Grilled Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Za’atar
Grilled Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Za’atar are perfect for an easy summer dinner with great Middle Eastern flavors. And chicken thighs can be such a bargain if you buy them when they go on sale!
For recipes on this blog I try to walk a fine line between trying interesting things that catch my eye and using ingredients people will have, so if anyone just wrinkled their nose up at the mention of Za’atar in this 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 that middle-eastern Za’atar spice mix!
I’m known for my fondness for juicy grilled chicken breasts, so you might be surprised to see me making grilled chicken thighs with skin, but we found a great price for chicken thighs on sale, the skin got crispy and tasty on the grill, and this chicken was really delicious.
And no worries if you if you don’t have the Za’atar spice mix! You can make your own Za’atar, or you can make this chicken with lemon juice, olive oil, and just use whichever of the Za’atar seasoning ingredients you do have and it will still be delicious, I promise!
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)
What is Za’atar?
Za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend of fresh or dried thyme, sesame seeds, Sumac (affiliate link), and salt. If you don’t have any Za’atar for this recipe, just use whichever of those ingredients you have. Lemon and Za’atar are a classic middle eastern combination, and the other recipe I absolutely love that uses this spice blend is Effie’s Cottage Cheese Salad with Za’atar.
Are chicken thighs hard to cook on the grill?
Bone-in chicken takes a little longer to cook than chicken breasts, and for this recipe you need a grill where you can turn down the temperature (or make it lower heat on one side than the other), but otherwise, this is as easy as it gets for delicious grilled chicken!
More tasty recipe with chicken thighs:
If you do find a good buy on chicken thighs like we did, you might like to try Herb-Marinated Air Fryer Chicken Thighs, Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, or Roasted Lemon Chicken and Green Beans Sheet Pan Meal.
How to make Grilled Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Za’atar:
(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.
Make it a Meal:
Shown with the chicken in the photo is Chickpea Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Herbs If you want a low-carb meal I’d serve the chicken with something like Fattoush Lebanese Salad, Middle Eastern Tomato Salad, Grilled Eggplant with Feta and Herb, or Easy Grilled Vegetables
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 these grilled chicken thighs 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).
Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Grilling Recipes to find more recipes like this one.Use the Diet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest, on Facebook, on Instagram, or on YouTube 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 with more information in 2022.