Za'atar Chicken Wings
Ever since I saw a zaatar spiced chicken dish on a menu at great restaurant I visited last year, I have been itching to recreate my own version. So when Terranean Herbs sent me some of their Za’atar condiment spread, I knew it was the perfect opportunity. I was so intrigued by the ‘spicy zaatar’ that they offer, a fresh take on a classic spice blend, that I could not wait to try it.
With the Super bowl coming up, I decided to try this recipe with chicken wings. Chicken wings are an iconic Super Bowl appetizer and this is a fun Lebanese-inspired version. These wings are easy to make and only require a handful of basic ingredients, along with the zaatar condiment.
What is Zaatar?
Zaatar is a Middle-Eastern spice blend that is most often mixed with olive oil, turning it into a spread/condiment. Zaatar is primarily made from ground Lebanese wild thyme, sun-dried sumac, salt, and toasted sesame seeds. Depending on the region in the Middle-East you try it from, the herbs will differ a bit, as will the ratio. Some zaatar blends also include oregano along with the thyme or marjoram.
Normally, I acquire my zaatar directly from my families’ village in the countryside of Lebanon. I bring back a large amount and store the dried spice blend in an airtight baggie in my freezer to retain freshness for months at a time, even up to a year! While my local Arab/Mediterranean grocer will carry zaatar, as do some regular grocery stores now that it is becoming more mainstream here, I generally avoid those brands. This is because I have found that the spices in those mixes tend to taste less fresh and be milder in flavor. Additionally, many of the big brands here seem to have a higher ratio of ‘filler’ ingredients, such as ground wheat and more sesame seeds as opposed to the fragrant herbs and tangy sumac. I am always on the lookout for a high-quality zaatar spice blend by a local brand, one that is accessible to my readers in the US. That’s why I was so excited when Terranean Herbs sent me two jars of their zaatar condiment spread, a regular mix and a spicy zaatar blend. Their zaatar is specifically sourced from Lebanon, made the traditional way I know and love. The flavors are almost identical to the zaatar I have at home. The spicy zaatar is what I was most eager to try. It is regular zaatar spice blend but with a spicy kick to it coming from the addition of chili pepper.
For those of you who would love to try zaatar but have not been able to find any at a local Middle-Eastern grocery store, I highly recommend Terranean Herbs. You can very easily purchase it directly from their website and have it sent right to your home! It does not have filler ingredients and is made the old-fashioned way with high quality herbs. They sell the dried spice blend as well as pre-mixed with olive oil as a condiment spread ready to use. I am excited to have found such a quality zaatar I can get locally, one that does not require an international round trip!
How to cook the Spicy Zaatar Chicken Wings
Once you try chicken wings in the air fryer, you will never feel the need to deep fry them ever again. The circulating hot air makes the wings so crispy; crispier than they could ever get in an oven. However, the inside of the wings manage to stay tender and juicy. They also cook way faster than baking in a regular oven, with a total cook time of 20-24 minutes. I tossed the chicken with the spicy zaatar towards the end, to not burn the zaatar taste. If you would rather not make these spicy, or want to make them more kid friendly, you can substitute the spicy zaatar condiment with the regular zaatar condiment. However, I found that the level of spiciness in this blend is not overbearing. My own husband is not the biggest fan of super spicy foods and he was able to handle these with no complaints! I personally loved the little kick of heat, especially in combination with the wings, as it made for a great game day recipe!
If you do not have an air fryer, you can certainly go the traditional route and deep fry them. If you are looking for a lighter option, this recipe can easily be done using a traditional oven, however, they will take much longer to cook and get crispy. To make these Spicy Zaatar wings in an oven, bake them at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. Since the oven can fit so much more, you can certainly double or even triple the recipe and add about 10-15 more minutes to the total cook time. If you want to double or triple the batch in the air fryer, you will just have to cook them in batches. The air fryer I am currently using a Ninja AF101.
Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
Stretch the chicken wing out on a cutting board, and using a knife, cut between the drumette (meatiest part) and the wingette. You can also cut the tip off but, I don’t mind them so I leave them.
Place in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Add the olive oil, salt and pepper to the mixing bowl and toss to combine.
Lay the seasoned chicken wings flat in the air fryer basket.
Turn on air fryer and bake on 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken wings and add to a clean mixing bowl.
Add the spicy zaatar spread and toss well to coat every chicken wing.
Place the wings back in the air fryer basket and cook for an additional 7 minutes for a total cook time of 22 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.