Chicken Musakhan is considered Palestine’s national dish.
Palestinian Musakhan features spiced roast chicken, caramelized onions, pine nuts and flatbread.
Our traditional quick and easy Musakhan recipe features flavourful ingredients like olive oil, cumin, cinnamon, sumac, all spice, pine nuts, lemon and parsley.
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What is Chicken Musakhan?
Musakhan is Palestine’s national dish. The dish is also popular in the Levant (Palestine, Israel, Syria, Lebanon & Jordan), particularly among Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and Jordanians. Its recipe originated in Tulkarm and Jenin.
The Palestinian dish is quick & easy to cook, featuring affordable pantry and fridge staples. Traditionally the dish is made during the olive oil pressing season in October or November to celebrate (and assess the quality of) the freshly pressed oil.
Chicken Musakhan is a dish that families typically eat with their hands while seated on a carpet on the floor. It is usually presented with the roasted chicken on top of the bread, and is often served with soup.
The term musakhan translates to “something that is heated.”
Travel to the Middle East by Cooking Musakhan at Home
I love traveling to the Middle East and North Africa.
As a professional food and travel journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy amazing meals in the Middle East, from authentic markets to award winning restaurants.
For over ten years, I’ve been on the hunt for the best Chicken Musakhan via adventures that had me zig-zagging through Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Dubai. You guessed it! Some of my fondest food memories while traveling in the Middle East include fragrant feasts featuring Musakhan.
I ate Chicken Musakhan at a traditional Moroccan riad, on food tours of Istanbul and Bodrum, accompanied by Egyptian tea on a Nile Cruise and in bustling market in Cairo, late night snack in Amman, al fresco market lunch in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and accompanied by freshly baked pita at a massive Middle Eastern barbecue in the middle of the Dubai desert while belly dancers twirled under the night sky.
Where To Eat Authentic Chicken Musakhan
If you live in a large city in Canada or America you’ll likely have access to a local Middle Eastern restaurant that serves traditional Chicken Musakhan.
Haven’t traveled to the Middle East before? It may be helpful to first sample Chicken Musakhan at a local restaurant to better understand how the dish is served. You’ll get an idea for the desired spice level, flatbread to chicken ratio and ideal garnishes. You’ll also find inspiration on what to pair with Musakhan such as such as falafel, kibbeh, shawarma and kebab.
In Toronto, popular Middle Eastern restaurants that may serve a traditional Musakhan include Parallel, Byblos, Tabule, Fat Pasha, Maha’s, Masrawy Kitchen and Paramount Fine Foods.
My Family Loves Traditional Musakhan
When my family moved to Oakville the first restaurant we visited was a local Egyptian and Lebanese restaurant called Agabi. Ranked as one of the best restaurants in Oakville, Agabi, became our family’s go-to Middle Eastern take out joint.
We’d often order a selection of dishes to share with dips and mezze. Our family favourites were chicken shawarma, lamb shashlik and Musakhan.
After falling in love with Middle Eastern food at home, we enjoyed vacations to the region, feasting on endless bowls of hummus, falafel stuffed pita and roast chicken topped Musakhan.
My family enjoys preparing this easy Musakhan recipe at the cottage in Muskoka during the summer or in the fall and winter in Toronto.
Chicken Musakhan Health Benefits
Our homemade Chicken Musakhan recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients!
Onions are a humble vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Regular consumption of onions can help boost digestive health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Olive Oil is ranked as one of the healthiest fats and is a staple in the Mediterranean diet. It contains vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants.
A rich source of phytochemicals and vitamin C, lemons help boost your immune system and neutralize free radicals that cause disease and skin aging. Lemons also protect against heart disease and help improve blood flow to the brain.
Chicken is high in protein and provides B vitamins such as niacin, which helps your body access the energy in foods.
Packed with calcium and friendly probiotic bacteria, sour cream and yogurt help keep your bones strong and your gut healthy. Yogurt may also help reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and some types of cancer.
A rich source of blood-building iron, cumin may also help balance your blood sugar levels and reduce bad cholesterol. It is also traditionally used as a digestive aid.
Rich in energy-boosting manganese, cinnamon is also antibacterial and may protect your brain against Alzheimer’s disease.
An excellent source of vitamin K, as well as vitamin C, folate, and iron, parsley helps keep your bones and blood healthy, and protects your skin from damage by free radicals.
Pine Nuts are rich in magnesium, iron, antioxidants, zinc, and protein, which can help with diabetes management, heart health, and brain health.
If it’s your first time cooking Musakhan at home be sure to review our detailed step-by-step recipe below. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to get you started:
- We suggest quartering a whole chicken in your kitchen so you can enjoy a mix of white and dark meat with this dish. As an alternative you purchase 4 chicken legs or 6 chicken thighs (bone-in skin on).
- You can season the chicken a day in advance by letting it marinate overnight in the fridge.
- Serving bone-in chicken over flatbread can feel intimidating. To make it easier for guests, once your chicken is roasted, carefully debone them and add shredded chicken on top of the caramelized onion flatbreads. You can even turn them into wraps for easier handling for kids.
- If you want to elevate the dish feel free to add a pinch of saffron.
- Chicken Musakhan is traditionally served with taboon, a Palestinian flatbread. You can substitute for naan, pita or make your own sourdough flatbread.
- Sometimes we add lemon zest before serving to give the dish a more drool-worthy eye appeal.
- If you don’t like red onions, you can substitute for large white cooking onions or sweet vidalia onions.
What To Serve with Musakhan
We love to make this healthy Middle Eastern roast chicken dish during large family gatherings. It’s intended to be enjoyed as a large group, typically eaten off one large platter with your hands.
You could also serve the dish on individual plates, including a chicken thigh, breast or leg with toasted flatbread, caramelized onions, chopped parsley and lemon wedge.
If you’re hosting a large Middle Eastern-theme dinner party buffet you may want to add fresh salads, homemade soups, healthy dips and regional specialities like shawarma, kebab, toum and kibbeh.
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Storing Chicken Musakhan
If you have leftover Chicken Musakhan you can store it in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
We love doubling our recipe so we can store leftovers in the freezer and save time on cooking in the kitchen. We suggest storing leftovers in Pyrex freezer safe containers that have a snug lid.
How To Make Homemade Chicken Musakhan
Palestinian Chicken Musakhan
- measuring spoons
- measuring cups
- baking sheet
- Wooden spoon or spatula
- French knife
- 4 lb Whole Chicken quartered
- 1/2 cups Olive oil
- 1 tbsp Ground Cumin
- 3 tbsp Sumac
- 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/4 cup Pine Nuts
- 3 Red onions thinly sliced
- 4 Flatbread
- 1/4 cup Parsley leaves
- 1/2 cups Greek Yogurt
- 1 Lemon cut into wedges
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Place quartered chicken pieces in a large mixing bowl with 2 tbsp oil, 1 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tsp sumac, cinnamon, allspice and 1 tsp salt and black pepper. Mix well to combine, then spread out on the baking sheet.
- Roast until chicken is cooked through, approximately 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Keep remaining juices in the pan.
- Meanwhile, put 2 tbsp oil into a large saute pan and place over medium heat. Add pine nuts and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring until the nuts are golden brown and smell nutty. Transfer to the prepared bowl and set aside.
- Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil to the pan along with onions and 3/4 tsp salt. Return to medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are soft. Add 2 tbsp of sumac, the remaining 2 tsp cumin and black pepper to taste. Mix with onions until fully coated then remove from heat and set aside.
- Assembly: preheat the broiler and slice flatbread into quarters. Place under the broiler for 2 minutes, to crisp up and then arrange on the edges of serving platter.
- Top the flatbread with half the caramelized onions, followed by roast chicken pieces and drizzle with any remaining juices in the pan. Spoon the remaining onions over the top and sprinkle with pine nuts, parsley and remaining 1 1/2 tsp of sumac.
- Serve with yogurt and lemon wedges.
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