I’ve put this lemon garlic chicken potato bake recipe together for 2 people. It’s hearty, soulful, and comes together from start to dinner table in under an hour. Best of all, this recipe is Whole30 compliant and tastes damn delicious! You can easily double it to cater for a family of four, as everyone is guaranteed to love the flavourful, crisp potatoes and juicy thigh fillets.
There’s a tray baked dish from my home country, Syria, which is simply potatoes, onions, and chicken cut into bite sized pieces. Sometimes the chicken is subbed with pieces of kofta – but one thing never changes – the seasoning. It’s so simple: salt, pepper, and baharat.
For a long time I wondered how such a simple combination of spices could produce a meal licked clean every single time. Then it clicked. Because it’s often served with a sauce made by juicing a lemon, adding to it fresh minced garlic, and a pinch of salt.
Of course as a child I never appreciated the boldness of those flavours. It’s just a little too strong, and my arguably more Westernised palette still doesn’t handle the raw garlic taste with the sourness of the freshly squeezed lemon.
Enter solution: a lemon garlic chicken potato bake. Instead of serving as a sauce, baking infuses these flavours into the chicken and potatoes, subduing the overpowering flavours they exhibit when raw. You’ll see in the recipe notes below I make a killer sauce by blitzing the cooked flesh of the lemons and garlic with a stick blender, seasoning and serving with some mayonnaise as an incredible, no I mean INCREDIBLE, dipping sauce.
Can I prepare the tray bake in advance?
As chicken can be a cause for concern, I would omit browning the chicken in advance. Instead, flash fry the potatoes and prepare all the other ingredients (except chicken) and cover with cling wrap. Keep in fridge until ready to sear the chicken and bake. When you sear the chicken simply place it on the potatoes and top with the prepared sliced lemons, garlic and herbs.
You can also skip searing the chicken entirely. Simply flash fry the potatoes, top with seasoned chicken, lemon slices, herbs, and lemon juice/stock mixture. Cover with foil and leave in fridge, up to a day, until ready to bake. Poke holes in foil and bake, adding a few minutes to the baking time if necessary.
If you’re a confident cook, it is still possible to sear the chicken beforehand. This is often done by caterers for banquets where using the “brown, cool, reheat & rest” method. To do this, sear your chicken as instructed and immediately place seared chicken in a deep dish, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to cool down. In the meantime prepare the rest of the tray bake, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. After 30 minutes, cover chicken with cling wrap until ready to bake (up to 1 day). Remove chicken from fridge, add to tray bake, top with remaining ingredients and bake per the instructions below. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Lemon Garlic Chicken Potato Bake
You wouldn't know this lemon garlic chicken potato bake tray bake is Whole30 compliant! It's hearty, soulful, and comes together from start to dinner table in under an hour.
- 2 boneless chicken thighs
- 2 large, or 3 small potatoes
- 1/4 cup chicken broth, optional
- 2 lemons, sliced into 1cm (1/4 inch rounds)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 head of garlic, sliced horizontally in half
- additional 3 cloves garlic
- about 7 sprigs fresh thyme
- about 5 fresh basil leaves, plus more to serve if desired
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp oil of choice for searing chicken
- oil for flash frying potatoes
Peel and slice potatoes thinly into discs, about 1cm thick (1/4 inch). Season with salt and let water drain from them on a paper towel.
Meanwhile, heat frying oil in a shallow pan until a potato dropped into the oil sizzles. Fry potatoes for several minutes until just beginning to turn golden. Drain and set aside on a paper towel.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
On high heat, heat a skillet with 2 tbsp oil and sear chicken on both sides until beginning to turn golden. About a minute per side.
Preheat oven to 200 C / 180 C fan / 400 F.
Lightly grease your baking tray with cooking oil spray.
Line the bottom of your baking dish with the fried potato discs. Top with seared chicken.
Top chicken and potato with lemon slices, fresh thyme, basil, garlic halves, and garlic cloves.
Mix 1/4 cup chicken broth with lemon juice and pour over baking dish. Otherwise, add 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to lemon juice and pour over baking dish.
Cover baking dish with aluminium foil and poke with a knife to vent excess steam.
Bake for 25 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.
If you don't want to flash fry the potatoes, simply season with salt and pepper, spray generously with cooking oil spray and bake in your baking dish at 200 C /180 C fan / 400 F until starting to turn golden.
To make with bone-in thighs, add an extra 5 minutes to the baking time. I don't recommend using chicken breast as it will most likely dry out.
You'll see I bake the tray for the first 15 minutes covered. This technique will infuse the chicken with more flavour. The last 10 minutes uncovered will crisp up the edges of the potatoes and give a nice browning to the lemons.
Don't chuck out the baked lemons and garlic! Turn them into thick gravy like sauce by blitzing them with a stick blender (lemon peels off). The sweetness of the cooked garlic does wonders to balance the sourness of the lemon. Add this gravy to a few dollops of mayonnaise for the ultimate dipping sauce which pairs wonderfully with this dish. Otherwise, go the convenient route and serve this with some kewpie mayonnaise.