 6 to 7 minutes on the other side until the chicken is fully cooked.
- Mix yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, tahini, parsley and cilantro in a bowl and serve with grilled zaatar chicken.
- To make the yogurt sauce, you can use Greek yogurt or any other plain yogurt.
- If you don't have cilantro, use any other fresh herb you have on hand.
- The chicken is fully cooked when it's firm and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers at 165°F.
- I prefer using boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe, however, boneless skinless chicken breast works too.
What if I wanna put it in the oven? For how long should be cooking and what degree?
400 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cooking time might vary depending on the cut and thickness of the chicken.
Grilled the thighs on a a flat top. Sliced and served in grilled pita along with grilled tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, onion, & feta. Topped with the yogurt sauce. Served hummus with olive oil & sumac. Top notch.
Could I freeze the chicken in the marinade, defrost, then grill?
Yes. Just make sure it's fully defrosted and not too cold.
One of the best recipes I’ve come across in years! And only 4 ingredients (well, 5 if you count the chicken). I made this using boneless chicken breasts, and I didn’t bother with the sauce - I just made the za’atar marinade and it was so good we didn’t miss the sauce. Mixed the olive oil, za’atar, garlic & lemon juice together, added the chicken and let it marinade for about an hour & grilled it over charcoal. Just fantastic. My teenage son doesn’t like a lot dishes we make, but he asks for this one on a regular basis. Goes great with tabouli, pilaf, dolmas, hummus… you name it.
Thank you Bill for your kind comment! Happy to know you all liked this recipe!
This chicken was SO delicious! It was so juicy and I loved the flavor that the yogurt herb sauce added. Served over a salad and it was just perfect!
Grilled this up over the weekend and it was a hit! Not only was it easy to make but so delicious! Can't wait to make again!
Deluxious!+ We ook maakte again . The sauce is good on roasted pepper and Rice.