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Al Faham Chicken

Al faham chicken, or charcoal chicken, perfectly blends smoky grilled chicken with aromatic Middle Eastern spices. Like our grilled tandoori chicken recipe, this meal is perfect for any casual gathering or backyard barbecue.

Al Faham chicken on a serving plate with toum.

What is Al Faham Chicken?

Al faham chicken, often called Arabian grilled chicken, is a popular Middle Eastern recipe. Whole chicken or chicken thighs and legs are marinated and seasoned with homemade Bezar (Bzar), an Arabian spice blend similar to Indian garam masala.

In traditional recipes, the chicken grills over charcoal or cooks in the oven, resulting in smoky chicken that’s tender and juicy on the inside and crispy and flavorful outside. I achieve a similar result using a gas grill, making a quick and delicious meal perfect for Ramadan, Eid, or a quick weeknight meal.

What You Need to Make this Recipe

  • Spices: Toast the whole spices in a pan like we do for our North Indian garam masala recipe and grind them in a spice grinder or do it by hand using a mortar and pestle. Combine a one-inch piece of a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, green cardamom, black cloves, and cumin seeds to make a homemade spice blend called bezar or bzar. Once ground, mix the spices with paprika, kosher salt, and turmeric to complete the Arabic seasoning.
  • Yogurt: Full-fat or Greek yogurt slowly tenderizes the chicken as it marinates.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil coats the chicken and keeps it moist as it grills.
  • Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds tanginess and works with the yogurt to tenderize the chicken.
  • Garlic: I use four cloves of garlic, but don’t let my recipe tell you how to make it – measure with your heart.
  • Ginger: I love the addition of fresh ginger in the marinade. 
  • Onion: Pureed onions sweeten and contribute to the moisture of the chicken.
  • Tomato: Include one pureed tomato for additional flavor.
  • Green Chilies: Add 1-2 green chilies to the marinade for heat. Remove the seeds and membranes from the chilies before using them if you prefer less spice. 
  • Chicken: I use bone-in spatchcocked whole chicken, chicken thighs, legs, or quarters to make this recipe. If you prefer boneless chicken, I suggest using chicken thighs. Whatever you decide to make this recipe with, adjust the cooking time accordingly. The safe internal temperature for chicken is 165°F (73°C).

How to Make Al Faham Chicken

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Break down the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, and add them to a large skillet with the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, green cardamom, black cloves, cumin seeds, and bay leaves. Dry roast the whole spices for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.

Step 2: Let the ingredients cool slightly. Add them to a spice grinder in batches and blend until fine. Transfer the mixture to a food processor.

Whole spices in the spice grinder.

Step 3: Add yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, onion, tomato, paprika, kosher salt, and turmeric to the food processor with the spice mixture; incorporate until smooth and transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl.

The ingredients for Al Faham Chicken marinade in the food processor.

Step 4: Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces, and toss them into the bowl with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

Chicken in a mixing bowl with marinade.

Step 5: Remove the grates and preheat the grill by setting all the burners to high heat (500℉ or 260℃) for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade and add them to a prepared grill basket, shaking off any excess marinade.

Step 6: Lower the grill to medium-high heat, about 450℉ (232℃). Set the grill basket into the gas grill, and if it doesn’t fit, rest it on the flavor bars.

Chicken in a grilling basket cooking over the flavor bars.

Step 7: Cook the chicken skin-side-down for 10 minutes. Flip and cook for another 10 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (73°C). Remember to cook the chicken to the internal temperature and not necessarily the time.

Chicken in a grilling basket cooking over the flavor bars.

Step 8: Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken resting on a rimmed baking sheet.

Expert Tips

For details on how to cook the BEST chicken legs (if that’s what you’re making), check out our tips for how to bake chicken legs in the oven.

  • Marinate the Al Faham chicken for 6 hours for the best result, but leave it for at least 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the gas grill before adding the chicken to create a sear to seal in the juices.
  • If you don’t have access to a grilling basket, that’s okay! Preheat the grill and use a wooden scraper to clean the grates. Set the chicken onto it and follow the remaining grilling instructions.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken. The chicken is safe when it reaches 165°F (73°C). You should insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken without touching the bone.
  • Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after grilling to allow the juices to redistribute.

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If you love this recipe, try one of these Mediterranean favorites!

Al Faham chicken on a serving plate with toum and with salad, rice, and chilies in the background.

Serving Suggestions

Al faham chicken is typically served with warm pita and accompanied by sides like toum, hummusskhug, tahini, pickles, and fresh salad; a few of our favorite salad recipes to serve with this meal are sumac onions, avocado cucumber tomato saladmalfouf salad, and Shirazi salad.

You can also pair the chicken with savory rice dishes such as grilled sweet potatoesbasmati rice, mandi rice, saffron rice, and Mediterranean yellow rice.

What to do With the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate – Store the leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days, though it may lose some of the grilled smokiness.
  • Freeze – Let the chicken cool, and transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Al faham chicken freezes for up to 4 months.
  • Thaw – When you’re ready to eat it, defrost it in the fridge overnight.
  • Reheat – Warm defrosted or leftover grilled chicken in the oven at 400°F (204°C) for 15 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is al faham chicken made?

Make al faham chicken by marinating bone-in chicken in a mixture of bezar spice, aromatics, fresh herbs, and other ingredients that vary depending on the region and personal preferences for 6 hours (but at least 30 minutes).

Grill the chicken over a hot grill, or bake it in the oven until it is charred and cooked to temperature. Rest the chicken for a few minutes, then serve it hot with flatbread, dipping sauce, and fresh sides.

What does al faham mean?

“Al faham” is an Arabic phrase that translates to mean “charcoal” or “embers” in English. The name, al faham chicken, refers to the traditional method of cooking chicken over hot coals or on a grill, giving the meal a distinctive smoky flavor.

More Chicken Recipes:

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Al Faham chicken on a serving plate with toum and with salad, rice, and chilies in the background.

Al Faham Chicken

Tressa Jamil
Al faham chicken blends smoky grilled chicken with aromatic Middle Eastern spices for a dish perfect for gatherings or backyard barbecues.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Marinating Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 55 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 269 kcal
Ingredients
  
For the Arabic Spice Mix:
  • 1 – inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 2 bay leaves, broken up
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • ½ tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 3 green cardamom
  • 4 black cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 dry lemon, optional
For the Marinade:
  • ¼ cup yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 – inch fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 Roma tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 green chilies, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 pounds chicken, bone-in and skin-on
Instructions
 
  • Break down the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, and add them to a large skillet with the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, green cardamom, black cloves, cumin seeds, and bay leaves. Dry roast the whole spices for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
  • Let the ingredients cool slightly. Add them to a spice grinder in batches and blend until fine. Transfer the mixture to a food processor.
  • Add yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, onion, tomato, paprika, kosher salt, and turmeric to the food processor with the spice mixture; incorporate until smooth and transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl.
  • Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces, and toss them into the bowl with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
  • Remove the grates and preheat the grill by setting all the burners to high heat (500℉ or 260℃) for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade and add them to a prepared grill basket, shaking off any excess marinade.
  • Lower the grill to medium-high heat, about 450℉ (232℃). Set the grill basket into the gas grill, and if it doesn't fit, rest it on the flavor bars. Cook the chicken skin-side-down for 10 minutes. Flip and cook for another 10 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (73°C). Remember to cook the chicken to the internal temperature and not necessarily the time.
  • Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
Expert Tips: 
  • Marinate the chicken for 6 hours for the best result, but leave it for at least 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the gas grill before adding the chicken to create a sear to seal in the juices.
  • If you don’t have access to a grilling basket, that’s okay! Preheat the grill and use a wooden scraper to clean the grates. Set the chicken onto it and follow the remaining grilling instructions.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken. The chicken is safe when it reaches 165°F (73°C). You should insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken without touching the bone.
  • Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after grilling to allow the juices to redistribute.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 269 kcal | Carbohydrates: 6 g | Protein: 53 g | Fat: 3 g | Cholesterol: 130 mg | Sodium: 1114 mg | Potassium: 148 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 29 IU | Vitamin C: 23 mg | Calcium: 6 mg | Iron: 13 mg
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
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