Za’atar Chicken with Charred Lemon, Roasted Turnips (Keto)

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When my friend Mai from the beautiful blog Almond and Fig sent me some za’atar for Christmas, I was excited, and a tad bit perplexed. This is spice blend from Palestine, where Mai was born, and is not something I was very familiar with.

Za'atar Chicken with Charred Lemon, Roasted Turnips (Keto)

My immediate response was to smell it and take in the aromatics of thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. Everyone here already knows I think thyme is the universal perfect herb and I grow it year round. It can jump into almost any dish and into some desserts.

My appetite for good food is only surpassed by my appetite for food knowledge.

Za'atar Chicken with Charred Lemon, Roasted Turnips

What is Za’atar?

Za’atar is a spice blend made from dried thyme, sumac, marjoram and toasted sesame seeds. It’s the sesame seeds that give that extra something something, and it’s a spice you can make at home. I now order it from Amazon as this brand was recommended to me. Za’atar means thyme in arabic. Thyme is also frequently used in Italian and French dishes.

Sumac is a small shrub with grown with red clusters that has a tangy lemony flavor. You can use lemon zest in its place if you’re going to use it as its made.

Some commercial brands may include roasted flour, so be sure to read the ingredient list when ordering. This is a gluten free and keto friendly brand.

Can I Make Za’atar at home?

Yes, you can. Here is a recipe.

  • 3 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • 1 tablespoon marjoram and a little sea salt.

Za'atar Chicken with Charred Lemon, Roasted Turnips (Keto) from Spinach Tiger

 How can I use Za’atar?

I love it sprinkled on meat, such as lamb and  chicken. However, you can add a little to your vinaigrette, a dip, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, flat breads and soups. Try it with olive oil and bread or with cheese. Za’atar loves lamb! I like to add in lemon slices like I did with this za’atar chicken.

Where does Za’atar come from?

This is a spice blend from the middle east and Mediterranean.

Does za’atar have health benefits?

Absolutely, as za’atar has been used for medicinal purposes, is packed with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Why is this za’atar chicken so delicious?

The flavors work together well, but I also started with air-chilled chicken, which is by far the tastiest. Thyme is nearly a universally loved herb that wakes food up aromatically, yet gently. When I do baked chicken pieces, I find a green bell pepper adds a little something to chicken as does an onion. The lemon slices top it off with that extra zest.

Za'atar Chicken with Charred Lemon, Roasted Turnips (Keto) from Spinach Tiger

Is za’atar chicken an easy dinner?

Yes, here’s is the dish everyone will love. It tastes like a lot more effort went into it, but it it’s about a five minute prep job, and is done in about 45 minutes in the oven. This is big fat healthy food at its easiest and tastiest. Make a huge pan of this as this is a very good dish left over.

Is za’atar chicken keto friendly, paleo friendly?

Za’atar chicken is a naturally keto and paleo friendly dish. I chose to add in turnips instead of potatoes to keep the carbs down. You can switch that up if you like.

Za'atar Chicken with Charred Lemon, Roasted Turnips (Keto)

Process for Za’atar Chicken

Za’atar chicken can be made with a mix of chicken pieces or all thighs or all breasts. I always cut the breasts in half. I like to place my chicken on top of my onion and green pepper and spread the za’atar all over the chicken which has been rubbed with olive oil. I added in turnips to keep the carbs low. Za’atar chicken would also be amazing over orzo,  couscous or any ancient grain. Crusty bread could sop up the za’atar flavored lemony olive oil.

Za'atar Chicken with Charred Lemon, Roasted Turnips (Keto)

I love baking this in my Le Creuset, but you can use any baking dish.

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I recently got THIS QUESTION regarding za’atar chicken. 

What if I don’t want to use za’atar but want to make this chicken. What other spices can I use?

I would recommend a smaller amount of oregano, rosemary or an Italian seasoning.

I recently did my DNA test and it seems that somewhere in our ancestry, aside from Italian, we have some middle eastern and North African roots. So, it’s no wonder I love this food and also tend to cook a lot with fruit and nuts in my savory dishes.  You could easily throw some pomegranate seeds on this dish as often seen in many middle eastern dishes as it adds a little sweetness, texture and good health.

This is a dish you will make many times. Please let me know when you do and if you share on instagram use the hashtag #spinachtiger.

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5 from 1 vote

Za'atar Chicken with Charred Lemon, Roasted Turnips (Keto)

Za'atar Chicken with peppers, onions, lemon and olive oil. Keto Friendly, Paleo, Whole 30 friendly.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 6
Author: Angela Roberts


  • 2 pounds of chicken pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 turnips or potatoes cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup za'atar ORDER HERE
  • 1 lemon sliced thinly


  • Salt chicken pieces one day in advance if you have the time.
  • Take chicken out one to two hours in advance of baking.
  • I tend to leave the salt on the chicken. If you didn't do this step, salt chicken.
  • Trim bell pepper and seed. Cut bell pepper and onion into strips and slices.
  • Place on bottom of pan. Drizzle olive oil over the pieces.
  • Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, skin side up.
  • Drizzle olive oil over the chicken pieces.
  • Sprinkle za'atar over chicken generously.
  • Place lemon slices on top.
  • Add in turnips or potatoes in between chicken pieces, making sure they also are covered with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until chicken has internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Please follow me on instagram. If you make this recipe,  please tag me #spinachtiger.

If you love this recipe, please give it five stars. It means a lot. xoxo

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  1. 5 stars
    Are you able to post the nutritional details for your dishes? It would be very helpful in counting macros. Recipe was delicious

  2. Pingback: Healthy recipes
  3. What other spice might i replace thyme with to make zaatar? We despise the favor it imparts to dishes it is in. I ding it in so many recipes. Im thinking rosemary might work. Would sage or is that totally way off base for the flavor we need?

    1. That’s a good question. I need to go back in and let people know you can use ANYTHING YOU LOVE. Thyme alone, rosemary alone, or a sprinkling of an Italian seasoning, oregano, etc.

5 from 1 vote

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