A creamy, spicy, juicy zhoug chicken recipe with Middle Eastern-inspired flavors of cilantro, parsley, lemon, garlic, and tangy yogurt, served with turmeric, cumin, paprika-spiced rice with quinoa and served with fresh steamed broccoli.
How to Keep Baked Chicken Moist?
This Middle Eastern-inspired dish is a meal we return to for dinner at home. The secret is to keep the chicken moist when baking. I use a deep baking pan like a loaf pan to ensure that the zhoug chicken will not dry out while it's baking, and you get some browning at the top too.
Enjoy this Quick Zhoug Sauce recipe as a condiment topping, sauce, and marinade.
You will want to prepare the rice in your rice cooker or stovetop. I have provided instructions for both. Use basmati brown rice mixed with protein-rich quinoa; it comes out perfect in the rice cooker. Season the rice with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, turmeric, cumin, crushed red pepper chili flakes, cinnamon, and coriander. Then when the rice is ready, you will fold in the lemon zest and chopped parsley.
Then, you will cut the chicken breast into large chunks for the zhug chicken and combine it with zhug sauce, greek yogurt, and season with salt and pepper. This will then be placed in your air fryer or oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally, you will serve the zhoug chicken dish with quick steamed broccoli that only takes 3 minutes! This combination makes an incredible healthy chicken recipe that you'll keep coming back with a zhug recipe that can add to so many dishes as a marinade to using traditionally as a pepper sauce.
Cutting the chicken into large chunks while baking it in a deep dish helps keeps the chicken's juice in and moist. Learn more about prepping chicken. Undoubtedly, these color-coded flexible plastic cutting boards are the best to prevent cross-contamination.
- Brown Rice - You can use medium-grain brown rice or jasmine brown rice. For example, medium-grain brown rice refers to regular white medium-grain rice with the brain layer covering the white grain. Jasmine brown rice has a slight floral aroma. It is usually used in South East Asian and Caribbean cuisines.
- Quinoa - You can replace the quinoa in the same amount as rice.
- Ground Cinnamon - You can use one cinnamon stick.
- Lemon Zest - Try ¼ teaspoon dried lemon peel.
- Fresh Chopped Parsley - Try 1 teaspoon dried parsley.
- Quick Zhug Sauce Alternative - You might find an already-made version at your local store.
- Jalapeno Pepper - Use Serrano or a mixture of both.
- Chili Pepper Flakes Substitutes for Zhug Sauce - 1 Thai chili (Bird's Eye Chili) or ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper for every ½ teaspoon.
- Ground Cardamom Substitute - ¼ teaspoon ground ginger with ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon per ½ teaspoon.
- Roasted Zhoug Chicken - Omit the yogurt and marinate the chicken in the zhug sauce. It makes a great roasted chicken meal with a salad, fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, and a lemony vinaigrette.
- Air fryer - We've always cooked this recipe in a small baking dish in our Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill. It’s so convenient by taking less time than the oven. I don’t have to worry about waiting for the whole oven to preheat for a long time, and it’s so simple to use, like using a microwave. All of this helps when time is limited. You can see how I use the Ninja, and there is an image link below as well, under recommended products in the recipe.
- Rice Cooker - Use this if you plan to make the rice and the zhoug chicken. I developed this recipe using my Aroma Housewares Digital Rice Cooker. However, if you do not have a rice cooker, you can make it on the stovetop, as you would usually make it. Then add the lemon zest and chopped parsley after it's cooked.
- Steamer - Use this if you will make steamed broccoli as well. If you do not have a steamer, you can also boil it briefly for 3 minutes in boiling water. Also, some rice cookers have steamers, but they can be easily overcooked since it really only takes about 3 minutes to cook to a bright green color where the texture still has a bite. For this recipe, I used my Stainless Steel Oster Steamer.
- Refrigerator - Place the zhoug chicken, rice, and broccoli in the refrigerator in a 2-inch shallow pan to cool down quickly. Then store the meal and the rest of the zhug in an air-tight sealing container. The meal will last for up to four days and five days for the zhug sauce.
- Freezer - First, follow the refrigeration process mentioned above. For the meal, please place it in the freezer in a labeled, airtight container. Place the zhug sauce in a labeled freezer-sealing bag or divide portions into an ice cube tray, then pour the frozen cubes into a labeled freezer-sealing bag.
Removing Seeds to Control Heat Level Tip
When recipes call to remove seeds from hot peppers to control the heat level, you have to actually remove the rib (pith) of the pepper, the white flesh. Also, learn more about the pepper heat levels, or the Scoville Scale, in the Cook's Notebook tab.
Frequently Asked Questions
Zhoug is a fiery, aromatic Middle Eastern hot pepper sauce originally from Yemen, which has become increasingly popular adding to food in recent years. It typically consists of fresh green chili peppers (I use jalapenos, some use serrano), garlic, cumin, coriander, and olive oil.
There are also even variations with mint leaves and oregano. It has a spicy kick and a slightly bitter taste due to the cumin but also imparts sweetness from the garlic and herbal notes from the herbs - making it perfect for chicken. A dollop or two of zhoug adds an intense heat to any dish - from falafel to stir-fries - making it perfect for spicing up your favorite recipes!
As you can see, making this easy chicken dish doesn't take much. Therefore, it's a good idea to have my quick zhug sauce on hand that can store in your fridge for a week! You’ll be able to make the best healthy chicken recipe in less than an hour on a busy night. But you can skip making the zhug recipe by finding this popular sauce probably at your local market or Middle Eastern food stores.
Uniform Pieces = Same Cooking Time. Sometimes chicken breast can come in different sizes, which is natural. But it can make some pieces cook faster than others. This is why you need to cut it into uniform pieces. In addition, below is a simple, straightforward video on how to cut the chicken into large, uniform pieces for my recipes. There is no audio. Learn more chicken-cutting tips.
If you decide to serve this with rice, ensure you fluff the rice. For example, fluffing the rice with a fork or a paddle evaporates the extra moisture, leaving you with a bowl of lighter, fluffier rice. The method involves scooping and mixing the cooked rice within the container to allow steam to escape.
Zesting is peeling only the skin of the citrus fruit without the white flesh, referred to as pith. Notably, the skin contains aromatic oils and is an excellent addition to recipes to intensify the flavors of a dish. Therefore, a fine grater like the Microplane is the most convenient way to obtain the zest of the citrus fruit, usually referred to as zester. Learn more about Zesting on the Cook's Notebook tab.
Use as a marinade to grill/bake/roast tofu, meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables or as a dipping sauce in hummus or on its own.
Looking for other chicken recipes like this? Try these:
Middle Eastern Recipes
Looking for other Middle-Eastern-inspired recipes like this? Try these:
- 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.
- Use oils with a high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds.
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove.
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