Za'atar Sumac Chicken and Rice

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

When I posted this dish in a food forum it was under a different name. I did not know that this name would be such a bone of contention between a lot of people. Members were having a heated debate about the origins of this dish even though I took the best elements from three different recipes from three different Middle Eastern countries. (The members didn't know the backstory. I just posted the name and picture of the dish.) It was so controversial, I had to change the name to just Za'atar Sumac Chicken and Rice. It goes to show that even food can be politicized.

Za'atar Sumac Chicken and Rice smells like the Middle East. The mellow aroma of warm spices: cinnamon, za'atar, sumac, and cumin wafting through the house transported me back to every hole in the wall mom & pop cafe from Cairo to Marrakech to Jerusalem.

The chicken is fork tender and the turmeric rice flavorful soaking up the juices of the spiced herb encrusted chicken. The rice is somewhat creamy but still maintains its grainy structure. The thin lemon slices and tang of the juicy pomegranate arils cut nicely through the warm flavors adding a brightness to the dish. It is garnished with pine nuts and fresh parsley.

This may be my best recipe yet. Yes, this IS my best recipe. You will most likely agree after you see this video. I'm proud of this one.


Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (6)

Red Onion, sliced (1)

Garlic cloves, crushed and minced (2)

Extra virgin olive oil (5 tbs)

Cinnamon stick (1)

Bay leaves (2)

Chicken broth low sodium (4 cups)

Basmati or Jasmine rice (3 cups)

Turmeric (1 tsp)

Lemon cut in 1/4 inches slices (1 whole)

For spice rub:

Whole lemon zested (1)

Za'atar (2 tbs - more or less to taste)

Sumac (1 tbs)

Cinnamon ground (1 tsp)

Cumin ground (1/2 tsp)

Oregano dried (1 tsp)

White pepper (1 /2 tsp)

Kosher salt (1 tsp)

For Garnish:


Pomegranate arils, dried cranberrys, or barberries

Italian parsley

Extra virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400F

  2. Wash rice until water runs clear. Soak rice for 30 minutes.

  3. In a large bowl mix spice ingredients together.

  4. Coat chicken thighs in spice mixture.

  5. In a large pan, add 1 tbs of olive oil and brown thighs on both sides. Transfer to plate.

  6. Pour 2 tbs olive oil into a casserole skillet and sautee onions until soft and opaque.

  7. Add garlic and sautee until fragrant less than one minute.

  8. Add rice and toast until most of liquid has evaporated (But not too dry)

  9. Add chicken stock, pine nuts, and turmeric to rice. Mix turmeric and pine nuts into rice until it turns yellow. Press rice down flat.

  10. Lay cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and remaining red onion on top of rice.

  11. Lay chicken on top of onions.

  12. Place lemon slices on top of chicken.

  13. .Cover and roast for 35-40 minutes.

  14. After 35 minutes remove from oven, drizzle remaining olive oil, garnish with pine nuts, pomegranates, and parsley.

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