Grilled zaatar chicken is juicy and delicious. The key to this recipe is a simple marinade of zaatar and citrus.
If you're firing up that grill, 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!
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.
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. To make this recipe, it's best to marinate the chicken for at least 6 hours. However, even one hour will work in a pinch.
I served my chicken with some delicious yogurt sauce for more flavor. Yogurt is a very important ingredient in our house!
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.
- Salt and pepper: Add to your liking and taste.
- 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.
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.
The best way to serve this middle eastern grilled chicken is to have a middle eastern feast! With fresh pita, hummus, fattoush salad and maybe even some labneh on the side, you can have a delicious feast in the comfort of your home. You can also serve this grilled chicken with some Lebanese rice and vermicelli, the combination is totally a winner!
Grilled Zaatar Chicken Recipe
- 2 lb chicken thighs boneless and skinless
- 3 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lemon juice of
- ¼ cup zaatar
- ½ tsp salt
Yogurt Herb Sauce
- ¾ cup yogurt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp parsley chopped
- 2 tbsp 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.