One-Pot Wonders

Spiced Roast Chicken with Za'atar Yogurt

January  8, 2014
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 2, generously
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. —BurntCream

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • What We Eat Gals
    What We Eat Gals
  • Linda Lewinter
    Linda Lewinter
  • Bec
  • Virginia Martin
    Virginia Martin
  • procrastibaker

21 Reviews

Katherine G. March 18, 2021
This was so good and so easy to make! I used 6 bone in, skin on chicken thighs and marinated them for about an hour then as noted here baked at a higher temp (425) and then broiled for crispy skin. Served it with naan to soak up all the chicken juices mixed with the yogurt. I’ll definitely make this again!
What W. September 20, 2018
We've made this countless times. We usually leave out the water and use bone-in/skin-on chicken breasts cooking them at 425 for about 35-40 minutes. Very balanced and irresistible spice!
Linda L. February 9, 2017
I'd love to try this,but need a non-dairy substitute for the yoghurt. Any suggestions?
Marianne S. December 20, 2019
I know this was forever ago but answering just in case someone else is wondering this too. The flavors would be a great match for a goat milk yogurt if it is just cow dairy you can't have - otherwise I would go with a coconut milk yogurt.
afbpatterson June 2, 2016
This was absolutely delicious! I made a double recipe and enjoyed it with couscous, and now the leftovers, with some naan. Weeknight-easy, too. It's going into my regular rotation.
Margaret G. February 29, 2016
Has anyone made this with chicken breasts? If so, did you make any changes to the recipe?
Bec June 14, 2015
This sounds absolutely divine! I'm going to save this recipe for next weekend :)
Missie April 12, 2015
WOW! Just made this with my hubby & it was phenomenal! Added red peppers to the onion base & it was so rich!
BurntCream April 13, 2015
Great idea to add the peppers! I'll try that next time.
Virginia M. April 9, 2015
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.
BurntCream April 13, 2015
So glad you liked it!
procrastibaker September 10, 2014
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.
BurntCream September 18, 2014
So glad you liked it! Great idea to crisp up the skin under the broiler.
Marcia S. March 16, 2014
Are the onions chopped(in recipe) or sliced(in opening comments) and/or sprinkled on with cilantro
BurntCream March 17, 2014
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.
Jenny March 5, 2014
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!
BurntCream March 6, 2014
Hi Jenny
So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for pointing out the omission of salt - of course it makes all the difference.
A. March 2, 2014
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!
BurntCream March 6, 2014
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:

Hope you like it!
LeBec F. January 11, 2014
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.
BurntCream January 11, 2014
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.