Syrian chicken with ginger, lemon & saffron

serves 4 mains
difficulty easy
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 1hr (approx.)
main ingredient(s) chicken, ginger, Spices, Citrus

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There are quite a few ingredients: the heady but gentle spices create layers of flavour, and there’s a lovely sweetness from the currants. Even so, it’s quick to cook, and awesome with rice or couscous to soak up all the delicious juices. You must try it.


2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1.4–1.6 kg chicken, cut into 8 pieces
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, thickly sliced
100 grams ginger, cut into matchsticks
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
2 small red chillies, split
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 pinches saffron threads
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons honey
100 grams currants
2 tablespoons vegetable stock powder
½ bunch coriander, leaves only
couscous or rice, to serve


Combine the salt, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric in a large plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces and shake to coat.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, adding a little more oil, if necessary. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cumin seeds and thyme and cook for 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the lemon juice and zest, honey, currants, stock powder and enough water to just cover the chicken.

Cover with a lid and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through, and the sauce is slightly reduced.

Stir in the coriander and serve with couscous or rice.

Comments & Reviews24

Fern W's picture
Fern W
Aug 3, 2011

My husband tried to make this a month or so ago from a different recipe, it didn't have much flavour?... but he's trying again this weekend with your recipe. I'm guessing he "freestyled" a little too much.

dano's picture
Aug 4, 2011

This sounds amazing, I'm going to make it tonight and I'll send through a picture.

Kris's picture
Aug 11, 2011

I've been cooking this dish since it first appeared in one of the Sunday newspapers, probably about 5 years ago (??) and it is absolutely divine. This was the dish that got me hooked on your recipes!

Nene's picture
Aug 16, 2011

Syrian chicken was a delicious feast for the senses! Cooked for good friends Saturday night- picked up 2 well brought up birds and transformed them into this exotic dish. Accompanied them with fluffy couscous tossed with pomegranates. Tweaked the recipe to throw them in the oven and forget about them for an hour or so while we had some pre dinner drinks. Will definitely make it again.

Jodie Cunningham's picture
Jodie Cunningham
Nov 1, 2011

Now I will be able to find all your recipes, I am a huge fan of your food..

Katerina Tichy's picture
Katerina Tichy
Jan 14, 2012

I made this dish the other day for a group of friends. I didn't have currents and couldn't get a hold of fresh chilli's. So I used cranberry's and crushed peppers instead. Both worked well, the cranberry's gave the curry a sweet bite and the crushed peppers weren't to spicy but the dish did have a bit of spiciness. Thank you Karen I’ll be making this a weekly occasion to cook your fabulous recipes for friends.

Jennifer's picture
Jan 22, 2012

This is a much cooked favourite over several years since it was first published in the weekend Age some years ago. Everyone loves it and I've shared the recipe with many friends after cooking it for them (always acknowledging Karen as its source of course!) - they in turn have cooked it for their friends and passed it on too. I sometimes remove the chicken skin, always reduce the oil by about half and cut back on the ginger a little. I also use liquid vegetable stock because it's what I usually have on hand.

Kirsten's picture
Apr 14, 2012

Love this recipe it's a favourite at our house since it appeared in the Sunday age years ago. It's easy to!

KH's picture
May 28, 2012

A friend recommended this recipe and I cooked it for the first time last night. I was out of fresh tomatoes so I used a small tin of tomato paste, and while I'm sure the original recipe is nicer, this was still incredible. The spices infused into the chicken were just ambrosial. The coriander added just before serving was such a fresh, light hit. Best new recipe I've tried in ages -- just divine Karen, thank you!

Di morts's picture
Di morts
Jun 1, 2012

I have made this dish soooooooooooooo many times years ago that i saw it in the age. its very withered in my recipe book. I cannot rave enough about it. Yes, its a little time consuming but at the end ...... oh my. And i have given it to many people who also have the same reseult. THANKS Karen!!!

RWx's picture
Jun 14, 2012

Absolutely beautiful, tasted great and was a delicious, hassle free full flavoured dish!

Eliza's picture
Aug 15, 2012

Thank you Karen for keeping my family and friends well fed! This is a great recipe that is perfect for weekend meals and also dinner with friends.

jenny Tobin's picture
jenny Tobin
Sep 22, 2012

A friend cooked this for a girl's dinner.It was absolutely delicious.

fifi's picture
Jun 2, 2013

Finally made this recipe for a girls weekend after pulling it out of the paper years ago. I was not disappointed. Easy to make and an absolute hit with the girls. Everyone wants the recipe now. So glad i kept a hold of it. Thanks Karen.

Mike's picture
Jun 5, 2013

This is my favourite recipe and is now an permanent fixture when we host the State of Origin football night (NSW vs Queensland) each and every year. We received your recipe book as a gift. It has many good and interesting recipies.

Joanna's picture
Jun 9, 2013

Absolutely Fabulous cooked this dish twice and also with Lamb shanks teriffic. Thanks Karen

Rain's picture
Jan 12, 2014

Love this recipe. Added it to the menu for my sixtieth birthday party and have had many requests for the recipe. I now make it in my pressure cooker and it turns out great. Flavour gels as if you have left it overnight.

Laura D.'s picture
Laura D.
Mar 2, 2014

I'd like to make this earlier in the day, before my guests arrive, then finish or reheat it at dinnertime--what would be the best way to do that without it drying out?

Jari Bellu's picture
Jari Bellu
Jun 25, 2014

Hi Karen, big fan of your style which is heaps of flavour, minimum fuss. I have seen repeated references to a series of amazing recipes from the Age some years ago, but it seems impossible to locate them. Are they all in one of your recipe books or is it possible to get a copy somehow please.

Thanks much & kindest regards

Mimser's picture
Oct 14, 2014

Any suggestions for a nice refreshing dessert after Syrian Chicken. M

Joe's picture
Apr 14, 2016

I have made this time and time again - it simply never ever fails! Thanks Karen - you make me look good in the kitchen

Gemini15's picture
Jun 7, 2016

This is absolutely the best chicken recipe ever! I only recently discovered it after being lucky enough to pick up one of Karen's books in an op shop. I cooked it for a family dinner and it pleased everyone- even the notoriously Fussy One. Mimser- for a dessert- we had fresh oranges and strawberries in a Cointreau syrup. Just make a sugar syrup with about 1/2 cup sugar to 1 cup of water. When cooled add Cointreau to taste- about 50 mls. Pour over sliced fruit and marinate for a few hours. Serve with Greek yogurt. We thought it was a good finish.

Raif's picture
Sep 30, 2016

I followed the recipe closely. I needed only half the olive oil. The result was way too sweet. I could do without the honey. I used two Cornish hens instead of chicken. It took close to an hour for the meat to cook through. A decent dish, but I will tweak the quantities next time.

Raif's picture
Sep 30, 2016

Follow up: My 16 year old loved it. It must be the honey :-)

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