Recipe: Za’atar Roast Chicken

“But my favorite remained the basic roast chicken. What a deceptively simple dish. I had come to believe that one can judge the quality of a cook by his or her roast chicken. Above all, it should taste like chicken: it should be so good that even a perfectly simple, buttery roast should be a delight.”
Julia Child, My Life in France

My love for a roast chicken runs deep, I find it to be comfort food at its finest full of flavor, versatility, and always cooked with love. A roast chicken is a party pleaser, allowing guests to request their favorite parts, the carcass to be made into a rich stock providing meals to come, and the leftovers make a wonderful sandwich; a roast chicken goes a long way. This weekend I decided to make my chicken a little differently by rubbing it in rich Za’atar spices.

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend made of Sea Salt, Sesame Seeds, Marjoram, Sumac, Oregano, and Thyme. Za’atar is found across the Middle East and Northern Africa baked onto pita bread or used as a seasoning in Kafta Beef Kebabs. Za’atar is even made into a candy sweetened with honey and served in small bricks like fudge.

We were lucky enough to hit the jackpot and find a ½ lb. bag of Za’atar at Quick To Go. Quick to Go is our favorite, (and only!)  Middle Eastern restaurant in Dover, see our piece on them here! Quick to Go has a small market section with imported goods so if you’re looking for tahini, chickpeas, lentils, or spices this is the place to go. The owner of Quick To Go claims that when he was growing up in Lebanon the belief was that Za’atar improved memory and he ate the candy before school each and every day.

I recommend serving this chicken in a pita with hummus, on top of a Greek salad, or with sautéed cabbage.



1 Whole Chicken
1/2 cup of Za’atar
Salt and Pepper
1 Lemon (cut in half)
3 whole garlic cloves crushed and de-skinned
Olive Oil

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Rinse chicken thoroughly and make sure to remove the gizzards from the inside cavity.
    For a quick appetizer while you wait reserve the livers and fry quickly in butter with onions and zap in the food processor with cold butter. Serve on toast.
  3. Sprinkle olive oil and squeeze half of one lemon inside cavity.
  4. Sprinkle Salt, pepper and Za’atar into the cavity of the chicken.
  5. Add the half squeezed lemon and garlic into the cavity.
  6. Rub the entire chicken liberally with olive oil.
  7. Rub Za’taar all over the chicken making sure to get every nook and cranny.
  8. Tuck wings and legs under chicken and tie legs together to contain garlic and lemon inside cavity. This will steam the chicken as well lending to a super juicy meat.
  9. Roast chicken 15 minutes at 450 F to crisp skin.
  10. After 15 minutes, lower temp. To 350 F. Cook chicken for 35 minutes.
  11. After 35 minutes, squeeze the other half of the lemon over the chicken and place in roasting pan.
  12. Cook chicken until skin is golden and crispy and the internal temperature reaches 165 F.
  13. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  14. Slice and serve, save carcass and bones for stock!

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