Iranian Grilled Chicken

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Iranian Grilled Chicken

This is a dish my Dad cooked often when we lived in Iran when I was a child.  Our assigned motor pool driver, Reza, taught my Dad how to make this wonderful chicken.  I can remember to this day the smell of this wonderful chicken being grilled on portable Aladdin grills outside shop fronts on Shimran Boulevard (or so it was named in 1960) in Teheran, walking to our favorite bakery for their wonderful 2′ long sheet bread called nan-e sangak.  Not sure which aroma was more divine, the chicken or the to-die-for bread cooking in the pebble-based ovens.

My addition to this recipe is the smoked Spanish paprika.  I know for certain that was not in the recipe my Mother wrote down & brought back to the States.  The original recipe uses a popular Iranian spice, sumac, which can be obtained in better spice stores, ordered on-line from places like Penzey’s Spices…….or you can grow your own like my  father did!  Sumac is the ground, dried berries/fruit of the sumac bush.    It is a slightly acidic, lemony tasting spice that is found in many Iranian, Israeli and other Gulf States dishes.  If you can’t get sumac, it can be omitted without great detriment to the final flavor of this dish. This recipe is Atkins Induction friendly and Paleo-Primal acceptable as well.  Because it is impossible to calculate the total nutritional info per serving, as that would depend on the specific pieces of chicken eaten, I will just provide the information for each of 10 servings of the marinade (the # of pieces of chicken I get from a chicken, cutting each breast in half) of sauce and you will have to calculate and add in the values for the piece(s) of chicken eaten.

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1 stick unsalted butter or ghee, melted (1/2 c. yogurt to be more authentic, but I warn you, that’s higher in carbs, naturally)

Juice of 2 lemons

Dash each salt and pepper

½ tsp. sumac

1½ tsp. paprika (I use smoked Spanish paprika)

½ tsp. turmeric

1 onion, minced very fine

1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces

DIRECTIONS:  Melt the butter in a small sauce pan or in your microwave.  Add all other marinade ingredients.  Stir well and remove from heat.  If using the more authentic yogurt, just stir the ingredients into the yogurt and marinate.  Cut up the chicken into 10 pieces (I reserve the back for making stock).  Place chicken into gallon ziploc bag.  Pour 1/2 of the marinade over the chicken.  Zip bag and manipulate it to coat each piece of chicken well with marinade.   Set rest of marinade aside for basting later.  Allow the chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.  Prepare charcoal grill.  When the coals are hot and ready, place chicken on the grill and cook on each side until done, basting often with the remaining marinade mix.  Cooking takes about 20 minutes on a side to get the chicken properly done (longer if cooked far from coals, indirectly).   Serve with grilled vegetables, green vegetable or a classic sour cream/yogurt cucumber mint salad.  ENJOY

NUTRITIONAL INFO:   Makes ample marinade/sauce for 10 pieces of chicken.  Each serving of the marinade only contains:

88 calories

9.2 g  fat

1.87 g  carbs, 1.2 g  fiber, .67 NET CARBS

1.3 g protein

17.9 mg sodium


15 comments on “Iranian Grilled Chicken

    • Sorry I missed your post, George. I’ve been out of pocket with health issues for a few days. You could bake it off in an oven if you don’t have grilling capabilities, but sadly it won’t be as good. In Iran, they only cook this over open fire or outdoor tall kerosene Aladdin cookers that are so prevalent over there. I used to walk with our maid to the nearest bakery to get their wonderful sheet bread around 5pm and I can’t tell you how many Aladdin cookers had this stuff (or lamb kebabs) cooking out at the curb of stores (by store owners) fixing their dinner. The aromas would drive you wild with hunger. 🙂

      At least, grilled is only way I ever saw it cooked there. The smoke flavor is particularly good for this marinade recipe. If you decide to bake it, do let me know how you like it that way. I’d be curious, as I’ve never done it in an oven. 🙂


    • Welcome to my website! I am honored to have a visitor with such culinary experience. Your B’India restaurant looks wonderful and maybe I’ll be able to visit it one day!

      I truly LOVE Indian and Middle Eastern foods. In fact, I made an Iraqi chicken-prune curry last night that was just delightful. I hope you enjoy this simple dish! Not much to it but the spices reward greatly with flavor. Wonderful with butter sauteed banana and a cucumber-tomato-mint salad. 🙂


    • In its simplicity this dish is hard to beat, Raymund. My hubby tends to overcook chicken on the grill (a frequent discussion at our table), but when it’s not overcooked, this is truly moist, tasty and wonderful.


  1. Hi, thanks for the great recipe! I started Atkins two days ago and used two packs of Kirkland chicken breasts, cooking them on a grill pan and finishing them on a rack in the oven. Two of us ate the entirety of the meal, and I still lost 2 lbs. in one day!


    • Welcome to the site, Paige! I’m so glad you both liked this chicken recipe! Good, isn’t it? Congratulations on starting your journey on one of the very best ways of eating out there, and keep up the good work! I’ve done Atkins for 3 years now and am just recently shifting over to the Paleo Diet, excluding all grain, dairy and legumes. I’m liking it so far and the transition from Atkins was pretty easy really.


      • Thanks again, I liked the back-story of the recipe too. I don’t know if I could follow you in the switch to paleo; one of of my favorite foods is cheese 🙂


        • Mine, too, so I may only end up ultimately doing Primal Blueprint, which is Paleo but still allowing occasional hard cheese and some dairy. 🙂 I’m still undecided on the ultimate plan, but it will be one or the other.


  2. Sounds wonderful, would love to get the sumac to try it as written. Love chicken! And since I have mint in my garden that is overflowing (mint does not know boundaries, ha!), I would like to mix up the yogurt/cuke/mint to go on top. Thanks for sharing, Peggy!


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