Iraqi grilled chicken quarters are seasoned with a flavorful, aromatic Middle Eastern spice rub. Fire up your bbq for this fantastic recipe!
I originally published this recipe on my sister site, Kevin is Cooking, back in 2014, after finding it in an article on Saveur.com. It was shared by an American soldier who tasted (and subsequently craved) the grilled chicken quarters while stationed in Iraq.
Local Iraqis call this dish, Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar, named for bahar asfar (yellow-spice), the feisty spice rub that's used to season the poultry. It is believed that the spice blend was brought to the Middle East via the Silk Road trade route coming from South Asia.
Iraqi Grilled Chicken Quarters
Cuisine: Middle Eastern / Iraqi
There are some incredibly flavorful and aromatic spices and spice blends used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Whether it's something like Lebanese 7 spice, a Turkish spice blend or Persian spices like advieh, be sure to sample as many as possible during your travels.
An all-time favorite spice blend of mine is baharat spice, which is a variation of the spices used in this spice rub for this Iraqi chicken recipe.
Course: Main Dish
Recipe Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Bone-in chicken halves, quarters or single pieces, rubbed with aromatic Middle Eastern spices, marinated overnight, then grilled to perfection.
Ingredient Notes + Substitutions
- Bone-In Chicken- This recipe is written for bone-in chicken, which cooks much differently than boneless chicken. I prefer the serving size of grilled chicken quarters, but as you will see in the photos, the last time I made this dish, I used bone-in chicken breasts instead.
If you're cooking for a large group, you may want to grill individual pieces, or perhaps you want to spatchcock the chicken; that's perfectly fine. As long as you use bone-in pieces, the grilled chicken recipe can be made as written.
- Spice Blend- Please don't let the long list of spices for this recipe intimidate you. If you don't cook Middle Eastern foods often, don't feel like you have to buy every single spice listed if you don't already have it on hand.
My recipe for homemade garam masala would be fantastic, as would baharat spice. Of course, you can purchase those blends from a Middle Eastern market if you prefer.
Recipe Video: Grilling Iraqi Chicken
Watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post for tips on how to grill bone-in chicken.
- Toast and grind the whole spices.
Start by heating the coriander and cumin seeds, peppercorns, cardamom, chiles and cloves in a 10″ skillet over medium heat until the seeds pop. Similar to making an Indian tadka, dry toasting spices helps the natural oils inside to expand, dispensing more flavor.
I use my cast iron skillet for this and it only takes a minute or two. Be sure to allow the spices to cool before you grind them.
- Make and apply the dry rub to the chicken quarters.
After you grind the spices, you'll combine the remaining spice blend ingredients with them in a bowl. Wash your hands or put on a pair of kitchen gloves and get ready to apply the rub.
Don't be shy about it; get under the wings and in all of the nooks and crannies of that chicken and rub it well!
As written, the chicken dry rub yields about ½ cup of seasoning. That is more than enough to season a 4-pound chicken, so don't worry if some of the blend falls off.
- Refrigerate the poultry for at least 2 hours.
You want to allow enough time for the seasoning blend to work its way into the bird. Some people like to marinate it overnight, and that's fine as well.
Use indirect cooking if necessary.
If the skin is getting too dark for your liking, move the pieces over to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking.
Use a cooking thermometer.
As mentioned earlier, bone-in chicken cooks much differently than boneless pieces. The bones helps to keep the meat juicy while it's cooking, but you will need to use a cooking thermometer to know for sure that the meat is cooked through.
Iraqi grilled chicken quarters are safe to eat when the internal temperature at the thickest portion reaches 163°F. You'll want to allow the meat to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. During that rest time, cooking will continue for a few minutes, bringing the internal temperature up to 165°F.
What to Serve with Iraqi Grilled Chicken
Iraqi Grilled Chicken Quarters + Video
- 4 lb bone-in chicken whole, cut in half, quarters, or single pieces
- 6 cardamom pods
- 6 dried arbol chiles stemmed
- 4 whole cloves
- 3 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoon dried rose petals
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac
- 3 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoon allspice
- 1½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 cloves garlic mashed into a paste
- 3 lemons separated
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- Heat the cardamom, chiles, cloves, coriander, cumin and peppercorns in a 10″ skillet over medium heat until seeds pop, 1-2 minutes. Allow to cool and transfer to a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) with the dried rose petals and grind. Transfer to a bowl and with a whisk stir in curry, cinnamon, sumac, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, fenugreek, salt, mashed garlic, the juice of one lemon (2-3 tablespoons) and olive oil. This will be a loose paste.
- Rub the spice mix all over chicken pieces and press the spice mixture to coat and adhere. Lift the wings up, get under there and rub it in. Get every nook and cranny of that bird! Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Heat your grill to 400°F. Clean grill and oil the grates to prevent sticking.
- Shake off excess spice rub or clumps from chicken. Give each chicken piece a good rub all over once again prior to roasting. Place chicken on grill skin side up and roast for 40-45 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken reads 165°F.
- Juice second lemon and mix with ¼ cup water and remaining spice rub in bowl or bag used to marinate chicken in. Use this mixture to baste the chicken twice while roasting.
- If outside starts to burn before chicken is cooked, move to cooler area of grill or tent with foil until done. Rest chicken 10 minutes and slice third lemon. Serve lemon slices with chicken.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.