This sheet pan roast chicken with za’atar is an easy meal of tender, marinated chicken that’s roasted on a bed of onion, garlic, and lemon slices. The result? A sum of SO much more than its parts.
As anyone who has cooked chicken sheet-pan recipes knows, the secret to 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.–Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley
Sheet Pan Roast Chicken with Za’atar
- 3 lemons
- One (2 3/4-pound) whole chicken cut into legs, thighs, and breasts with the wing-tips left on (or about 2 lb 2 oz | 1kg of bone-in chicken legs or breasts with the wing-tips left on), skin on if you prefer
- 2 medium onions sliced in half, then each half cut into 3 wedges (2 3/4 cups)
- 2 heads garlic skin on, sliced in half, crosswise
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 4 tablespoons za’atar
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade chicken stock or water (200 ml)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup parsley finely chopped (optional)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds toasted (optional)
- Cut 2 of the lemons into slices 1/4 inch thick (6 mm) and place in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. Finely grate the zest of the remaining lemon (you want about 1 1/2 teaspoon of zest) and set it aside for later. Squeeze 1 1/2 tablespoons juice from that same last lemon into the bowl or bag.
- Add the chicken, onions, garlic, sumac, allspice, 2 tablespoons of za’atar, 2 tablespoons of oil, the stock, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and a good grind of black pepper to the lemon juice. Mix well to combine and then cover with a large plate or seal the bag, and let marinate in the fridge, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours (or up to overnight, if you have the time).
- About 30 minutes before baking, take the chicken out of the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C).
- Transfer the chicken to a large rimmed baking sheet, skin side up, and pour on the marinade, including the onion, garlic, and sliced lemon.
- Drizzle the chicken with 1 tablespoon of oil and roast, 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, 40 to 45 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: If your chicken skin isn’t as golden as you’d like, set your oven to convection or broil for the last few minutes of cooking time.
- Toward the end of the cooking time for the chicken, in a small bowl, combine the parsley, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of za’atar, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Transfer the chicken to a platter along with the onions and 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!
- Spoon the parsley mixture on the chicken, sprinkle with the almonds, and serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I love the unique taste of za’atar and use it on everything—roasted veggies, roasted meats and fish, in salad dressings, as a flavoring for pita bread, and sometimes even with eggs. I was excited to use the combination of spices in this sheet pan roast chicken recipe, which includes not only za’atar but allspice and sumac. The sumac gives the chicken a bright citrusy flavor, the allspice a warm comforting flavor, and the za’atar a toasty, herbal flavor.
Combined with fruity olive oil, tarty lemons, and caramelized onions, this recipe was a huge hit at our dinner table. I served the chicken with roasted baby yellow potatoes and a chard saute with mushrooms and sliced garlic.
As for the recipe itself, I used a whole chicken, which I cut into legs, thighs, and breasts. I had some homemade stock on hand, so that is what I used for the liquid portion of the marinade. I marinated my cut-up chicken for about 5 hours in the fridge.
I thought the almonds were a nice last minute crunch for the cooked chicken, but I think they should be an optional ingredient—the chicken was already flavorful enough and I didn’t think they were essential to the success of the recipe. The sprinkle of parsley at the end was a lovely pop of color, though!
This is a great, flavorful roast chicken dish! As a fan of Mediterranean flavors, I wasn’t disappointed. Prep work was quick and done earlier in the day using pre-cut chicken. At dinnertime, baking it on a sheet pan put dinner on the table with no fuss.
The chicken was thoroughly cooked after 45 minutes in the oven. This was served with a baked sweet potato and spinach blueberry salad.
Next time I would like to add new potatoes to the marinating chicken and bake them alongside the chicken. I would also serve this with tabbouleh as we enjoy eating Mediterranean since my husband is of Syrian descent.
10/10!! I am a huge fan of quick and easy sheet pan recipes where the oven does all the work. his did not disappoint!
I confess, I didn’t marinate the chicken at all…it was time to start cooking dinner and I realized I was out of time, so I literally just assembled it and threw it in the oven. It turned out fabulous! I can only imagine that marinating it would take it to the next level, but rest assured, no big loss if you don’t have the time or foresight!
I used water instead of chicken stock and was a bit skeptical about the soupy-ness of the marinade…but it cooked in exactly 45 minutes and came out perfectly moist with an incredible sauce in the pan.
The parsley topping at the end is a nice way to finish, but not really necessary. I would serve it this way if I had guests over, but for just the family, I may skip this step next time. I served this with a nice big salad with tarragon vinaigrette and it was lovely! Perfect for a lazy summer evening.
This is one of the rare recipes that I test for which I have nothing constructive to offer. I’m sure there many things that could be done with it, but none that I’d want to consider. In the words of Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones’ Diary, “I like you very much. Just as you are.”
The marinade produces deliciously tender chicken after only 5 hours, so I can only imagine what results you’d get from a full overnight soak. The lemon slices end up tender and savory, soaking in the chicken juices, and my family fought over the silken garlic nuggets we squeezed from the papery husks. Concerns about the sumac amplifying the tartness of the lemons to inedible heights were proved wrong, serving instead to provide a more nuanced lemon character than I expected. The parsley and lemon zest topping brought some wonderful fresh flavors to the finished product. Depending on the coarseness of the za’atar you source, it may not be to everyone’s tastes. I used a mix of red and brown za’atar, and the red variety has even more sumac in it. The allspice was the greatest surprise, rounding out the dish with a pleasantly warm, peppery quality.
Not sure what else I can possibly say at this point to convince you to make this if you haven’t been swayed already. The smell in your kitchen as it roasts is incredible. The make-ahead properties of this dish mean there’s tons of time to prepare a delicious side (in my case, Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce from Ottolengi’s Plenty More) and set the table. I found I could roast the vegetables on another rack in the same oven with no detriment to the chicken’s browning.
I will be making this MANY more times, just the way it is.
If you’ve never cooked with za’atar, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve never heard of za’atar, check out Kelli Foster’s article, Inside the Spice Cabinet: Za’atar Seasoning Blend, which includes a recipe to make your own if you can’t find the spice in your local grocery store. I used a pre-packaged green za’atar I purchased.
The steps to making this dish are straightforward and dare I say simple? I marinated the chicken for 24 hours, making sure to toss it several times throughout to ensure the entire surface was steeped in the marinade.
The crunch and crackle of the roasted skin is key to enjoying this dish. My husband and I fought over the roasted lemon slices which I never expected to eat (I mean, who eats lemon slices?), but the lemon’s sour taste was muted by the marinade and roasting. The onions and garlic slices were cooked to perfection. “Restaurant quality,” my husband said.
The savory flavor of the chicken pairs well with a side of South Carolina Slaw.
For greater convenience, I’d purchase a whole chicken cut up.
If you’re busy with other activities like me, you may want to set a timer to remind yourself to flip the marinating chicken.
Additionally, set a timer for the mid-point while roasting, which took about forty minutes.
One reason I chose this recipe is because I have never cooked with sumac and za’atar so it was something new to try. They provided subtle, earthy undertones to the lovely flavors in this dish. The lemon, onion, and garlic all came together beautifully with the chicken.
There was less sauce at the end than I anticipated, so next time I’ll probably add another 1/4 cup of stock. I served this with quinoa and roasted carrots and cauliflower.
Six thighs (bone in/skin on) would easily serve 4 people and leave some leftovers, which were just as good the next day. I sliced the lemons more thinly than 1/4 inch—closer to 1/8 inch—and ate them and they were great. I used homemade stock and will add more next time and I will add an extra 1 T of olive oil to make this mixture more saucy.
Eat the lemons, they’re great! Squeeze the garlic all over the top. The toasted almonds are a great final touch. The roasted onions were luscious. This dish has a wonderful melding of different flavors in every bite.
What drew it to me was the use of spices (sumac and za’atar) that I have never heard of. We eat a lot of chicken, so a new way to make a favorite food is most welcome. What also drew me in was making a sheet pan dinner—something I have never done before.
This was an easy dinner to make. I put everything together in a resealable plastic bag in the morning so all the ingredients could spend some time together. Then, how easy it is to put everything on a sheet pan and into the oven.
The results are spectacular. I really liked that taste of something I haven’t had before. My partner loved the dinner (know that his typical response to a new recipe, no matter how good, is “it’s okay”).
So overall… two thumbs up on a recipe that has little effort and yields high rewards!
Za’atar is such a wonderful spice. The lemons complemented it perfectly. The chicken didn’t quite brown so I switched the oven to convection the last 5 minutes. Broiling would also work, too. The parsley mixture to finish really brightened it up at the end.
I think there was a bit too many onions and garlic. Will reduce those by half next time.
This is a truly fantastic marriage of lemony tender meat with herbs and spices. The marinating and cooking in the juices made for melt-in-your-mouth onions and lemons, juicy chicken, and the fresh oily herb mixture and crunchy almonds added at the end really balanced the flavors and textures.
I felt strongly called to the flavors in the recipe—it’s been a while since I made my own za’atar or baked chicken with lemon.
This is definitely an ideal prep-ahead meal for the family or guests.
I left the chicken to marinate for about 3.5 hours- the last hour I let it come back to temp on my counter before roasting. I roasted this in a glass baking dish rather than on a wide sheet pan. It seemed the marinade would spill out too easily if I didn’t go for a deeper dish. I’m glad I made that call—more juices released from everything as it cooked and it made for an incredible sauce spooned over the plates at service.
The roasted lemons are definitely edible—actually they might have been my favorite part! Wow. They were melting, but still bright with lemon flavor and at the same time richly saturated with broth. In the future, I would make sure all the garlic was submerged in the broth. The pieces that had been were melting and sweet. Those that weren’t could use more time as they remained more “al dente” and sharply pungent in flavor.
I made the parsley mixture and decided to double it, just because I knew it would be a hit and we would all want more. Definitely pleased I did that, too.
I think this would serve 5-6 hungry people no problem. I served it with roasted sweet potatoes and a fresh salad made with spicy baby greens (like mizuna and mustard). It was extremely satisfying, and I’m curious to see how the leftovers fare (I don’t see it lasting too long in this house…).
Originally published October 21, 2020