Our Za’atar Lemon Chicken Orzo is a hearty, satisfying dish. With savory za’atar seasoning and bright lemon, this recipe is simple and delicious and comes together in about 30 minutes.
Why this recipe sings
Our za’atar lemon chicken orzo is a hearty weeknight meal ready in about thirty minutes.
This versatile recipe can be modified to your liking with existing pantry ingredients.
The za’atar seasoning adds so much flavor. In the Middle East, za’atar is an essential seasoning. It is a blend of ground herbs, including a relative of oregano, mixed with sumac, sesame, and salt. It can be used as a finishing spice, a seasoning for roasted meat or vegetables, and also as a dip mixed with fresh olive oil.
Here is what you need
- Chicken. This recipe uses boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Substitute with chicken breasts, ground chicken, or turkey. If possible, purchase free-range organic chicken.
- Asparagus. It has a mild flavor enhanced by the lemon. Broccolini or green beans also work well here.
- Za’atar. This seasoning has it all. It works so well with proteins, and you barely need anything else. My favorite is from Burlap & Barrel.
- Orzo pasta. We love orzo but have made this recipe with shortcut pasta like penne, rigatoni, or ziti.
- Extra virgin olive oil.
- Broth. Vegetable or chicken. Use a stock cube with hot water as a substitute.
- Lemons. Gives a bright note.
- Garlic. It adds flavor yet doesn’t overwhelm the dish.
- Fresh dill. For serving. This slightly sweet herb has a distinct aroma—just a little sprinkled for serving adds freshness to the chicken orzo.
- Sea salt, pepper and chili flakes. Always check at the end if the seasoning is to your liking. I love serving this orzo with a sprinkle of crushed hot pepper for a little kick.
How to cook this lemon chicken orzo
Dice the onion, and the garlic. Chop the white hard parts from the asparagus and cut the into two or three pieces.
Season the chicken thighs with two tablespoons of zaatar and one tablespoon of olive oil.
Place a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat.
Decrease the heat to medium-high and add the chicken.
Sear each side for about 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t move the pieces much, let them get a nice color on each side.
Transfer the chicken to a plate and add the onion and garlic in the same pan. Stir and cook for three to five minutes.
Tip: With a wooden spoon deglaze the pan and lift the delicious fond that has accumulated on the bottom of the pot(caramelized bits from the chicken). Fond adds so much flavor to dishes.
Add the orzo and toast it with the onion and garlic for one minute.
Add the broth, juice from one lemon and the asparagus tips.
Stir and transfer back the chicken. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add more lemon juice if you like and season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with chopped dill, lemon zest and chili flakes on top. Have more lemon wedges around the table.
Za’atar Lemon Chicken Orzo
- 1 lb chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons za'atar seasoning
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion diced
- 8 garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1 cups orzo
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 bunch medium asparagus
- 2 lemons juiced and zested
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoons chopped dill
- lemon wedges
- chili flakes
- Season the chicken thighs with two tablespoons of za'atar and a tablespoon of olive oil.Dice the onion and garlic. Cut off the white hard ends from the asparagus and then cut them into two or three pieces.
- Place a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. When the pot is hot, lower heat to medium high.Add the olive oil and the chicken. Sear chicken on both sides for about 4 minutes per side. Avoid to move the chicken around too much. Allow it to get a nice color on both sides.Transfer chicken pieces to a plate.
- Add the onion and garlic in the same pot. Stir and scrap the bottom with a wooden spoon to lift the fond (caramelized chicken and fat pieces stuck at the bottom of the pot full of flavor). Cook until they are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the broth and lemon juice, the orzo and stir.Return the chicken and all the accumulated juices to the pot, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Add more lemon juice if you like and season with sea salt and pepper to taste.Serve in bowls with chopped dill, chili flakes, and lemon zest on top. Add bowls with lemon wedges around the table.
- For this orzo recipe, you can use chicken breasts, ground chicken, or turkey.
- You can substitute orzo with other type of short cut pasta.