4-Ingredient Za’atar Chicken Thighs

published Mar 4, 2024
Dinner Therapist
Za'atar Chicken Thighs Recipe

All you need is za'atar and lemon to make the most irresistible chicken.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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overhead shot of zaatar roasted chicken and broccoli on a sheet pan.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik ; Food Stylist: Kelli Foster

Dear Dinner Therapist: We’re a family with one picky eater while the rest of us like flavor, in a busy house with two working parents and two elementary age kids. We often have sports or activities in the evening and can’t always start cooking early. Right now we have pasta Thursdays and I like having the rhythm of expectation but struggle to fill those other days. I’m looking for a family-friendly dinner where we put some of it aside with less seasoning or no sauce so we’re eating similar meals if not the exact same thing. Thanks! – Laura

Laura, Slotting in a low-prep sheet pan chicken dinner one night a week is a total win for your family. These 4-ingredient za’atar chicken thighs are one of the best options I know for busy parents who also want to have an exit ramp strategy for any picky eaters. It’s a low-effort, high reward dinner that checks all the boxes that are a priority for you. Plus, the chicken is incredibly tender and juicy, and packed with herby, slightly nutty, bright lemony flavor. 

For your eater who prefers less of a big flavor, set aside as many chicken thighs and pieces of broccoli or cauliflower as you think they’ll eat, season with just olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe even a squeeze of lemon juice if they’re game. Cook this on a second sheet pan or make a little foil raft with high sides (that way no other seasonings creep in) and roast on the same sheet pan, following the same instructions. This variation is the easiest way to make one totally delicious dinner that everyone around the table will love.

Why You’ll Love It

  • This recipe is proof you don’t need a long list of ingredients, anything fancy, or a lot of effort to make a super flavorful dinner. 
  • It’s incredibly versatile and forgiving. The recipe calls for broccoli or cauliflower, but so many other vegetables, like green beans, halved Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and carrots would also work great. Halved fingerling or small red potatoes or cubed sweet potatoes would be fantastic (they won’t be crispy because they’ll soak up the pan juices, which is another level of deliciousness).

Key Ingredients in Za’atar Chicken Thighs

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are great because they’re more flavorful and less expensive than lean chicken breast, and aren’t as likely to dry out. Plan to use two pounds of this cut. Depending on the size of the thighs, it’ll be six to eight pieces total. 
  • Za’atar. This Middle Eastern spice blend has an herbaceous, tangy, slightly nutty flavor. The exact blend of ingredients varies from recipe to recipe, though commonly uses a mix of dried herbs like oregano and thyme (or more traditionally, dried za’atar leaves), ground sumac, and sesame seeds. It’s widely available in most grocery stores. (Another great family-friendly dinner that also calls for za’atar that I highly recommend is Brown Butter Za’atar Pasta.)
  • Lemon. This is a two-for-one ingredient. You’ll use both the zest and juice to maximize the bright lemon flavor in the chicken and vegetables. Squeezing an extra wedge of lemon over the cooked chicken is also a nice touch.
  • Broccoli or cauliflower. Choose one or the other, or use a combo of the two here. Just be sure to cut into 1/2-inch pieces. This ensures the broccoli or cauliflower has a crisp-tender bite with just a hint of browning on top.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik ; Food Stylist: Kelli Foster

How to Make Za’atar Chicken Thighs

  1. Marinate the chicken thighs. Coat the chicken thighs with a mix of olive oil, za’atar, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and marinate at room temperature while the oven heats. This step only takes 10 minutes and the chicken gets more flavor for it. If you don’t plan to use the za’atar rub on all the chicken pieces, exclude those pieces from this step.
  2. Prep the vegetables. Toss broccoli or cauliflower florets with olive oil, lemon juice, za’atar, and kosher salt directly on the baking sheet.
  3. Roast. Add the chicken to the baking sheet and roast until cooked through.
  4. Garnish. This step is totally optional, but I love finishing these za’atar roasted chicken thighs off with an extra squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of tahini, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley leaves. At the very least, spoon the juices at the bottom of the sheet pan over the chicken — it adds so much flavor.

Dinner Therapist is my column dedicated to solving your dilemmas around the most important — but, let’s be honest, sometimes most dreaded — meal of the day. Prepping dinner night after night can be so hard. Here, I deliver practical and hopefully fun advice to make cooking less complicated and more enjoyable. Follow along for all the recipes. Got your own dinner struggles? We want to hear from you! Fill out this super-quick form for your chance to be featured in an upcoming column.

Za'atar Chicken Thighs Recipe

All you need is za'atar and lemon to make the most irresistible chicken.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2

    medium lemons, divided

  • 4 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 3 tablespoons

    plus 1 teaspoon za’atar, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs (6 to 8)

  • 2

    medium broccoli crowns or 1 medium head cauliflower (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

  • Tahini, for serving (optional)

  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon into a medium bowl. Juice the zested lemon until you have 3 tablespoons. Reserve 1 tablespoon lemon juice; add the remaining juice to the bowl of zest. Cut the remaining 1 lemon into wedges and reserve for serving.

  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 3 tablespoons of the za'atar, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl of zest, and stir to combine. Add 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs and rub all over with the za’atar mixture. Let marinate at room temperature while you prep the vegetables and heat the oven, at least 10 minutes.

  3. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425℉.

  4. Cut 1 medium broccoli crown or 1 medium head cauliflower into 1/2-inch thick pieces and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the reserved lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with the remaining 1 teaspoon za’atar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and use your hands to toss until evenly coated. Push the vegetables to the sides of the baking sheet in an even layer to make room for the chicken. Place the chicken in a single layer on the baking sheet.

  5. Roast until the chicken is lightly browned, cooked through, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers at least 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Squeeze the reserved lemon wedges over the chicken. Drizzle some tahini all over and garnish with chopped fresh parsley leaves if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.