You and your dinner guests will love this Middle Eastern Chicken recipe, which marinates bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in sweet/sour pomegranate molasses, bright sumac, mild chili pepper and pungent garlic. This marinade caramelizes in the oven to create a sticky, yummy glaze that bursts with flavor in each bite.
When I want a quick and foolproof recipe for company, I reach for this recipe for Middle Eastern Chicken. Here are 3 reasons why:
- It’s easy and mostly make-ahead: Marinate the chicken the morning of your dinner party. And that’s it. All you have to do later is put the chicken on a sheet pan and into the oven.
- You can't mess it up: Use bone-in, skin-on thighs. It’s very difficult to overcook these. Even if you have limited cooking experience, you can make these perfectly every time.
- It’s delicious: Gooey, sweet pomegranate molasses, tart sumac and spicy Aleppo pepper combine with garlic for a super full-flavored glaze that will have your guests licking their fingers!
This Middle Eastern Chicken recipe is my spin on a recipe that I saw on Leite's Culinaria blog and there are many variations online at the moment. I have made my version many times and I'm sure you will enjoy it. Pair it with rice and Date and Feta Slaw or Heirloom Tomato Salad with Whipped Feta and finish your wonderful Middle Eastern-inspired dinner with Mini Baklava Cups.
Ingredients for Middle Eastern Chicken
Mild chili pepper - Here, we are not talking about Italian hot pepper flakes or Mexican chilis. This recipe needs a mild, but full-flavored chili pepper. My favorite is Silk Chili Flakes from the sustainable spice company Burlap and Barrel. These wonderfully warm and mildly spicy peppers, with a tomato-like flavor, hail from Turkey and can be used in any recipe that calls for Aleppo pepper. True Aleppo pepper is unfortunately no longer available for import due to the continuing conflict in Syria. Silk Chili Flakes are perfect for this Middle Eastern chicken dish and enliven other dishes like scrambled eggs, Healthy Eggs Benedict and even brownies. French Piment d'Espelette is a good substitute if that is more readily available where you live.
Sumac is a classic Middle Eastern finishing spice. It has a bright, sour, salty and slightly fermented flavor. Swap it for lemon juice in any recipe or use it to add character and brightness to salads, fish, meat or dips. I love it sprinkled on hummus and on roasted vegetables. The Cured Sumac from Burlap and Barrel spice company is fantastic.
Other Condiments for Middle Eastern Chicken
Pomegranate molasses is, in essence, reduced pomegranate juice. Just like when you reduce balsamic vinegar, cooking down pomegranate juice creates a thickened syrup with a concentrated flavor. This syrup can be used as a condiment, or added to various dishes to enhance their flavor. Pomegranate molasses is often used in fish and meat dishes, and also as a replacement for vinegar in salads. I like Just Pomegranate Syrup : Organic Pomegranate Molasses with its easy-to-use spout.
Tomato Paste - There are a lot of perfectly adequate brands of tomato paste on grocery store shelves. If that’s all you have, please use it. But if you are planning making this recipe in advance, by all means, buy the intensely flavored triple concentrated tomato pastes imported from Italy. The flavor is so vastly superior, it’s difficult to me to understand how they both can be called “tomato paste.” This Mutti Triple Concentrated Tomato Paste is my absolute favorite.
- pomegranate molasses
- tomato paste
- mild chili pepper flakes
- ground sumac
- sea salt
- black pepper
- bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- extra virgin olive oil
See recipe card for quantities.
Instructions for Middle Eastern Chicken
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In a large bowl, stir pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, all spice, mild chili pepper, ground sumac, minced garlic, sea salt and black pepper until smooth.
Add the chicken thighs and use your hands to rub the marinade all over the thighs until well coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then refrigerate until ready to roast. The longer you marinate the chicken, the better, but it should be between 4 and 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (375ºF for convection). Take the chicken out of the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes before roasting. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. I line my baking sheet with pan liner for easy cleanup. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil.
Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165ºF. The marinade will caramelize and turn quite dark. Transfer chicken to a serving plate and serve immediately.
Hint: Don’t be alarmed if you see a very dark color on the chicken thighs when they are close to done. This is the caramelization of the sugars in the pomegranate molasses and when it gets that almost black color, you know it’s going to be sticky, sweet, gooey perfection.
A note about portion size for Middle Eastern Chicken:
The portion size of one thigh per person specified in this Middle Eastern Chicken recipe is in alignment with the stated intention of The Portion Queen. When the meat is cut off the bone, each serving is about 3 ounces of actual chicken meat. You can, of course, serve 2 thighs to your big eaters or to those who feel they require a larger amount of animal protein. But for most of us, a portion size of 3 ounces of meat is ideal. Surround the Middle Eastern Chicken with a bounty of fresh vegetables and salads, such as Date and Feta Slaw, Citrus Salad with Avocado, Mint and Pistachio, Air Fryer Brussel Sprouts or Heirloom Tomato Salad with Whipped Feta. It’s also excellent served over white rice, smoked basmati rice or Quinoa and Brown Rice with Garlic.
You will need a rimmed sheet pan for this Middle Eastern Chicken recipe. To me, the most annoying thing is a sheet pan that warps as soon as it hits a certain temperature in the oven. Commercial-quality sheet pans are the answer, such as this USA Pan Bakeware Heavy Duty Half Sheet, Warp Resistant Nonstick Baking Pan. It's a little pricey, but it will last a lifetime with proper care.
Top tips for Middle Eastern Chicken
Marinate the chicken thighs as long as possible. I like to do this in the morning of the day I will be serving the chicken. 8 hours is great. 12 hours is even better.
Also, use foil pan liner on your sheet pan, for easy cleanup. Go up the sides for best results. In the photos below, I uncharacteristically cut my pan liner too small, which allowed the marinade to flow under the liner. Ugh!
Middle Eastern Chicken with Pomegranate Molasses Glaze
- In a large bowl, stir pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, cinnamon, mild chili pepper, ground sumac, minced garlic, sea salt and black pepper until smooth.
- Add the chicken thighs and use your hands to rub the marinade all over the thighs until well coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then refrigerate until ready to roast. The longer you marinate the chicken, the better, but it should be between 4 and 12 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF (375ºF for convection). Take the chicken out of the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes before roasting. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. I line my baking sheet with a foil pan liner for easy cleanup.
- Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165ºF. The marinade will caramelize and turn quite dark. Transfer chicken to a serving plate and serve immediately. One package of Seeds of Change Quinoa with Brown Rice and Garlic (optional, see link in Ingredients) makes a nice bed for the chicken.
Chicken thighs can range in size, but for typical larger thighs found at the grocery store, four bone-in, skin-on thighs weigh a total of about 1 ½ pounds. Each of those thighs will yield about 2 ½ to 3 ounces of meat (the rest of the weight is skin and bone). The Portion Queen recommends one thigh for each serving of Middle Eastern Chicken Glazed with Pomegranate Molasses, surrounded by abundant salad and/or veggies.
Spices are used in the cuisines of all countries of the Middle East. Common spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, coriander and black pepper. Mild chili peppers such as Aleppo pepper from Syria are widely used. Also very popular is the spice blend known as za’atar, which combines dried thyme, cumin, coriander and toasted sesame seeds. Za’atar is wonderful in this Za’atar Chicken with Lemon-Parsley Salad recipe. Sumac, a condiment made by crushing sour berries, is used to bring brightness and acidity to foods, especially grilled and roasted meats, seafoods and vegetables. It is fantastic paired with pomegranate molasses in this Middle Eastern Chicken - Glazed with Pomegranate Molasses recipe. Finally, as in all countries of the Mediterranean, garlic is widely enjoyed.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove