This classic Middle Eastern za’atar recipe is a one pot meal. But what exactly is za’atar seasoning? And what goes in it? Well, the word za’atar (pronounced “zah-tahr”) literally translates to mean “wild thyme” in Arabic. But it’s better known as a seasoning blend, whose ingredients vary slightly from country to country across the Middle East.
Most home chefs won’t necessarily have za’atar seasoning on hand, nor did we, so The Hubs found a version on “Gimme Some Oven” website—now isn’t that a clever name! The three main ingredients are thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It’s very versatile and can be used on anything from meat, fish, veggies, dips, salads, soups or even popcorn!
What’s nice about this dish if you have diners in your household who have different preferences regarding both white and dark meat, like us, it’s interchangeable. Even though the original recipe calls for only dark meat, we used a combination of 4 thighs, and 2 breast halves that were chopped into two pieces each (producing 8 pieces total, 2 more than the recipe calls for).
We only used 2 tablespoons of the za’atar seasoning to sprinkle on the chicken, which was more than plenty. The remaining one tablespoon was added to the pot after the onion and carrots were cooked down.
A little trick we learned when braising both white and dark meat, is to set the white meat on top of the thighs for a majority of the cooking time. This helps ensure the breast pieces will not overdone and rubbery. Then nestle them into the liquid for the last 15 minutes or so.
Za’atar Chicken and Lentils
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, thighs and/or breasts, excess fat trimmed
- 3 Tbsp. za’atar (see recipe below)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 1 cup bite-size pieces carrot
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup French green lentils
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano, whole or halved
- Lemon zest
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Season chicken with za’atar. In a deep oven-going skillet or 5-quart Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high. Add chicken; cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until brown. Transfer to a plate. Don’t crowd the pot, you may have to do this in two batches.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and carrots to pot. Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute.
- Stir in broth, lentils, and tomato paste. Return chicken and juices to pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover; braise in oven 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender (at least 175°F).
- Transfer chicken to a platter; keep warm. Strain remaining mixture, reserving liquid.
- Add lentils and vegetables to chicken on platter; cover.
- Return liquid to pot. Boil over medium-high 10 to15 minutes or until reduced by half. Pour liquid over chicken and lentils.
- Top with olives, lemon zest, and thyme.
Source: Better Homes & Gardens
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. ground* dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp. sumac
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tsp. dried marjoram
- 1 tsp. fine Kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until combined.
- Use immediately, or store in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
*If using traditional dried thyme (that is not ground), add in an extra 2 teaspoons dried thyme.