Lemon and herb roast chicken is full of bright flavor from a lemon herb butter that gets rubbed under the skin for a superbly juicy bird. Roasted on a bed of potatoes, carrots, and leeks, the pan sauce makes an incredible gravy, too.
I always like to add a buttery paste on the chicken flesh underneath the skin to add flavor and keep it nice and moist during cooking. You can use this same recipe to liven up roast turkey, capon, and guinea fowl. The lemon and herb flavors really come through, making this a tasty Sunday lunch. Serve with roast potatoes.—Gennaro Contaldo
Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken FAQs
The best way is to let the skin dry out a little bit before roasting. You can uncover the chicken, pat it dry with paper towels and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Uncovered is best but if you can’t stand the thought of that, you can loosely cover it with a plastic bag, as long as there is some air circulation.
In the original version of this recipe, Gennaro Contaldo uses roasted garlic, which is a little easier to mix into the herb and butter paste. This tutorial will show you how–just squeeze ’em out and mash into your paste. You may have a few left over, feel free to add to mashed potatoes or just smear on crusty bread.
Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken
For the lemon and herb butter
- 11 tablespoons (5 1/2 oz) salted butter at room temperature
- Needles from 2 fresh rosemary sprigs finely chopped
- Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 6 fresh sage leaves finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons (1 to 2 tablespoons) preferably organic
- Juice of 1 lemon about 1/4 cup (reserve the remaining zested lemon)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the chicken
- One (4-pound) whole chicken
- Handful of mixed fresh herbs—rosemary sprigs thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and sage leaves—tied in a bunch
- 2 large (7 oz) carrots halved lengthways
- 2 large (12 oz) leeks halved lengthways and cleaned
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Scant 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon water
- Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
- Scant 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Make the lemon and herb butter
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the herb butter until you have a smooth paste.
Make the chicken
- Take the chicken and, starting at the neck end, gently ease the skin of the chicken away from the breast, taking care not to tear the delicate skin. Using your fingers, spread three-quarters of the butter paste as evenly as possible under the skin all over the breast and thighs, then gently pat the skin to even out the paste.
- Cut the reserved lemon in half and add to the chicken cavity with the bunch of mixed herbs.
- In a roasting pan, toss the carrots and leeks with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then arrange in a single layer.
- Place the chicken on top of the vegetables—this will prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and rub well all over. Pour in the wine and water and cover with foil.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C) and roast the chicken, removing the foil for the last 30 minutes, until cooked through to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), 60 to 90 minutes. While cooking, baste the chicken with the juices from time to time.
☞TESTER TIP: If your bird is on the smaller side, remove the foil after 30 minutes of baking so that the chicken has a chance to take on some color.
- While the chicken is resting, make the gravy. In the roasting pan over high heat (or in a saucepan), combine the juices left in the roasting pan with the lemon juice and a scant 1 cup (200 ml) of water. Whisk in the flour and continue mixing until the gravy has thickened slightly.
- Strain the gravy into a small jug or gravy boat, and serve with the roast chicken and vegetables.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Perfect for chilly fall or winter nights! This lemon and herb roast chicken was just what our family was in the mood for, with the weather getting cooler. Everyone loved this recipe and the lemony herbaceous gravy was amazing spooned over the roasted fingerling and sweet potatoes. I made a lovely broth with the leftover bones.
This lemon and herb roast chicken is a terrific recipe that allows the cook to make changes to suit their palate, varying the pan vegetables and/or the herbs and citrus used.
The cooking time of 90 minutes was perfect for my 6-lb chicken, which worries me that it may be too long for a smaller bird. I do let my birds rest for a bit to come up in temperature prior to roasting, and I also recommend letting your bird rest at least 30 minutes once it’s out of the oven.
Originally posted November 7, 2021