A quick and flavorful recipe for lemon chicken with savory fried chickpeas and herby green tahini sauce. Serve with pita, whole wheat bulgur or couscous.
This lemony za’atar chicken is rubbed with the Middle Eastern spice blend za’atar.
It makes a simple, one-dish meal with quick-fried chickpeas and an herby tahini sauce —with even more lemon!
Minimal prep and maximum flavor: Those two things are at the top of any busy (and hungry) person’s priorities.
Cooking a complete meal in less than an hour makes me very happy, especially when it’s a perfect pairing of interesting flavors and textures.
In this case, boneless chicken gets spiced-up with lemon and za’atar.
The whole dish has a Middle Eastern flair, tied together with feta cheese, flash-fried chickpeas and an herbal tahini sauce.
What is za’atar?
Za’atar (zahtar) a/k/a “magic dust,” is both an herb and a seasoning blend.
The herb is also known as Syrian oregano or hyssop and is related to mint and oregano.
It grows wild in the Middle Eastern regions of Lebanon, Syria and Israel, as well in Mediterranean areas of Southern Europe.
As a spice blend za’atar has varying components depending on region. But for the most part, it’s basically a mixture of the dried za’atar herb, thyme, sesame seeds and sumac.
It’s deeply aromatic in a way that will remind you of oregano times ten, with a splash of green grass, pepper and a hint of smoke.
You find za’atar in the spice section of large supermarkets, spice shops and definitely on Amazon.
Homemade za’atar spice
If you can’t find za’atar and want to make this recipe, mix a quick homemade blend:
Combine equal amounts of crushed or ground thyme, dried oregano, sumac and sesame seeds in a small jar and shake together.
If you can’t track down sumac, try mixing in freshly ground black pepper and ground coriander instead. It will taste really good, even if it’s not one hundred percent authentic.
Za’atar Lemon Chicken with Fried Chickpeas and Herb Tahini
Herb Tahini Sauce:
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 cup (10 g) Italian parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup (120 g) tahini paste
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water, plus additional as needed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Grated zest from 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (12 g) prepared za’atar seasoning
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or pressed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
- 1/2 cup (75 g) crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup (5 g) chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 (400 g) 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper, or to taste
- Kosher salt
Herb Tahini Sauce
- Pulse all the ingredients in a small food processor until smooth. Add more water if necessary to achieve a loose mayonnaise consistency. Taste and season with more salt if you like. Sauce keeps in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead.
- Mix the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, za'atar, garlic and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
- Cook the chicken on a preheated medium-hot grill until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. If cooking on a stovetop, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat lightly with oil. Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Add the oil, chickpeas, chili pepper and salt to taste. Fry the chickpeas, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or so until they become crisp and golden.
- Slice the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces and arrange on a serving plate. Pour some of the tahini sauce over the chicken. Top with the chickpeas, feta cheese and chopped parsley.