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.

Steven Raichlen
Source: EatingWell Magazine, July/August 2017


Recipe Summary

12 hrs 50 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

368 calories; protein 41.9g; carbohydrates 3.2g; dietary fiber 0.3g; sugars 1.9g; fat 19.9g; saturated fat 7.2g; cholesterol 170mg; vitamin a iu 303.6IU; vitamin c 5.9mg; folate 12.9mcg; calcium 53.9mg; iron 1.7mg; magnesium 43.2mg; potassium 448.5mg; sodium 363.2mg.

Reviews (2)

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2 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 1
  • 4 star values: 1
  • 3 star values: 0
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 0
Rating: 5 stars
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Rating: 4 stars
For the first time I generally follow the recipe. I used bone-in chicken thighs and 1 boneless breast cut in half. I served the chicken with vinaigrette coleslaw and butter pepper basmati rice with buttery pecans and pumpkin seeds as I did not have pistachios. I also cooked the chicken in the oven as it was raining cats and dogs outside at supper time. Next time I will definitely make changes. First of all I will add garlic. And the rind from the lemon I juiced. I added the rind about 4 hours before cooking and I am convinced it made a good difference. I would also consider adding cumin or cinnamon to the yogurt mixture. My saffron didn't have much kick but of course it typically doesn't zing as much as more aromatic spices. The basic marinade was a winner but bland for our tastes. To make the rice I served toast the dry rice in the pot for a few minutes. Then add chopped onion and a good sized knob of butter. Add salt and about the same amount of pepper. Once the onion starts to cook add the water to cook your amount of rice. Cook as usual til done. Butter toasted nuts on this rice (taught to me by my friend Ray) was exceptionally tasty. Just a few nuts add a ton of flavour. I am sure pistachios would be great. No doubt if I had grilled the chicken and had some smoky grill marks it would have added a whole dimension of flavour to the chicken. It is a good basic recipe that will adopt to your family's tastes. Read More