Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Aleppo Pepper

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Aleppo Pepper
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Aleppo Pepper

Aleppo Pepper is a beautiful, crushed pepper flake, bursting with salty, sour heat and sunny flavor. It’s been gaining traction in the US in recent years; it had a brief moment as a nouveau kitchen darling in the early 2000s before disappearing off shelves with the onset of the Syrian civil war. Now being grown in a different region and available for sale again, Aleppo Pepper is experiencing a culinary renaissance as more and more people become familiar with this alluring spice.

This dish is all about balance, since the individual ingredients have strong flavor profiles and could easily dominate a dish if left unchecked. We decided to play Aleppo Pepper’s salt-tart flavor profile against the succulent flavor of chicken thighs. Inherently more flavorful than lean chicken breasts, the rich thigh meat provides a balance to the acidic highs and smoky pepper lows that Aleppo brings. We marinated this dish in yogurt to tenderize it even further, for an easy way to achieve fall-off-the-bone goodness. Grilled lemon retains its puckery flavor, but it’s mellowed out a bit by the grilling and gives off an added bit of caramelized sweetness which, again, provides balance.

We don’t recommend using low-fat yogurt in this dish; you want the fat in the yogurt to boost the tender mouthfeel of the chicken once it’s been marinated. We also don’t recommend baking or sautéing this dish; if grilling is not an option for you, it can be broiled in a 400°F oven, flipping once to ensure even cooking until the internal temperature is 165°F. But grilling will provide the best results for this dish, and inexpensive stove-top grill pans are easily available at cooking supply stores. You don’t need an enormous outdoor rig to cook this dish successfully.

Before serving, garnish this dish with something fresh and green, like parsley or chives, to lift the palate upward and balance the rich flavor of the chicken and the tart pops of Aleppo Pepper, yogurt, and grilled lemon. Serve this with a green salad for a light dinner, and slice up the leftovers for wraps the next day.

 Print Recipe

Category: Chicken, Grilling
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
  • 4 Tbsp Aleppo Pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp water, divided
  • 1 lemon, for zesting and juicing
  • 2 lemons, sliced for grilling
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 6 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp Fine Sea Salt

1. Combine Aleppo Pepper and 2 Tbsp of warm water and allow them to steep for 5 minutes. Stir to form a paste.

2. Zest 1 lemon and put zest in a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients. Juice lemon into that same bowl.

3. Add all ingredients except the chicken and 2 sliced lemons into the large bowl to create marinade and stir thoroughly.

4. Add chicken to the marinade and cover. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

5. Remove thighs from marinade; you don’t want a thick coating of yogurt on the chicken but some can remain. Grill thighs on a medium hot grill. Cook for 5-8 minutes per side, until grill marks have developed and meat is fully cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Set aside to rest.

6. Toss sliced lemons with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill on both sides until grill marks develop.

7. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with freshly chopped parsley, chopped chives, or an additional shake of Aleppo Pepper.