Za’atar Chicken with Tahini Lemon Sauce
If you are looking for a simple chicken marinade that’s big on flavour and low on ingredients then look no further than this Za’atar Chicken with Tahini Lemon Sauce. The chicken is marinated in a delicious blend of garlic, lemon and za’atar spice, grilled and then topped with a creamy tahini and lemon sauce that takes just minutes to make.
Why You Will Love This Za’atar Chicken
- This Za’atar chicken is packed with middle eastern flavors and a great alternative to the same old chicken marinades that you likely make. It’s light and flavourful without being too overpowering in flavour, so you can serve it with a variety of side dishes.
- Other than the za’atar spice which you may not have in your spice cupboard, every other ingredient is a pantry/fridge staple which you will likely have on hand.
- The tahini lemon sauce is insanely tasty and what really takes the flavours in this dish from a boring chicken recipe to a memorable meal that you will want to make again and again.
- This Za’atar Chicken is Paleo, Whole30, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Specific Carbohydrate Diet Legal.
What Is Za’atar?
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend made from a combination of dried herbs, spices, and seeds. The exact ingredients may vary depending on the region, but the most common ingredients include dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. Other spices that may be used include oregano, marjoram, and cumin.
Za’atar originated in the Levant region of the Middle East, which includes modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel and has been used in Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years. It is a staple in many dishes including breakfast foods, salads and grilled meats. The mIddle eastern spice mix has a unique flavor profile with a slightly tangy, earthy, and nutty flavor with hints of citrus and herbaceous notes. The ground sumac in the blend adds a slightly tart and tangy taste, while the sesame seeds add a nutty texture and flavor.
Where Can I Buy Za’atar?
Want to make this za’atar chicken but don’t have any za’atar? Don’t stress! It’s a relatively easy spice to find. I have found za’atar in the herb and spice aisle of 2 of my local grocery stores, but you should also be able to find it at a local middle eastern market or grocery store. If you live in a more rural area then I would recommend buying it off amazon, although it’s a big bottle it will last years in your cupboard and can be used in an endless number of ways.
What’s In The Tahini Sauce?
The tahini lemon sauce contains just a few simple ingredients that are blended together to create a light, creamy sauce that is fantastic drizzled over top of the za’atar chicken. The ingredients in the sauce include:
- Tahini: Tahini is a paste made from ground, toasted sesame seeds. It has a nutty flavour and smooth and creamy consistency. You can usually find tahini in the grocery store in the same section as peanut butter (although sometimes it’s located in the Middle Eastern section).
- Lemon: fresh lemon juice for bottled lemon juice works
- Garlic: for the best flavour use garlic cloves rather then store bought minced garlic.
How To Make This Za’atar Chicken
This Za’atar Chicken is a very easy dish to prepare:
- To prepare the za’atar marinade in a large bowl whisk together the simple marinade of lemon juice, minced garlic, olive oil, za’atar spice blend and kosher salt. Add the chicken thighs and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.
- To make the tahini sauce in a blender or small bowl combine the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and pinch of salt and blend/whisk until light and fluffy in consistency. I prefer serving the tahini lemon sauce at room temperature for the best consistency.
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. The cook time may vary depending on the cut of chicken but for boneless skinless chicken thighs I recommend cooking for 6 minutes per side until golden brown in colour, and brushing with any excess marinade half way through on both sides of chicken. You can use a meat thermometer to check if the chicken is cooked through (look for an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit).
- Once the chicken pieces are done cooking garnish with fresh herbs such as chopped parsley, lemon halves and the tahini sauce on the side to drizzle overtop or dip the chicken into.
How Long Should I Marinate The Chicken For?
I recommend marinating the chicken for a minimum of 1 hour to allow some of the flavour to penetrate into the meat. I usually leave the chicken to marinate and cook it later the following day for the best flavour. Alternatively you could freeze the raw chicken in a ziploc bag with the marinade. Bring the frozen chicken out of the freezer and leave to thaw in the fridge overnight before grilling the chicken.
Can I Use Other Cuts Of Chicken?
Absolutely! You will just have to adjust the cooking times depending on the cut of chicken. For bone-in skin-on chicken thighs they should take approximately 25 minutes to cook through while boneless chicken breasts will take approximately 15 minutes.
Can I Cook The Za’atar Chicken In The Oven?
For the best flavour, I recommend grilling the chicken on the barbecue, but I completely understand that this isn’t always an option. The za’atar chicken can alternatively be cooked on a grill pan on the stove top on medium high heat. I like using a cast iron grill pan such as this one which I have been using for years in my kitchen to “grill” food. The chicken will get those nice dark grill marks and crisp edges that you would get on the barbecue. If you would prefer to cook the chicken in the oven, you can lay it out on a parchment paper lined large baking sheet or sheet pan or in a cast iron skillet along with any excess marinade and cook in the oven at 425° Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, flipping the chicken over half way through cooking.
What Should I Serve With This Za’atar Chicken?
This zaatar chicken is incredibly versatile and can be served with a variety of side dishes. I like serving it with a simple salad or grilled vegetables or with pita bread. It is also great served with this Middle Eastern Roasted Eggplant Salad, this Moroccan Couscous Salad, this Chopped Eggplant, Almond & Herb Salad, this Greek Salad with Cauliflower Couscous.
Can I Make This Za’atar Chicken In Advance?
The tahini and lemon sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. I recommend grilling the chicken up to a few hours in advance and quickly warming it in the oven before serving.
What About Leftover Za’atar Chicken?
Leftover za’atar chicken will last for up to 4 days in the fridge stored in an airtight container. I like adding any leftover chicken to a salad and using the tahini lemon sauce as salad dressing. This chicken dish is also delicious in a wrap or served on cauliflower rice with roasted veggies. Leftover tahini lemon sauce will last for up to a week in the fridge and can be served with any type of grilled beef, pork or fish or with grilled vegetables.
Here are a few more Middle Eastern inspired recipes that you might enjoy:
- Chicken Shawarma Platter
- Moroccan Cauliflower Couscous Salad
- Middle Eastern Lamb Stuffed Eggplant
- Middle Eastern Roasted Eggplant Salad
- Moroccan Chicken Skewers with Cauliflower Couscous
If you make this Za’atar Chicken recipe let me know in the comment section below, I would love to hear what you think or take a photo and tag me (@everylastbite_) on Instagram, I love seeing your photos!
Za'atar Chicken with Lemon Tahini Sauce
Tahini Lemon Sauce
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cloves garlic
- 2-3 tbsp water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- In a bowl whisk together all of the ingredients for the marinade (lemon juice, minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, za'atar and salt). Place the chicken thighs in a ziploc bag or bowl and pour the marinade overtop. Make sure all of the chicken pieces are coated in the marinade before transfering the chicken to the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour but ideally overnight.
- To make the tahini sauce combine the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a blender. Start by adding 2 tbsp of water and blend, depending on the consistency add another tablespoon (or more). The sauce should be light and fluffy and not too thin. Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve. This can be made up to 2 days in advance.
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high heat and lightly oil the grate. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 6 minutes minutes. Brush any of the excess marinade over the chicken as it cooks. Flip and cook the chicken for an additional 6 minutes on the other side (you can use a meat thermometer to check if the chicken is cooked through, look for an internal temp of 165° Fahrenheit).
- Once the chicken is done cooking place it on a platter, garnish with chopped parsley and the tahini sauce on the side to drizzle overtop or dip the chicken into.