Baked Zaatar Yogurt Chicken

5 from 2 votes

Zesty and tangy with subtle heat, this zaatar yogurt chicken is incredibly tender and juicy — especially when baked. The secret to this flavorful marinade is my homemade za’atar spice blend, featuring all the best flavors of the Middle East. Aside from marinating and baking, there’s very little active cooking, leaving you plenty of time to whip up some side dishes!

closeup: yogurt chicken in a pan with its sauce

Yogurt marinated chicken is the easiest way to get tender results with just a few ingredients. A little lemon juice, some garlic, and a few spices add a punch of intense flavor that infuses the meat right down to the center. Use boneless thighs or breast meat — whichever you prefer.

While many recipes grill the meat, I prefer to bake this instead. Who wants to lose all that delicious flavor from the sauce? Plus, it frees up my attention to work on side dishes and lets me make this dish no matter the weather.

closeup: my yogurt chicken recipe over couscous

I love to pair this yogurt chicken recipe with fluffy couscous and warm pita to soak up all those incredible juices, but it would be just as delicious with tabouli salad or Lebanese rice pilaf. Pictured below, I served it with my Zaatar Couscous with Vegetables.

And don’t get me started on the leftovers! Delicious reheated, in wraps, and with hot or cold pieces topping salads and sides alike.

closeup: zaatar yogurt chicken in a pan with sauce

Tip From Kevin

Za’atar is easy to make!

Lebanese zaatar (also spelled za’atar) is a fantastic, aromatic spice blend of thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame seeds and more. Don’t have any on hand? It’s easy to make at home. Try making my Lebanese Zaatar recipe!

While the recipe can and often does vary by region in the Middle East, there are some basic spices that you will find in nearly every recipe. Spices that you’ll find in other recipes include cumin, and coriander.

closeup: yogurt chicken in a pan with sauce and zaatar spices

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Chicken – This yogurt chicken recipe is pretty flexible. Use boneless thighs or breasts, skinless or skin-on. If breast pieces are extra large or thick, slice them in half horizontally and pound to even thickness with a meat mallet.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt – Adds tangy flavor, helps tenderize the chicken, and helps the marinade stick to the meat thanks to its thick texture. Regular plain yogurt will work in a pinch.
  • Olive Oil – The standard for all Middle Eastern recipes, this adds a subtle nutty flavor and won’t overpower the other flavors.
  • Lemon – You’ll need both the juice and zest from 1 large lemon for the yogurt chicken marinade.
  • Garlic – Crushed and chopped fresh cloves are best.
  • Za’atar Seasoning – You know I love making my own spice blends at home! This Middle Eastern blend is savory with tangy, woodsy, and nutty aftertones.
  • Salt & Pepper – Kosher salt is ideal for its larger grain and pure taste. If using a smaller grain salt, you’ll need a bit less. For pepper, choose freshly ground black peppercorns.
  • Red Pepper Flakes – A little goes a long way for adding heat.
  • Fresh Parsley – Its clean, peppery flavor is the perfect garnish.
overhead: yogurt chicken recipe in a pan over pearl couscous with pomegranate

How to Make Yogurt Chicken

  1. Prep Oven & Marinade. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. While it heats, add the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, and spices to a bowl and whisk until well combined.
  2. Marinate Chicken. Add chicken pieces to a plastic bag or container, then pour the marinade over the top. Seal and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
  3. Bake. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Remove the yogurt chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and place all the pieces in the baking dish. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  4. Serve. Plate zaatar yogurt chicken with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and your choice of sides.
  • Baking Dish – Can be glass, ceramic, or porcelain — as long as all of the yogurt chicken will fit!
  • Mixing Bowl – Use this to whisk together the marinade so the ingredients are well combined.
  • Storage Bag or Plastic Container – A zippered storage bag makes marinating easy since you can toss it when you’re done. If you opt for a plastic container, add a tight-fitting lid or cover with plastic wrap.

Storing and Reheating

Transfer leftover zaatar yogurt chicken to an airtight container. It will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, but I don’t recommend freezing it.

Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, or until warmed through. You can add a little broth to the pan if the chicken pieces seem dry.

closeup: zaatar yogurt chicken over couscous with herbs and vegetables

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should you marinate yogurt chicken?

Just 30 minutes of marinating will get you pretty flavorful results, but it’s even better if you can let it sit in the fridge overnight. However, the meat will start to break down the longer it sits due to the acid in the yogurt and lemon juice. Aim for 12 hours at most and absolutely no longer than 24 hours as the texture starts to turn mushy.

Is zaatar yogurt chicken spicy?

Za’atar doesn’t add much heat by itself, which is why I included red pepper flakes in this yogurt chicken recipe. It kicks up the spice level just slightly, but I wouldn’t say it’s spicy — especially since the Greek yogurt is cooling. That said, you’re free to leave out the red pepper flakes for a milder dish.

Can I use the marinade for extra sauce?

Any chicken marinade needs to be discarded after use unless you boil it. Make sure to let it come to a boil first to destroy any harmful bacteria, then you can safely use as a sauce. While other marinades can be boiled to eliminate harmful bacteria, this yogurt-based mixture would not be pleasant. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of sauce left in the baking pan to drizzle over your chicken!

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overhead closeup: yogurt chicken over couscous with veggies and pomegranate
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Baked Zaatar Yogurt Chicken

5 from 2 votes
Yogurt chicken is juicy and flavorful, thanks to a creamy, za’atar-spiced marinade. An easy-to-make recipe with so many ways to enjoy!
Servings: 4
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Marinate Time: 8 hours
Total: 9 hours


  • 2 lbs (8) boneless chicken thighs or breasts skin on or off




  • Preheat oven to 375°F. In a bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients.
  • Place chicken into gallon size plastic food storage bag or large plastic container. Pour marinade over chicken pieces, close bag or cover container with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes or up to overnight.
  • Use cooking spray or olive oil to coat the inside of a baking dish. Shake excess marinade from chicken and place the pieces in a single layer into dish. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until golden brown and chicken reaches 165°F internal temperature (See Note 1).
  • Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with couscous and warm pita to soak up juices.


  1. If boneless chicken breasts are very thick or weigh more than 6 ounces, slice them in half horizontally, place between sheets of plastic wrap, and use flat side of meat mallet to gently pound them to an even thickness.
    For best results, use an instant read thermometer. The chicken is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.


Calories: 478kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 169mg | Sodium: 736mg | Potassium: 484mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 568IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 4mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): baked za'atar yogurt chicken


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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