Paleo Recipes: Roasted Chicken with Lemon & Thyme


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Roasted chicken is such an easy meal to prepare and I make this lemon twist on the standard dish regularly, often without the tomatoes because it is simply tasty on its own. Chef Rachel has offered plenty of variations on this theme in the notes section so please check them out – this is a 5-in-1 recipe! And don’t forget to share! 🙂

Roasted Chicken with Lemon & Thyme
Yields 6
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
For the chicken
  1. 3½- to 4-pound roasting chicken, thawed completely, and rinsed, and patted dry
  2. 1 lemon rinsed and patted dry
  3. Zest of 1 lemon (colored part only)
  4. 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs or 1 heaping tablespoon dried, crumbled thyme
  5. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper or white pepper
  6. 2 garlic cloves, crushed or quartered
  7. 1 teaspoon finely ground unrefined sea salt, optional
For the sauce
  1. ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, apple cider/juice, or dry white wine
  2. ¼ cup unsalted, unsweetened, canned, crushed, or puréed tomatoes, optional
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 325˚ F. Remove and reserve giblets. Remove excess skin. Grate lemon zest over a small bowl. With a skewer or toothpick, prick holes all over lemon.
  2. 2. Combine lemon zest, herbs and pepper, adding sea salt if desired. Use mixture to season cavity and skin of chicken. Stuff lemon, crushed garlic, and giblets into body cavity. Using 2 toothpicks or trussing needles, pin neck skin over the back to close cavity. Tie legs together with cotton twine or dental floss.
  3. 3. Place chicken, breast side down on rack in shallow roasting pan. Allow space between 2 birds cooked in the same pan. Roast uncovered, about 1 1/2 hours for small chicken, longer for large bird. If desired, turn breast side up after 60 minutes. Use oven mitts and paper towel to protect from burns.
  4. 4. Test small chicken after 1½ hours by inserting a metal stem thermometer or sharp knife at least 2 inches into breast or inner thigh. Do not let probe touch bone. Chicken is done when juices run clear when pierced deeply with knife, or thigh registers 170 to 175˚ F and breast is 160 to 165˚ F. If not done, remove thermometer and return roast to oven. Wash thermometer in hot soapy water after each use.
  5. 5. When done, remove toothpicks or skewers, and cut twine. Lift chicken with 2 wooden spoons in the cavity and tilt, so juices run into pan. Discard lemon. Reserve giblets to serve. Tent chicken with foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow juices to settle.
  6. 6. Skim fat from roasting juices or pour juices into gravy pitcher, skim off fat, and return to pan. Add ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, juice, or wine to juices in pan. Simmer and stir over moderate heat, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan. Cook until reduced to about ¾ cup.
  7. 7. Remove skin if desired. Carve meat on meat-designated board or platter with sides to catch drips. Pour juices from board or platter into sauce. Spoon sauce over sliced meat and serve. Freeze neck and bones for making stock or broth. Refrigerate leftovers and use within 3 days or freeze.
  1. One 6-pound chicken takes twice as long as 2 (3-pound birds). If you’re pressed for time, you can crank the heat up to 400 or 425˚ F for the first 20 minutes, then reduce it to 350˚ F and figure about 20 minutes per pound from there on out. Compare the results.
  2. Note from Rachel about preparing multiple meals from this recipe: I usually cook 1 (5- to 7-pound) chicken or 2 (3- to 4-pound) birds so I have enough meat for several meals, including some for the freezer. I find chicken cooked at a 325˚F more moist. At this temperature, allow about 30 minutes of cooking time per pound.
  3. On a hot day, I might roast a small to medium chicken in a large convection toaster oven. When it’s done, I bake a pan of whole sweet potatoes and we have lunch or dinner for a few days.
  4. ====
  5. 4-ounces skinless breast without sauce: 190 calories, 35 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 30 mg calcium, 88 mg sodium
  6. 4-ounces skinless dark meat without sauce: 299 calories, 31 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 13 g fat, 6 mg calcium, 103 mg sodium
  1. * Replace half of thyme with fresh or dried, rubbed sage or marjoram; combination of dried, rubbed sage, thyme and marjoram; or dried cumin, oregano, and thyme.
  2. * Roasted Chicken with Oregano or Basil: Replace thyme with fresh or dried oregano or basil.
  3. * Roasted Chicken with Herbes de Provençe: Use lemon and replace thyme with 1 tablespoon dried, powdered, Herbes de Provençe (blend of thyme, rosemary, winter savory, tarragon, and basil; lavender may be included)
  4. * Roasted Chicken with Orange & 5-Spice Blend: Replace lemon and lemon zest with orange and orange zest; replace thyme, pepper, and garlic with 1 tablespoon Chinese 5-Spice Blend. If desired replace salt with 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce. For sauce, use ½ cup orange or pineapple juice. For a sweeter taste, use orange or pineapple juice concentrate.
  5. * Roasted Chicken with Curry: Omit lemon. Replace thyme, garlic, and pepper with 2 tablespoons curry powder. Stuff 1 cup fresh or frozen cubed pineapple or mango into cavity of chicken; discard this after cooking. For sauce, use apple, pineapple, or mango juice.
  6. * Slow Cooker: Transfer seasoned chicken to 3½- to 5-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours (longer for larger chicken), or until meat tests done. Transfer chicken to bowl with paper towels, oven mitts, and large utensils. Simmer juices in large saucepan over medium heat until reduced by at least one-half. Skim off fat with gravy pitcher or refrigerate in wide-mouth jars and skim off fat after it congeals; make gravy if desired.
  7. * Use defatted chicken juices to replace stock or broth when sautéing kale, collards, or Brussels sprouts.
  1. The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbook by Rachel Albert & Don Matesz (Planetary Press, 2004). Available from or
Adapted from The Garden of Eating
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rachel albert, healthy cooking coachRachel Albert is a freelance food and health writer, healthy cooking coach, cooking instructor, natural foods chef, blogger, and author based in Phoenix, AZ. She is co-author of the award-winning book, The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook (Planetary Press, 2004) and author of The Ice Dream Cookbook: Dairy-Free Ice Cream Alternatives with Gluten Free Cookies, Compotes, and Sauces (Planetary Press, 2008). For great paleo, primal, gluten-free, mostly dairy-free, naturally sweetened recipes, visit and subscribe to her blog:

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Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

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