Grilled Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Za’atar
Grilled Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Za’atar are perfect for an easy summer dinner, and this tasty grilled chicken is low-carb, Keto, low-glycemic, gluten-free, South Beach Diet friendly, dairy-free, Paleo, and Whole 30 approved. Use the Diet-Type Index to find more recipes like this one.
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 in these delicious Grilled Chicken Thighs 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 (which I am crazy about), 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 this chicken was really delicious. Lemon and Za’atar are a classic middle eastern combination and the recipe was adapted from Za’atar and Lemon Grilled Chicken that was part of a piece on cooking over a campfire at Sunset Magazine.
After I tried Sunset’s version I switched it up a bit with a lot more lemon and less Za’atar, and cooked it over a gas grill of course. 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!
If you can find lovely pre-trimmed chicken thighs like these I bought 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 lemon and then squeeze the juice. You will probably need at least 2 lemons to get this much juice unless you have lemon juice in the freezer like I always do. Mix together marinade ingredients and 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 20-30 minutes more, or until the chicken temperature is at least 165F/75C when you test the thickest part with an instant-read meat thermometer.
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:
Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker Chicken Recipes Index Page ~ Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker
Rosemary-Mustard Grilled Chicken or Zucchini ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
Slow Cooker Middle Eastern Garlic Chicken ~ The Perfect Pantry
20 Fabulous Beat-the-Heat Summer Salads from Leftover Chicken ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
Weekend Food Prep:
This recipe has been added to a new category called Weekend Food Prep to help you find recipes you can prep or cook on the weekend and eat during the week!
Grilled Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Za’atar
Grilled Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Za’atar are perfect for an easy summer dinner.
- 8-10 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs, well trimmed with only the top piece of skin remaining
(If you can buy pre-trimmed chicken thighs, I highly recommend it.)
- 6 T fresh squeezed (or fresh-frozen) lemon juice (more or less to taste, but I like it lemony!)
- 2 tsp. lemon zest (zest the lemon before you squeeze the juice!)
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 T Za’atar (See suggestions after the recipe if you don’t have Za’atar.)
- 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, 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 20-30 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.
Za’atar is a blend of fresh or dried thyme, sesame seeds, Sumac, and salt. If you don’t have Za’atar 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.
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.
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