Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Za'atar

  • Nov 01, 2020
  • By Anatã India

As anyone who has cooked chicken sheet-pan recipes before knows, the secret weapon behind so many (seemingly) effortless dinners is a make-ahead chicken dish that can just be put into the oven when needed. All the work is done in advance, which means that at dinnertime there is little fuss, and happy feasting. It’s a complete winner every time.

This plump and juicy roast chicken benefits from tenderizing in a lemon-garlic marinade for as long as 24 hours, but if you don’t have a lot of time, you can marinate it for a minimum of 2 hours as well! 
This recipe is adapted from a cook-book by Sami Tamimi - Falastin, by the super talented Saumya Gupta!


  • 3 lemons 
  • 1 whole chicken, segmented into legs, thighs and breasts
  • 2 onions, peeled, sliced in half and then cut into 3 wedges 
  • 2 heads of garlic, skin on, sliced in half width ways 
  • 2 tsp sumac 
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice 
  • 4 tbsp za'atar 
  • 90 ml olive oil
  • 200 ml chicken stock or water 
  • 5g parsley, finely chopped 
  • 30g flaked almonds, toasted 
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste 
  1. Cut 2 of the lemons into ¼-inch/6mm-thick slices and place in a large mixing bowl. Finely grate the zest of the remaining lemon (to get 1½ tsp of zest) and set this aside for later. Squeeze the same lemon to get about 1½ tbsp of juice and add this to the mixing bowl along with the chicken, onions, garlic, sumac, allspice, 2 tbsp of za’atar, 2 tbsp of oil, the stock, 1½ tsp of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well to combine, then cover with a large plate and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or overnight, if you have time).
  2. Half an hour or an hour before baking, take the chicken out of the fridge; it should be at room temperature before going into the oven.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a large rimmed baking sheet, skin side up, and pour on all the marinade and lemon slices. Drizzle the chicken with 1 tbsp of oil and bake for about 45 minutes, giving everything a bit of a stir halfway through, until the chicken is golden and cooked through and the onions have taken on some color.
  5. Toward the end of the cooking time for the chicken, combine the parsley, lemon zest, remaining 2 tbsp of za’atar, and remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil in a bowl.
  6. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter along with the lemon slices and any juices that have collected at the bottom of the pan. Some people will love to eat the lemon slices and others won’t. Either way, serve them up with the chicken—they look great.
  7. Spoon the parsley mixture on the chicken, finish with the almonds, and serve.

Za’atar, a Middle Eastern herb-and-spice blend, can still be hard to find in the supermarket, so make your own by combining sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, coriander, oregano and cumin.

Tamimi, S. and Wigley, T., 2020. Falastin: A Cook Book. 1st ed. United Kingdom: Ebury.


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