Lemon & Za’atar Chicken

Lemon & Za’atar Chicken

OK so if you haven’t heard of Za’atar before then a) I’m impressed you’re reading this recipe for Lemon & Za’atar Chicken. And b) you are in for a treat!

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb and spice blend that’s traditionally eaten with olive oil and flat bread.

The blend is made from Sumac (another Middle Eastern spice), sesame seeds, dried Za’atar (a herb) and salt. But other dried herbs such as thyme, oregano and / or parsley can be used instead of the dried Za’atar.

The major flavours are herby (from the herbs!) and lemony from the sumac. There’s also nuttiness from the sesame seeds.

It’s absolutely delicious especially when teamed here with roast chicken and lemon. But I also adore it with eggs, cauliflower and broccoli.

Of course, if you don’t have Za’atar see the variations below. I’ve made the version with ground coriander and flaked almonds and it was honestly just as delicious as the original. In fact the boys liked it better (probably because it wasn’t green).

And if the thought of chopping up a chicken scares you, just use pre-cut pieces. If using boneless chicken reduce the oven temp to 200C (400F) as they won’t need the fierce heat.

Lemon & Za’atar Chicken
5 from 1 vote

Lemon & Za'atar Chicken

Course Dinner
Cuisine middle eastern
Keyword chicken, lemon, za'atar
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 1 whole chicken approx 1.5kg / 3lb OR 8 bone in thighs OR 4 marylands
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 onions
  • 3 tablespoons za’atar OR see variations
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 bag salad leaves


  1. Turn your oven to 250C (480F).
  2. If using the whole chicken, place on a chopping board breast side down. Cut down each side of the back bone using a sharp knife or poultry shears. You'll need to cut through the bones so be prepared to use your muscles and your sharpest knife. Remove the backbone and discard (I freeze it to make stock). Then turn the chicken over so the breast is facing upwards. Use your hands to press onto the middle of the breast to flatten out the bird. Then cut lengthwise down the middle of the breast to create two even halves. You'll need to cut through some bone but it won't be as difficult as the back. Then lift up one leg and cut between the thigh and breast to separate them. You shouldn't need to cut through bone this time. Repeat with the other half so you end up with 2 breasts and 2 legs. Give yourself a pat on the back!
  3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with baking paper (for easier clean up). Place the chicken pieces on the tray. Slice 2 lemons into rounds about 5mm (1/4 inch) and place on the tray. Save the other lemon for making the sauce. Cut each onion lengthwise into 8 wedges, discarding the skin. Place them on the tray as well.
  4. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of the za'atar (save the rest for the sauce), all spice, salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Drizzle the spiced oil over the chicken, smearing it with the back of a spoon to coat as much of the chicken as you can.
  5. Pop in the oven on the middle shelf. Set your timer for 20 minutes.
  6. While the chicken is roasting, make the sauce by mixing the last tablespoon Za'atar with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. Taste and season with more salt or lemon as needed. Make a mental note that this sauce is divine on all sorts of things especially eggs.
  7. When the timer rings for the chicken, carefully remove it from the oven. Test it with a meat thermometer by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part. I generally test a few places to get a feel for how we're travelling. If it reads 73C (163F) or higher it's done. But you'll probably need to turn the chicken over so the skin side is touching the tray. And scoop the onion and lemon into the middle so they don't burn (or remove the onion and lemon and keep in a clean bowl in a warm place).
  8. If the chicken needs longer return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Test again as above.
  9. When the chicken is 73C (163F) or higher. Divide the chicken between 4 plates. Drizzle over the sauce and serve with salad leaves on the side. If you can, wait 5-10 minutes for the chicken to rest before tucking in - this will help the chicken stay moister.

Recipe Video

Net Carbs: 9g / serve

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Variations & Substitutions Lemon & Za’atar Chicken

no za’atar – replace za’atar with a home made spice blend of 1/2 ground coriander and 1/2 roast flaked almonds (or sesame seeds).

short on time – pan fry the onion and lemon until the onion is soft. Then cook some boneless chicken in the pan until just cooked through. Serve with the lemon za’atar sauce as above.

vegetarian – use cauliflower or eggplant instead of the chicken. And serve with roast nuts or add some cooked chickpeas at the end for protein.

more substantial (carb lovers) – serve with roast sweet potato or roast potatoes or steamed rice or cooked buttered couscous.

more substantial (low carb) – serve with beautiful broccoli or other low carb veg. Avocado and /or roast nuts will work really well too.

Low FODMAP – skip the onion and you’re all good :)

different vegetables – feel free to add more veg to the roasting tray. Eggplant, mushrooms, cauliflower, wedges of cabbage, zucchini

different protein – boneless chicken breast or thigh fillets, sausages or salmon fillets will work (just reduce oven temp to 200C / 400F) so they don’t over cook. Or serve the sauce with fried, boiled or poached eggs with or without the roast onion and lemon.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

chicken – freeze it.

lemon – whole lemon will keep wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge for months.

onion – will keep in the pantry for months. Best if in a dark corner in a brown paper bag.

Za’atar / all spice / salt – keep them in the pantry.

salad leaves
– are highly perishable. My first path would be to use them for another meal (salad for breakfast!) but if that isn’t possible you can pop them in the freezer. They will wilt down but can then be used anywhere you’d use wilted greens.

Problem Solving Guide

bland – more salt! More lemon.

too dry – overcooked chicken sorry! Next time get it out earlier. For now a drizzle of the sauce will help.

no oven – see the short on time variation above.

Prepare Ahead Lemon & Za’atar Chicken

Best when freshly made. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or can be frozen.

Lemon & Za’atar Chicken

More simple recipes like Lemon & Za’atar Chicken

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

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  • Hi Jules, I recently discovered Za’tar and love its flavours. Looking forward to trying it with this recipe. I have been using it with the kale, broccoli, zuchini red cabbage stir fry we cook for breakfast.

    • oh yes za’atar is fantastic with eggs Charlotte – I hadn’t thought to try it with sweet potatoes for my boys – thanks for the idea :)

  • I would never keep leftover chicken for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. If I’m not going to eat it within 3 to 4 days I would freeze it.

    • If that’s what you’re comfortable with then do that Jennifer – I’m just sharing what I routinely do :)

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