A white oval platter filled with couscous that is topped with Middle Eastern chicken thighs, lemon slices, and chopped parsley.

Middle Eastern Chicken Thighs

4.58 / 7 votes
These Middle Eastern chicken thighs are spiced with cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, and cloves before being gently braised with onions and are on the table in 45 minutes. No time-consuming marinade. No fussy cooking heroics. Just an exceptionally likable and exotically spiced chicken that works perfectly on weeknights.
David Leite
CuisineMiddle Eastern
Servings4 servings
Calories861 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


For the Middle Eastern chicken thighs

For the garnish

  • 3 to 4 cups cooked grains, such as white rice, brown rice, quinoa or millet
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, preferably organic
  • 1/4 cup almonds, hazelnuts, or pistachios, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (1 2/3 oz) pomegranate seeds, (optional but highly recommended)


Make the Middle Eastern chicken thighs

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the ghee (clarified butter). Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the onions with the cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, and cloves, and cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and tuck them among the onions in the skillet. Sear the thighs briefly, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  • Pour 1/2 cup broth or stock into the skillet and bring to a boil.
  • Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the chicken thighs are golden and the meat registers 165°F (74°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes.

Assemble everything

  • Heap the cooked grains onto a large platter or individual plates. Arrange the chicken on top and drizzle with the pan juices and lemon juice. If desired, season with salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice.
  • Sprinkle the chicken and grains with the lemon zest, nuts, parsley, and pomegranate seeds, if using. Serve immediately.
The Living Kitchen Cookbook

Adapted From

The Living Kitchen

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 861 kcalCarbohydrates: 116 gProtein: 47 gFat: 23 gSaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 149 mgSodium: 157 mgFiber: 15 gSugar: 2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Tamara Green | Sarah Grossman. Photo © 2019 Daniel Alexander. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

WOW! Myself, our Italian friend, and our 4 and 6 year olds were all super impressed by this dish. Initially, I wondered if I would be partial to it simply because it was so quick and easy to throw together but no, the flavor and tenderness of the chicken actually impressed us as much as the quickness.

For me, the lemon juice really brightened up the dish and made it memorable! I’m not a fan of hazelnuts but the three of them loved the addition.

I used ghee. Why wouldn’t you use ghee?! I sliced my onion with a mandoline on the largest setting.

There wasn’t a whole lot of color gained by searing them for 1 min on each side BTW.

There wasn’t enough to have leftovers because we ate it all up and fast! This served 2 adults and 2 children quickly and we all wished there had been more. I would say it feeds 2 adults well. I can’t wait to make this again!

I made this for dinner after work and my husband said, “This is very fancy for a weeknight!” I think that screams success! This dish was lovely—flavorful, colorful, fast, and easy.

I think the use of millet was an interesting twist on a one pot meal. I used ghee to sauté my onions and I added a bit more before cooking the chicken. After the dish was assembled and came to a boil, it was ready in 20 minutes.

The pomegranate seeds are a must!! They really lift this dish and add a much needed sweetness. I think it would be a real shame to leave them out.

My dish was far more colourful than the photograph! It was quite beautiful with the pomegranate, parsley, and hazelnuts on top.

This Middle Eastern chicken thighs recipe is precisely the kind of one-pot meal that I love to turn to on a weeknight. It’s fairly low effort to put together yet it still has plenty of flavor from the sweet caramelized onions, toastiness of the hazelnuts, and warmth of Middle Eastern spices. All come through in the final dish in a pleasant manner that combines well with the millet making this a comforting meal that I will definitely make again.

I was surprised that you leave the onions and spices in the pan and add no additional oil to sear the chicken thighs but I didn’t have any problems with them browning. The bits that were stuck to the pan after searing came loose nicely with the addition of chicken stock and a little scraping.

I didn’t notice much of a change in the flavors of the leftovers over the course of a couple of days but the texture of the millet changed a bit to be creamy and smooth, almost like polenta. The grains were no longer separate and distinct and I found them to also be enjoyable this way.

This recipe hits the flavor notes! It’s fast to pull together, making it ideal for a weeknight but so delicious it would satisfy at a dinner party. The spices really flavor the onions and moist, tender chicken. I served it over brown rice. Yum. We loved this!

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away as the spicing looked a little suspect to me. Nonetheless, it was a really big hit in our house; we ended up having surprise dinner guests who loved it as well.

The chicken came together easily while the grains (in this case, quinoa) cooked. Not having to marinate the chicken saves time; I worried that not marinating would leave the chicken bland, but the simmering with ghee and onions and spices left the chicken moist and deliciously savory.

When the thighs/onions were almost done, I tossed the quinoa with the nuts (pistachio and almond), parsley, pomegranate seeds, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper before mounding it on a platter rather than sprinkling all that on top of the finished dish. Then I topped it with the chicken/onions which had made an excellent amount of juice/gravy that moistened and flavored the quinoa even more.

Served with a Mediterranean chopped salad (cucumber, tomato, red onion, anaheim pepper, and parsley) with a simple tahini dressing and warmed pitas.

This was an easy delicious feast. I would probably increase the number of chicken thighs in the future as one thigh is enough for some, but not for a hearty eater. Quinoa worked very well, but couscous or the other suggested grains would all suit to soak up the flavorful juices. I happened by a market with pomegranate seeds as I was walking the dogs, but I think you could successfully use dried cranberries, apricots, currants, etc. and get most of the same effect with a pantry ingredient most people have on hand.”

This Middle Eastern chicken thighs recipe is quick, made with easy-to-find ingredients, and delivers a really satisfying result.

I love Middle Eastern flavors and, with the exception of pomegranate seeds, I had everything on hand to make for a weeknight meal. It came together surprisingly quickly; I wouldn’t hesitate to make this again on a busy night. Using thighs ensured that the meat was juicy and the flavors in the sauce were perfect.

I wasn’t able to find pomegranates at this time of year but I think they would be a fantastic addition. I served it with a mix of rice, barley, and millet. The flavors are excellent and this dish has a range of textures that makes it quite pleasing as well.

This was an extremely flavorful and easy-to-make dish. It was surprising how the combination of just those 4 spices yielded such a deep and complex flavor. By the end of cooking, the onions were caramelized and, combined with the pan juices, created a sauce that paired perfectly with both the chicken and the rice.

The rice itself could have been a dish on it’s own with all the different additions. These add-ins all contributed important flavors and textures to the rice—crunch from the almonds, acidity from the lemon, and freshness from the parsley. The brightness from the rice was a great contrast to the relatively heavier chicken flavor. I found myself wanting to make this dish again immediately as soon I finished eating it.

I did not use pomegranate seeds. Instead of sprinkling the other ingredients over the rice over the top, I mixed it in with the rice, which I think works better.

Yummy, tasty, aromatic, delicious, light, and easy—what more could you wish for? This Middle Eastern chicken thighs recipe is easy and pretty quick and made from cupboard staples to make life very easy.

I prepared the lemon zest, nuts, parsley, and pomegranate seeds whilst the onions were cooking.

I took the lid off at the end and allowed it to gently simmer for another 5 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid in the pan. This worked well and produced a richer sauce. This recipe would be a ten for me if I had used homemade chicken broth, which I appreciate is mentioned in the recipe, as it would produce that sticky unctious meatiness which would easily take it to another level.

We loved this recipe—a quick weeknight dish that was pretty easy to make but had big flavor. The chicken itself is a great main but the grains were a revelation (I’d actually eat them on their own as they were so good!). Love that the chicken recipe uses spices I already have on hand, making it a great recipe to keep around for those nights when I don’t know what to make for dinner.

I used bone-on chicken thighs as that’s what I had on hand. I used a brown and wild rice combo for the grains. I didn’t use pomegranate seeds but wish I could have found them, not necessarily for the flavor (and I don’t like that they stick in your teeth) but the color.

I used pistachios.

I cooked onions for 5 minutes at the start and they looked good but found they browned too much after all the cooking was done. I’d cook them for less next time at this first stage.

I needed 25 minutes to cook the thighs.

I added a big of stock during the cooking (about 1/4 cup) but then the sauce was too thin and never thickened up again. Hmmm… So maybe I’d add ALL the stock at the start and let it thicken as it cooked.

I found the serving size of the thighs was good with 2 thighs each for 2 people but there were way too much grains relative to the amount of chicken. But that’s ok. Great leftovers!

I bought a jar of turmeric about 2 months ago and it stares at me every time I open the spice cabinet. Finally, I got the chance to use it. This recipe is the perfect way to try turmeric for the first time! Don’t be afraid of the cinnamon and the cloves called for in the recipe. Your kitchen will smell like cinnamon and cloves but when you combine them with the other components of this dish, all you taste is warm deliciousness. The lemon juice added to the pan juices at the end is everything so do not skip it! I paired my chicken with whole wheat couscous but next time, I think I will use rice so that all of the pan juices get absorbed into the rice.

I used whole wheat couscous and almonds. I used parsley as called for but next time I want to use mint. I skipped the pomegranate seeds but when in season I will use them.

I may try this recipe with chicken breast tenders next time and that will take 5 minutes off of the cook time.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Wow! Another recipe going directly into my database!

    I added some za’atar ’cause I had it and why not. Tons of richly spicy flavor without the heat. My favorite combination. And the touch of citrus is perfect.

    Didn’t have a pomegranate arils so that’s something to look forward to next time.

    Oh! And we had it with rice because I didn’t go out and get bulgur but I’m looking forward to having that accompaniment with it too.

  2. 5 stars
    Fantastic Chicken Dish! The proof is that my husband (who is very lukewarm about chicken) declared: “This one is a keeper!” I used coconut oil because I didn’t have ghee, doubled the pistachios because we love them, and was so glad that I had experimentally frozen some pomegranate arils for later use last month (they thaw out surprisingly well). I prepped and measured everything in the morning and it was a breeze to put it all together after a long day at work. I made a pot of quinoa (1 cup dry) while the chicken simmered and the wonderful aroma of Moroccan spices filled our home. What a lovely meal. Served 3 using 1-1/2 lbs. of thighs. Thanks for yet another great LC recipe, this goes right on my list of favorites.

    1. Thanks, Lynn! I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it so much. Your description made me want to be right there at the dinner table with you. Can’t wait to hear what you make next.