Crispy Mediterranean Chicken Thighs
Amazingly simple and delicious, crispy roasted Mediterranean chicken thighs are easy to prepare with only a few ingredients and a single pan. No need to turn or move them while cooking; the chicken will sear and crisp right in the oven. Be sure to use a rimmed baking sheet to catch (and keep) the natural juices right in the pan. This is the ideal quick weeknight dinner, especially when served alongside my Tomato Carrot Spinach salad with miso vinaigrette or my Kale Brussels Sprouts Vegetarian Caesar Salad.
Mediterranean Chicken Thighs
My Mediterranean Chicken Thighs take only a couple minutes of hands-on time to prepare and the oven does 90% of the work!
My goal when I am making these Mediterranean Chicken Thighs is to get the skin as crispy as possible. I do this by baking them at a hot temperature (450 degrees F) and covering them in my olive oil and dry spice mix paste before putting them in the oven. I use bone-in chicken thighs with the skin still on them for flavor, but this recipe will also be successful if you prefer skinless; just be aware that the outside will not get as crispy. Make sure to use a baking sheet that it is rimmed. The last thing you want is for those delicious natural chicken juices to drip down into your oven.
When I say that the oven does 90% of the work I am not kidding! After rubbing the Mediterranean Chicken Thighs with my paste and putting them in the oven, I don’t turn them or move them at all for 30 minutes. Depending on the size of your bird, you may need to cook them for a bit longer. At 30 minutes check near the bone and if you see any pink add a few more minutes.
Turn my Mediterranean Chicken Thighs into a meal by serving alongside my Tomato Corn Salad & Miso Dressing or my Kale Brussels Sprouts & Vegetarian Caesar Dressing.
Typical Mediterranean Flavors
I call these Mediterranean Chicken Thighs because of the spices I use to flavor the chicken- cumin, coriander, oregano, and rosemary. Mediterranean food in general uses a lot of herbs and spices to add flavor without additional sugar or fat. The Mediterranean eating pattern has caught on in recent years, but in fact it was back in the 1960s that researchers discovered fewer people dying from coronary heart disease in Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy than in the United States or Northern Europe. They hypothesized that diet played a big role in the discrepancy.
Mediterranean-style cooking includes a lot of vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fish. What I love too are all of the phytonutrient-packed herbs and spices used in this area of the world, including: basil, cilantro, chives, fennel, garlic, mint, onion, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, saffron, za’atar, etc. I try to add these flavors to my dishes whenever I can.
The Mediterranean DASH Diet
To learn more about the Mediterranean diet and its effectiveness for lowering blood pressure and improving overall health when paired with the DASH diet, check out my cookbook, The Mediterranean DASH Diet Cookbook.
The ‘Skinny’ on Saturated Fat
In the 1990’s low-fat diets were all the rage. Food companies capitalized on Americans’ fear of fat and created low-fat or fat-free products that in many cases were packed with processed sugars to make up for the flavor deficit. People were enamored with the effective marketing at first, but like any fad diet, the low-fat diet soon ran out of steam. Even today, remnants of the fat-phobic culture remain, but I want to clear the air.
What is Fat?
Fat is one of three macronutrients our bodies need for energy and to help us absorb certain nutrients as well as to provide cell structure and warmth. Foods contain three different types of fat: triglycerides, phospholipids, and sterols (e.g., cholesterol). Triglycerides are the most talked about type of dietary fat, probably because 95% of the fats we eat are triglycerides. Triglycerides are classified based on their molecular chain length (long chain, short chain, medium-chain) and also based on their degree of saturation (saturated, trans-fat, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated).
Is Fat Bad?
We are often taught that saturated fat is “bad” and that unsaturated fats are “good,” but the reality is a bit more nuanced. The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than around 5-6% of our daily calories from saturated fats. If you are eating around 2,000 Calories a day this means about 120 calories from saturated fat or 13 grams. For reference, one of my Mediterranean Chicken Thighs with skin is about 5 grams of saturated fat. Saturated fat is a problem in the average American diet because of the ubiquity of heavily processed and fast foods, not necessarily because of what people are cooking at home. In my opinion, the most important thing we can do to minimize our intake of saturated fats is to focus on cooking at home and reducing the amount of processed, fast foods in our diets.
One way to tell if a fat is saturated or unsaturated is to look at its consistency at room temperature. If a fat is solid at room temperature then it is probably saturated. Typically, saturated fats are derived from animal sources while unsaturated fats are derived from plant sources. The exceptions to this rule are coconut oil (plant-derived, solid at room temperature), palm oil (plant-derived, solid at room temperature), and fish oil (animal-derived, liquid at room temperature).
Now more poultry recipes! Looking for more sheet pan style, easy dishes? Give my Buttermilk Baked Chicken, Chimichurri Chicken, or Apricot Chicken a try. If an indoor grill pan or outdoor grill are in the mix, check out my Chicken Skewers or Chicken Confetti Burgers. For stove top poultry, my 5 Spice Chicken Stir Fry is a winner.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (approximately 3 pounds)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place oil and spices into large bowl and mix together, making a paste. Add chicken and rub mixture onto chicken until evenly coated. Place on baking sheet.
- Bake approximately 30-35 minutes until golden brown and chicken registers temperature of 160 degrees F.