Za’atar Chicken with Pearl Couscous

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Za’atar is a magical spice that is the perfect balance of tangy, earthy and nutty. It is a spice mix everyone should have in their pantry and use often and generously.

Topped with the beautiful jewel-like pomegranate, this could be perfect weeknight valentines day dinner! 😉

What is Za’atar?

There are many different versions of za’atar, but essentially it is a spice mix that is common in middle eastern cooking. It is generally made from a mix of earthy herbs like oregano or thyme, tangy flavours like sumac and nutty flavours from sesame seeds. The mix is very addictive, and does really well on so many things like chicken or even just mixed in some olive oil as a dip with fresh bread.

What can I do with Za’atar?

Za’atar is so flavourful that it can hold its own in so many ways.

Sprinkle za’atar over a fresh salad with sliced tomatoes and feta or replace lemon and herbs on roast chicken. Anywhere you want a spice mix that’s earthy, savory, and tangy, all in one, this is the spice mix for you! In the Middle East, za’atar is often eaten with oil-dipped bread or spread onto flatbread dough before it’s baked into a manakeesh or pide.

You can cook with za’atar, it does really well on chicken or fish. Pair it with some garlic, fresh herbs, lemon, toasted nuts, and chile flakes.

And if you are not going to be heating up the za’atar in the cooking process, you can bring out the most flavor by blooming it in hot oil or butter. Heat the fat in a small skillet, take it off the heat, and add the za’atar—then drizzle over popcorn or toast! Yum!

How to make your own Za’atar

If you are in a pinch and can’t find any za’atar or have run out, you can make your own za’atar mix with the following ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme or oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp powdered cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp powdered coriander
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

If you can, use the whole version of cumin and coriander, dry roast them and then grind them before mixing into the za’atar.

Za’atar Chicken with Pearl Couscous

The original recipe this is inspired by used bone-in chicken thighs. I adapted it to be a little faster, for a quick weeknight meal.

The pearl couscous is more like a pasta than couscous. So you might find it in the pasta aisle of your grocery store. I used a turmeric pearl couscous that I found at my local bulk barn.

This is a great one pot meal. Serve it with a fresh salad with a basic vinaigrette, or try it with this perfect fall salad.

Za’atar Chicken & Pearl Couscous

Tangy, earthy, and easy one pot meal is beautiful to look at and delicious! This skillet chicken and pearl couscous is packed with flavor from the za’atar and sumac, plus a sweet candy-like pop of golden raisins. Finished with a flavoured oil, plus the colourful jewel-like pomegranate seeds.
Course: Main Course, spices
Cuisine: Fusion
Keyword: dairy free, sugar free
Servings: 4


  • 2 lbs boneless chicken, cut into large cubes
  • salt
  • 5 Tbsp za'atar, divided (see below to make your own za'atar)
  • 1 Tbsp sumac
  • 7 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1-2 whole green chillies, sliced down the centre
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp dried pomegranate seeds optional
  • 1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped


  • In a large bowl, season the chicken with 3 Tbsp each za'atar and olive oil, 1 Tbsp sumac and a pinch of salt. Mix well to combine. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients.
  • Heat a large pan with 2 Tbsp oil, add the chicken and green chillies. Cook, stirring often, on medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until the chicken is almost cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside, leaving any oil in the pan.
  • Add 1 Tbsp oil to the pan. Add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until the onions soften. If the onions start to burn on the bottom before turning brown, add a splash of water to prevent it from burning.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup raisins and 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous. Mix and cook for a few minutes so the pearl couscous starts to toast and turn a bit golden.
  • Add 1 3/4 cup broth and mix well. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
  • Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, remove the lid from the pan and add the chicken back into the pan on top of the couscous. Cover and let it cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the remaining 2 Tbsp za'atar in 2 Tbsp olive oil and mix well. Set aside.
  • Just before serving, drizzle with the za'atar olive oil, sprinkle with dried pomegranate powder, fresh pomegranate seeds and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!


If you need to make your own za’atar seasoning, mix together:
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme or oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp powdered cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp powdered coriander
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
If you can, get whole cumin and coriander and toast it before grinding it for an extra flavourful za’atar.
This will make exactly the right amount for this recipe. 

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