When you combine North Africa’s favorite spice mix ‘ras el hanout‘ with yogurt, garlic and lemon juice, you get one of the world’s best marinades for grilled chicken thighs. The yogurt is a natural tenderizer. The spices are warm and fragrant. Prep time is minimal. Just let the chicken soak up the marinade for an hour or two, throw it on a hot grill, and you’re in for a treat.
My favorite new flavor discovery of late is North African ras el hanout spice mix. I’ve been testing it out in a bunch of recipes. And since the best recipe I know for chicken thighs on the grill involves marinating them in yogurt, garlic, lemon and spices, I decided to try using ras el hanout as the spice component. The experiment was a huge success, yielding moist and deliciously tender tasty chicken.
MARINATING WITH YOGURT
Yogurt is an ideal marinade base for beef and poultry. As I mentioned, dairy – yogurt , milk, buttermilk – is an excellent tenderizer, partly because is is not very acidic. Acidic marinades can actually toughen meat whereas the calcium in dairy marinades activates enzymes in the meat, causing the proteins to break down. I have to assume all that “breaking down” makes way for the delicious flavors of ras el hanout, lemon, and garlic to move in.
RAS EL HANOUT GRILLED CHICKEN THIGHS – THE SPICE MIX
You can purchase ras el hanout spice mix on Amazon or in the spice section of some grocery stores. But you might want to make you own mix. It’s extremely quick and easy to do. Here’s my favorite go-to ras el hanout recipe. It takes less than five minutes to make and you probably have most of the ingredients in your spice cabinet.
For a bright and flavorful finishing touch, serve ras el hanout grilled chicken thighs with lemon wedges on the side and freshly chopped parsley or mint sprinkled on top.
Here’s the recipe for ras el hanout grilled chicken thighs. If you make this recipe, I hope you’ll come back to leave a comment, rate the recipe, and let me know what you think.
- 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs
- For the Ras El Hanout Marinade:
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ras el hanout spice mix
- 1 cup plain whole fat Greek yogurt
- Zest of 1 lemon (Best to zest the lemon before juicing it)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or double if you like it really hot and spicy)
- 5-6 garlic cloves, smashed
- Lemon wedges
- Mint or parsley leaves, chopped
- Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour them into a bowl or container large enough to hold all the chicken. Add chicken and toss to coat. Allow chicken to marinate for at least an hour and up to 6 hours, covered, in the fridge.
- Heat the grill to medium-high. Grill the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side or until it's cooked through.
- Garnish with lemon wedges and chopped parsley or mint
- Serve with rice or couscous. Another great side for this is Moroccan raw carrot salad or this simple green salad with citrusy dressing. You could also cut up the chicken and roll it up in pita with chopped salad and tahini sauce like in this recipe for grilled chicken shawarma.