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A staple Palestinian meal, Musakhan (also spelled msakhan and musakkhan) is a hearty, festive and very popular recipe all over the Middle East. Seasoned and roasted bone-in chicken pieces are served on pita spread with onions and then topped with pine nuts. This musakhan chicken is impressive to serve with minimal ingredients; no wonder it’s such a popular street food.
Ingredients & substitutions
- Chicken: Traditionally, you would roast an entire chicken and then break it up into pieces to serve over the bread. To make it easier and faster, use whole chicken legs or chicken drumsticks and thighs.
- Onions: Use yellow onions for this recipe. Peel and dice them, and then slowly caramelize them for a really rich flavor.
- Seasonings: 7 spice and sumac are used to give the musakhan its authentic flavor, along with a little salt.
- Oil: For cooking. Olive oil is preferable, but other high heat oils like canola or vegetable will work well.
- Pine nuts: Toasted pine nuts are sprinkled over the flatbreads before or after baking, they add great texture. Slivered almonds would also work well.
- Flatbreads: You can use large or small flat breads depending on the serving occasion. You can use naan, Greek pita or Taboon bread.
How to make musakhan
- Season the chicken and drizzle over the oil. Use your hands to coat the chicken all over.
- Bake until the skin is crispy and the chicken is cooked through.
- Add the chopped onions and oil to a large skillet.
- Cook on a medium heat til lightly golden.
- Add in the seasonings.
- Cook until the spices are fragrant without burning the onions.
- Place the flatbreads on a baking sheet.
- Spread the onion mixture on top.
- Place on the roasted chicken legs. Broil the musakhan until the edges are browned.
Tips for making the recipe
- Use chicken thighs and/or drumsticks. While bone-in chicken is more difficult to eat, this type of chicken is the most juicy and it’s the traditional way of making the recipe.
- Add water to deglaze the onions if needed. While caramelizing the onions, they may stick to the pan, so you can add a tablespoon of water as needed to deglaze. This also helps to create more of a sauce, but it’s not necessary.
- Don’t toss the roasting pan juices from the chicken. You can transfer these juices on top of the onion mixture to help deglaze the plan and create more of a sauce for the recipe. Make sure to rub the chicken all over the juices to carry that flavor to the flatbreads.
- Don’t rush cooking the onions. Cook them on a lower heat and for a longer time to caramelize them to get really sweet and intensely flavorful. You can cook them while the chicken is roasting. Be sure to check out some great tips on how to caramelize onions.
Frequently asked questions
When you first look at bone-in chicken on top of a flatbread, it’s hard to imagine how it’s meant to be eaten. But this is definitely one to enjoy with your hands as you piece some of the chicken and wrap it in the spiced onion flatbread.
Yes, and it would be easier to eat it if it used chicken breast cut before serving. However, for the traditional presentation of musakhan, it’s best to use whole chicken legs or drumsticks and thighs, as available.
It’s really quite a unique spice that has a lemony flavor with hints of fruitiness. It can’t be substituted 1:1. However, given its acidic flavor, you can try using 1-2 tablespoons lemon zest of white vinegar and cumin for the remaining amount.
If you haven’t had musakhan chicken before, this is such a fun one to try to instantly transport your taste buds to the Middle East! This Palestinian favorite is simpler than it appears and is bursting with flavors – perfect for one or a crowd!
More middle eastern recipes:
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- 2 tablespoons 7 spice divided
- 2 teaspoons salt divided
- 3 tablespoons sumac divided
- 4 whole chicken legs thigh and drumsticks, about 2 and half pounds
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 medium yellow onions chopped
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 6-8 small flatbreads naan, Greek pita bread or Taboon bread
- Lemon slices for serving
- Fresh parsley for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pat the chicken legs dry and place on prepared baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon 7 spice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon sumac on top of the chicken. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil and use your hands to rub the spice mixture into the chicken, making sure to get underneath the skin.
- Bake for 40 minutes until the skin is crisp and the chicken is cooked through to internal temperature of 165°F.
- Meanwhile, heat the ¼ cup olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly golden, about 25 minutes.
- Add the remaining 7 spice, salt and sumac on top of the onions and continue cooking for 5 more minutes until the spices are fragrant.
- Place the flatbreads on a large baking sheet. Divide the onion mixture between the flatbreads. Spread the mixture, but leave a small border around the edges. Add one cooked chicken leg on each flatbread. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
- Broil the flatbreads until the edges begin to brown and toast, 3-5 minutes.
- Serve with lemon slices and fresh parsley, if desired.
- Instead of sumac, you can use equal parts cumin and lemon zest.