Spiced Roast Chicken with Za'atar Yogurt

By • January 8, 2014 15 Comments

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Author Notes: There are few things in life that make me feel more smug and self-satisfied than calmly sitting with a glass of wine, in a spanking-clean kitchen, dishes done, with the smell of something fantastic and slow-roasting emanating from the oven. Such feelings are evoked by this spiced roast chicken. In fact, once you have gotten the chicken into marinade, your work is basically done, which means that you can probably squeeze in two self-congratulatory glasses of wine.

If you can bring yourself to dirty a small bowl, the tangy, herbal yogurt is the perfect foil to the rich, spicy chicken and its deliciously crispy skin. Za’atar is a blend of thyme, oregano and sesame seeds that you can buy in some supermarkets or here. Or you can make your own, if you feel so inclined.

Eat this chicken with a salad, with rice, or with cous cous. If you have leftovers, you can strip the meat off of the bones and stuff it into a pita topped with yogurt and chile sauce—you’ll be in such a happy place.

Food52 Review: This is one of those dishes that can be easily prepped before you leave for work and baked when you get home—something you’d be happy to serve to your guests. It's a very tasty meal with ingredients that, aside from the za'atar, you're likely to already have in your kitchen. A quickly prepared marinade adds a fresh, bright note to the dish, which is magnified by cooking the chicken pieces atop sliced onions. But the tangy yogurt sauce with za’atar really makes the dish shine! Be sure to have some pita bread on hand to soak up the good chicken juices and sauce.Auntie Allyn

Serves 2, generously

For the roast chicken:

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 chicken leg quarters, divided into thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 splash water
  • 1 red onion, halved and finely sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 spring onions, chopped, to serve
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped, to serve

For the za'atar yogurt:

  • 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons za'atar
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Coarsely smash the coriander and cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle or with the flat side of a chef's knife.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, spices, salt, oil, and water, and mix well so that the chicken is evenly coated. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and as long as overnight.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, heat your oven to 375° F (190° C). Spread the onions out on a roasting pan and place the chicken, skin-side up so that it crisps nicely, on top so that the meat is protected from sticking to the bottom. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the meat is pierced.
  4. Sprinkle with chopped spring onions and cilantro.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, za’atar, and olive oil, and spoon it over the chicken as desired to serve.

More Great Recipes: Chicken|Entrees|Olive Oil

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Comments (15) Questions (2)


3 months ago Bec

This sounds absolutely divine! I'm going to save this recipe for next weekend :)



5 months ago Missie

WOW! Just made this with my hubby & it was phenomenal! Added red peppers to the onion base & it was so rich!


5 months ago BurntCream

Great idea to add the peppers! I'll try that next time.


5 months ago Virginia Bacon

This was great with the one change of roasting at a higher temperature (I did 425). The za'atar yogurt will probably make appearances as a condiment with other dishes in the future.


5 months ago BurntCream

So glad you liked it!


12 months ago procrastibaker

The flavors in this are fantastic. I marinated for an hour, although next time I'll try for overnight so the flavors can really soak in. It took about 45 minutes at 375F for the chicken to be fully cooked, and the skin wasn't crispy, so I put it under the broiler for a minute and a half at the very end, which crisped everything up nicely. Next time I'll double the recipe so I can be sure to have leftovers for pita sandwiches the next day.


12 months ago BurntCream

So glad you liked it! Great idea to crisp up the skin under the broiler.


over 1 year ago Marcia Stern

Are the onions chopped(in recipe) or sliced(in opening comments) and/or sprinkled on with cilantro


over 1 year ago BurntCream

Hi Marcia,
There are two kinds of onions in the recipe: red onions which are sliced and roasted with the chicken and spring onions (scallions) which are chopped up and used for garnish.


over 1 year ago Jenny

Delicious, and I only marinated for 5 minutes. The onions roasted in chicken fat were a nice addition. Don't forget to add a healthy pinch of salt to your spice mixture!


over 1 year ago BurntCream

Hi Jenny
So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for pointing out the omission of salt - of course it makes all the difference.


over 1 year ago A.

How about providing a recipe for za'atar? Also, I've never, ever had chicken pieces roast til done at 375 degrees for 35 mins. Its still nastily bloody. Was that an error? Can't wait to try this!


over 1 year ago BurntCream

Hi A
The roasting time and temperature works for me but I guess it all depends on the size of your chicken pieces. To be on the safe side, always cook until the juices run clear when you pierce the thickest part.

I use za'atar from a jar but there is a recipe for it from onetribegourmet here: http://food52.com/recipes...

Hope you like it!


over 1 year ago LE BEC FIN

hi bc, i may make this soon, so th you! plse tell me- what is the function of the water in the marinade? i've never seen anything like that.


over 1 year ago BurntCream

Hi there! I find that the water keeps everything just a little juicier and moister. It adds a little steam to the cooking process. It's only a splash, and you could easily omit if if you prefer. I hope you enjoy, let me know how you get on.