The Secret Ingredient (Za'atar): Za'atar Fried Chicken Recipe

The Secret Ingredient

Every month we highlight a different ingredient and share weekly recipes that showcase its uses.

The Secret Ingredient (Za'atar): Za'atar Fried Chicken Recipe

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

Week two in my unorthodox treatment of za'atar continues with this recipe for za'atar-seasoned fried chicken. It's a simple preparation: dip in buttermilk, roll in flour, fry in a cast iron pan. But the flour is doctored with a good dose of za'atar, a blend of salt and sumac and sesame: only thyme breaks up the consonance of the mix.

I like the contrast of the expected with the unexpected. The crispy, salty flake and shred of fried chicken. And then a tart bite from the sumac as it bleeds and stains the crust in the hot oil. The earthy thyme as it crisps against the chicken skin. And the ever-exotic nuttiness of toasting sesame seeds that always signal to Americans a recipe from a far off land. (Except, of course, in the case of bagels; unless Manhattan is indeed far off). Arabian Americana? Perhaps some would find it contradictory. But, William Blake did say the world is made up of contradictions. And I personally don't mind them—so long as they taste good.


Za'atar Fried Chicken


  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken drumettes
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • vegetable oil for frying


  1. 1.

    Place the chicken in a large baggie with the buttermilk, and place in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours.

  2. 2.

    Meanwhile, fill a cast iron frying pan halfway with vegetable oil, and heat to 325 degrees F.

  3. 3.

    Fry the drumettes 5 minutes on each side (10 minutes total). Remove to a cooling rack to drain. Serve immediately.