Persian Grilled Chicken


This easy grilled chicken recipe owes its tenderness to an overnight soak in a yogurt-lemon juice marinade and its soulful flavor to saffron and onion. A healthy drizzle of saffron-infused butter before serving adds an extra layer of richness. Serve with aromatic rice with pistachios and torshi, Central Asian pickles available at Persian and Middle Eastern grocery stores.

Cook Time:
50 mins
Additional Time:
12 hrs
Total Time:
12 hrs 50 mins
6 servings


  • ¾ teaspoon saffron, divided

  • 1 tablespoon warm water

  • 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • ½ cup lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper

  • 3 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 bunch Cilantro or dill sprigs for garnish


  1. Combine 1/2 teaspoon saffron and water in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in yogurt, onion, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

  2. If using any chicken breasts, cut into 2 equal portions. Add chicken to the marinade and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours, turning the chicken a couple times, if possible.

  3. When ready to cook, build a medium-hot, multi-zone fire (see Tips) or preheat one section of a gas grill to medium.

  4. Remove the chicken from the marinade and drain well. (Discard the marinade.)

  5. Oil the grill rack. Grill the chicken, turning once or twice, until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part without touching bone registers 165 degrees F, 16 to 24 minutes total. Move the chicken to a cooler spot, as needed, to dodge any flare-ups.

  6. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Crumble the remaining 1/4 teaspoon saffron into the pan and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

  7. Transfer the chicken to a platter and drizzle with the saffron butter. Garnish with cilantro (or dill), if desired.


To make ahead: Marinate chicken (Steps 1-2) for up to 24 hours.

Tips: To prepare for multi-zone cooking in a charcoal grill, light coals and let them burn down until they're glowing red. Rake out the coals so you have a hot zone (double layer of coals), a medium zone (single layer of coals) and a coal-free safety zone. For gas, if you have three or more burners, set one or two burners on high; one or two burners on medium; and leave one or two burners off for the safety zone.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

368 Calories
20g Fat
3g Carbs
42g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 368
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 42g 84%
Total Fat 20g 26%
Saturated Fat 7g 36%
Cholesterol 170mg 57%
Vitamin A 304IU 6%
Vitamin C 6mg 7%
Folate 13mcg 3%
Sodium 363mg 16%
Calcium 54mg 4%
Iron 2mg 9%
Magnesium 43mg 10%
Potassium 449mg 10%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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