Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Za’atar
Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Za’atar is perfect for an easy summer dinner, and we bought chicken thighs when they were on sale to make this dish!
For the recipes on this blog I try to walk a fine line between trying interesting foodie things that catch my eye and using ingredients most people will have, so if anyone just wrinkled their nose up at the mention of Za’atar (affiliate link) in this delicious Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Za’atar, let me start by emphasizing that you can make this grilled chicken even if you don’t have Za’atar!
I’ve shared a few recipe with Za’atar, a middle eastern spice blend of fresh or dried thyme, sesame seeds, Sumac (affiliate link), and salt. You can make your own Za’atar if you have those ingredients but not the blend, or you can make this chicken with lemon juice, olive oil, and whichever of those seasonings you do have and it will still be delicious, so relax about that!
I’m known for my fondness for juicy grilled chicken breasts, so you might be surprised to see me using chicken thighs with skin, but they were on sale, and this chicken was really delicious. Lemon and Za’atar are a classic middle eastern combination. Bone-in chicken takes a little longer to cook than chicken breasts, and you need a grill where you can turn down the temperature (or make it lower heat on one side), but otherwise, this is as easy as it gets for delicious grilled chicken!
What ingredients do you need for this recipe?
- bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
- fresh squeezed lemon juice, I used my fresh-frozen lemon juice for some of the lemon juice
- one lemon for making lemon zest
- Garlic Powder (affiliate link)
- Za’atar Spice Mix (affiliate link)
- fresh ground black pepper
- olive oil
- fresh lemon pieces to squeeze on at the table (optional)
How to make the recipe:
(Scroll down for complete recipe with nutritional information.)
- If you can find lovely pre-trimmed chicken thighs like these I bought on sale at Harmons Grocery in Utah, that will save time. (Harmons has no idea I’m giving a shout-out to their chicken and have certainly never paid me to do it, just in case anyone is wondering!) Otherwise you’ll need to trim the chicken and remove some of the skin.
- Zest the lemon skin and then squeeze the juice. You’ll probably need 2 lemons to get this much juice unless you have lemon juice in the freezer.
- Mix together marinade ingredients.
- Put trimmed chicken and marinade in a large Ziploc bag or plastic container with a snap-tight lid.
- Let chicken marinate in the fridge all day if you can, or even overnight.
- When it’s time to cook, drain chicken and let it come to room temperature while you preheat the grill to medium high and spray with non-stick grill spray or brush with oil. (If you can, preheat a different section to medium, or on a charcoal grill prepare one side with less charcoal so it’s not as hot.)
- Lay chicken skin side down on an angle to grill grates and cook without moving about 4 minutes.
- Then rotate at the opposite angle to make criss-cross marks and cook about 4 minutes more.
- Turn chicken over and turn the grill down to medium (or move chicken to a cooler part of the grill) and cook 20-25 minutes more, or until the chicken temperature is at least 165F/75C when you test the thickest part with an instant-read meat thermometer (affiliate link).
- Serve hot, with lemon to squeeze on at the table if desired (which I forgot to show in the photo!)
Make it a Meal:
Shown with the chicken is Chickpea Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, Basil, and Parsley, or this would also be delicious with Effie’s Easy and Amazing Cottage Cheese Salad with Za’atar if you want lower carbs.
More Tasty Chicken for Dinner:
Weekend Food Prep:
This recipe has been added to a category called Weekend Food Prep to help you find recipes you can prep or cook on the weekend and eat during the week!
- 8 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs, well trimmed with only the top piece of skin remaining (see notes)
- 6 T fresh squeezed (or fresh-frozen) lemon juice (see notes)
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 T Za’atar (see notes)
- 1/2 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper (or more to taste)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- fresh lemon pieces to squeeze on at the table (optional)
- If you don’t find pre-trimmed chicken thighs, trim excess fat and skin from each piece of chicken, leaving only the top flap of skin on each chicken thigh. (I don’t worry about internal fat for chicken thighs cooked on the grill because it keeps the chicken moist, and a lot of fat drips out.)
- Mix together the lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic powder, Za’atar (affiliate link), salt, and pepper, and then whisk in the olive oil to make the marinade.
- Put the trimmed chicken into a Ziploc bag or plastic container with a snap-tight lid, add the marinade, and let chicken marinate in the fridge all day if possible. (Or put chicken in the fridge to marinate when you go to bed at night and cook after work the next day.)
- When it’s time to cook, drain the chicken in a colander placed in the sink and let it come to room temperature before you cook it.
- Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat, spraying the grill with olive oil or brushing with a high-smoke point oil. If you’re preparing a charcoal grill, or a gas grill where you can have different temperatures on each side, make one side medium-high heat and the other side medium heat.
- When the chicken has reached room temperature, lay each piece skin-side-down at an angle to grill grates and let it cook without moving for about 4 minutes (or until you see nice grill marks on the skin when you lift up the edge of one piece.)
- When you have nice grill marks, rotate each piece of chicken so it’s at the opposite angle to the grill grates to create criss-cross marks, and cook about 4 minutes more.
- Turn chicken so skin side is up and turn down heat to medium or move chicken to a cooler part of the grill.
- Cook about 25 minutes more depending on how thick your chicken is.)
- For bone-in chicken I would definitely use an instant-read meat thermometer to make sure the chicken has reached the safe internal temperature of 165F/75C. (All the juices should be clear and not pink when you cut into a piece of chicken.)
- Serve hot, with piece of lemon to squeeze on at the table if desired.
(If you can buy pre-trimmed chicken thighs, I highly recommend it.) Za’atar is a blend of fresh or dried thyme, sesame seeds, Sumac, and salt. If you don’t have Za’atar (affiliate link) and don’t want to buy it, just use a teaspoon or two of dried thyme, Sumac, and sesame seeds, whichever ones you have, and a little pinch of extra salt. I used my fresh-frozen lemon juice for this recipe (affiliate links). Use more or less lemon to taste, but I like it lemony!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 221Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 450mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 8g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.
Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Chicken thighs aren’t recommended for the South Beach Diet because of the restrictions on saturated fat, but personally I’d eat this chicken for any phase of South Beach. I feel like some of the internal fat in the thighs will drip out on the grill (and it keeps the chicken moist) but if you prefer you can remove all the skin and use kitchen shears to trim as much fat as possible. This chicken should be great for other low-carb diet plans (with no concern at all about fat, especially for Keto) and it’s also Whole 30 or Paleo approved.
Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Grilling Recipes to find more recipes like this one.Use the Recipes by Diet Type photo index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.
Historical Notes for this Recipe:
This recipe was first posted in 2016. It was last updated in 2021.