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

How do I get crispy skin on my roast chicken?

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.

Can I use roasted garlic instead of chopped garlic?

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. 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 with fingerling potatoes and cloves of garlic, in a roasting pan, beside a plate of Swiss chard salad.

Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken

5 from 1 vote
When making the gravy with the roasting juices, I like to add lemon juice for an extra lemony hit. The flavor is not overpowering; in fact, lemon combines so well with the herbs and juices from the roast chicken, you'll always want to cook roast chicken this way!
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories886 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time2 hours


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.

  • Remove the roasting pan from the oven and use a spatula to spread the remaining butter paste on top of the chicken to melt. Carefully move the chicken and vegetables to a cutting board and leave to rest for about 10 minutes before carving.
  • 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.
Gennaro's Limoni

Adapted From

Gennaro’s Limoni

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 886 kcalCarbohydrates: 20 gProtein: 43 gFat: 66 gSaturated Fat: 30 gMonounsaturated Fat: 22 gTrans Fat: 2 gCholesterol: 251 mgSodium: 643 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 6 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Gennaro Contaldo. Photo © 2021 David Loftus. All rights reserved.

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.

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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  1. I sometimes spatchcock the chicken and lay on a bed of carrots, onions, potatoes and maybe another root vegetable. I will then put in several garlic cloves, unpeeled, and you just squeeze them out at the end. I like to get the internal temperature to 175°F.

    Here is a trick to peel garlic. Put unpeeled cloves in the microwave for 8 to 10 seconds and the garlic peels out. Be careful they can be hot.