Za’atar is a traditional Middle Eastern spice blend that has been used for centuries in various regional cuisines. Its name comes from the Arabic word for “thyme”, and although the specific ingredients may vary depending on region or family recipe, the mixture generally includes sumac, sesame seeds, dried oregano, dried thyme and salt. Not only is this mixture delicious, but it is also believed to have many health benefits thanks to the antioxidant properties of thyme and sumac.
If you would like to try za’atar, it is available in many grocery stores, or you can make it at home by combining the ingredients above. “Having a few spice blends in your repertoire can help you easily prepare flavorful, flavorful dishes without much effort,” says Taylor Murray, recipe developer. Join us as she introduces us to an easy chicken skewer dish, sprinkled with za’atar and served with a tangy yogurt sauce.
Read more: 12 Tips for Making the Best Grilled Chicken
Gather the ingredients for the Chicken Zaatar Skewers
Making chicken za’atar skewers is simple and straightforward. For the skewers themselves, simply gather together some cubed boneless, skinless chicken thighs (although breasts can work too), some olive oil and some za’atar. You can buy this spice blend at the store or mix it yourself. We also want to make a dip on the side to add flavor and texture, so for this we will need plain full fat Greek yogurt, lemon juice and a clove of fresh garlic.
Marinate the chicken
Start by selecting a large mixing bowl, large enough to comfortably accommodate the chicken thighs and allow room for stirring. Place the chicken thighs in the bowl and sprinkle the za’atar spice mixture evenly over the chicken. Drizzle olive oil over the chicken and za’atar, coating the chicken evenly.
This will help the za’atar stick to the chicken and will also give a rich flavor to the meat. After adding your ingredients, season the mixture with a pinch of salt. Using your hands or a spatula, gently toss the chicken thighs, making sure each piece is evenly coated with the za’atar and olive oil mixture. Once mixed, the chicken should look shiny from the oil and speckled with the za’atar herbs. Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
Thread the skewers
Find metal or wooden skewers that have been soaked for at least an hour. Carefully thread the chicken onto the skewers, distributing the larger and smaller pieces evenly to ensure even cooking while cooking. Arrange the skewers on a plate and prepare the grill for cooking. Aim for a medium to medium-high temperature on the grill and make sure the grill grates are scraped and oiled.
Cook the chicken
Once the grill is ready, place the skewers on the grill and start cooking. “There are tons of tips for success with grilled chicken, but, personally, I think even heat and a well-oiled grill grate are the two most important factors,” says Murray. Let the chicken sear on this side, undisturbed, for about 5 to 7 minutes. The goal during this time is to get a delicious char on the chicken, which not only adds a smoky flavor, but also gives an appetizing golden brown appearance.
Once the first side has reached the desired char, use grill tongs to flip each skewer. Again, let the chicken cook for another 5-7 minutes. The outside should be nicely charred and the inside of the chicken should no longer be pink. Depending on the thickness of your chicken pieces, you may need to adjust your cooking time slightly. Once finished, remove the chicken to a plate and set aside for a few minutes before serving.
Prepare the yogurt dip
While your chicken skewers are cooking or resting, focus on creating the dipping sauce that goes with them. In a bowl, pour the creamy Greek yogurt. Add the lemon juice and grated garlic clove. Season to taste with salt (about a pinch should do it) and serve with the chicken. “I like to make simple yogurt sauces like this, and sometimes I add sumac, chopped fresh herbs, or grated cucumber to add an extra depth of flavor,” Murray tells us.
This dish makes a great main dish and can be served with various side dishes such as a soft pita, tabbouleh or a simple fattoush salad. It also works well as a protein-rich meal prep component because chicken thighs hold up well to refrigeration and reheating. The chicken should last up to 5 days covered in the refrigerator.