Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Recipe for Grilled Lemon-Cumin Chicken with Charmoula Sauce

Grilled Lemon-Cumin Chicken with Charmoula Sauce
Chicken seasoned from a lemon-cumin marinade, grilled, and served with flavorful Charmoula Sauce

Every summer, my post about How to Make Juicy Grilled Chicken Breasts turns into one of the most popular posts on the blog, and chicken breasts are something I cook far more during grilling season than I do at other times of the year.  I'm always looking for ways to make grilled chicken into something special, and when I was flipping through an old cookbook and saw a recipe for Chicken with Charmoula Sauce, I remembered how I loved that sauce on Steamed Green Beans and Carrots.   I experimented with a marinade that I thought might bring out some of the lemon and cumin flavors in the Charmoula, and the result was this recipe that several people gobbled up when I tested it.

Charmoula (also spelled Chermoula) is a bit like pesto, in that you can make it to suit your own tastebuds. I love cilantro, so my version uses more cilantro than parsley.  If you're not a cilantro fan, you could easily reverse the proportions for those two ingredients and still end up with a very tasty sauce.  This Moroccan sauce is supposed to be especially good on fish, so that's probably what I need to try it on next!

Trim chicken breasts; then cut small slits crosswise down each piece.  (I tested the recipe with two chicken breasts, but there is probably enough Charmoula sauce and marinade for 4 pieces of chicken.)

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, garlic powder, and poultry seasoning to make the marinade.

Put chicken in a Ziploc bag or plastic container with a lid and let it marinate in the fridge for 4-6 hours (or slightly longer is fine.)

To make the Charmoula sauce, start with chopped garlic cloves, cilantro, and parsley.

Pulse together the chopped herbs, garlic, lemon juice, sweet paprika, and cumin; then add the oil and pulse just until it's combined.

When you're ready to cook the chicken, preheat grill to medium high.  Drain marinade and discard.  To get those criss-cross grill marks, start by laying the chicken at an angle on the grill grates and cook until the first set of marks is showing.

Then rotate the chicken on an angle in the other direction and cook 2-3 minutes more.

Turn chicken and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side, until chicken is firm but not hard to the touch.  Serve hot, with a generous amount of Charmoula Sauce.

Grilled Lemon-Cumin Chicken with Charmoula Sauce
(Makes enough sauce and marinade for 2-4 chicken breasts; recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from Food and Wine's Quick from Scratch Herbs & Spices Cookbook.)

Ingredients for Chicken:
2 - 4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 T olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning (or use any herb blend that's good on chicken)

Ingredients for Charmoula Sauce:
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley (flat or curly parsley will work)
1 T + 2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
4 -5 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Trim all fat and undesirable parts from chicken breasts and cut small slits crosswise going down each breast.  (This helps the marinade penetrate and the chicken to cook a little faster.)  Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, ground cumin, garlic powder, and poultry seasoning to make the marinade.  Put chicken pieces inside a Ziploc bag or plastic container with a snap-tight lid, pour marinade over and let chicken marinate in the refrigerator 4-6 hours.  (Or all day is fine too if you're not home.)  If I'm home I like to turn it over a few times but it's not essential.

To make the Charmoula Sauce, put chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, chopped parsley, lemon juice, sweet paprika, and ground cumin in food process and pulse to combine.  Add the 4 T olive oil and pulse just enough to get it mixed in, then taste to see if you want the other tablespoon of oil and add it if you want a milder sauce.  (Don't over-process; the mixture will not be smooth.)  Add salt and pepper to taste.

When you're ready to grill the chicken, spray clean grill with nonstick grill spray or oil and preheat grill to medium-high.  (You can only hold your hand there for a few seconds at that heat.)   Let chicken come to room temperature while the grill heats. 

To get criss-cross grill marks, lay the chicken top-side down at a diagonal across the grill grates and let it cook until well-defined grill marks are showing, about 3-4 minutes.  (I lift up the edge to see the marks.)  Turn the chicken so it's going the opposite way at an angle to the grill grates and cook about 3-4 more minutes.  Then turn chicken over and cook 4-5 minutes on the second side, or until chicken is firm but not hard to the touch.  (Cooking time will depend on how hot the grill is, the temperature of the chicken, thickness of the chicken, and even the temperature outside, so pressing the chicken with a finger or cutting into a piece is the best way to tell when it's done.)  Serve chicken hot, with Charmoula Sauce spooned over.

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South Beach Suggestions:
Grilled chicken like this is a perfect main dish for any phase of the South Beach Diet.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Tasty Ideas with Grilled Chicken:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar from Kalyn's Kitchen
Rosemary Mustard Grilled Chicken or Zucchini from Kalyn's Kitchen
Pineapple Lime Grilled Chicken from The Shiksa in the Kitchen
Peruvian Grilled Chicken from Andrea Meyers
Tequila-Lime Grilled Chicken from Annie's Eats 
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

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  1. I don't think I've had charmoula in ages but I love how fresh-flavored it is! The perfect grilled meat topper.

  2. Cilantro fan here, so I wouldn't change a thing!

  3. Mmmmm...I love charmoula and yours sounds amazing. I have never mastered grilling boneless skinless breasts so I'm looking forward to trying out your method.

  4. Thanks everyone. I really loved the Charmoula on this chicken.

  5. I seriously love everything about this!!

  6. I'm going to have to bust out my grill for this, but I don't mind! Thanks!

  7. I'm definitely going to have to give this beautiful chicken a try! It does mean hauling out the grill from the darkest depths of the garage, but never fear--I will prevail. :)

  8. This looks fabulous! Never tried charmoula but I bet I would love it.

  9. I love hearing that I am inspiring people to bust out the grill. And seriously, this sauce is just amazing.

  10. wow. That is a drool-worthy recipe Kalyn1

  11. I make chimichurri sauce, which is similar, but I've never tried charmoula sauce. The chicken marinade sounds wonderful too. Great pics for showing up to grill the perfect chicken breast.

  12. Thanks Jeanette. I like Chimichurri too; I think it's partly the cumin and paprika that makes this sauce different.

  13. Thiiiiiiiis is killing me. I need it.

  14. Hi, many, many thanks for taking the time to share.. It was useful for my team. Thanks for all of your hard work! I enjoy your weblog and will sign up to your feed so I will not miss anything. Fantastic content.

  15. This chicken recipe looks great as well as the sauce....I know I am going to definitely like it. I bookmarked your blog and will be back. Glad I found you!

  16. Looks like a fabulous dinner idea. I like the idea of slicing into the breasts... more flavor gets in there and quicker to grill too!

  17. We love grilled chicken breasts. I'll have to give your method a try.


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