Lemon Chicken with Leeks and Thyme


My Mom makes awesome lemon chicken. This isn’t it.

I’m not allowed to make hers anymore. See, I tried to make hers once — years ago before I had a decent kitchen or knew how to cook. I called and got the recipe, gathered the ingredients the best I could (wine had to be omitted since I was underage and couldn’t get any), and set off to make a delicious dinner. I’m not sure what happened, but what I ended up with wasn’t delicious at all. It was actually pretty gross. Shawn, who loves my mom’s version, has never let me live it down. Occasionally I’ll say something about wanting to make lemon chicken, but he just gives me a look and begs me to please just make something else.

This time I promised him it would be different. I wouldn’t use Mom’s recipe. In fact, I would make it as different from hers as I could, and the only similarities would be that it included lemons and chicken. He hesitantly said ok, so I came up with this recipe. It was a success!


The highlight of this dish is the sauce, which is a lot more like a gravy than my mom’s version. The sauce is very bright, and the lemon flavor is extremely powerful without being at all tart or sour. I kept the seasonings simple, with just some thyme and leeks, which I cooked right in the pan with the chicken so they would soak up the lemon while infusing the sauce with their subtle flavor. Together, the lemons and the leeks scream “spring!” and this is the perfect dinner for a rainy March or April night. I served this with rice, but mashed or roasted potatoes would also be nice with the sauce.



Lemon Chicken with Leeks and Thyme
The chicken legs I used in this recipe were extremely small — only about a quarter pound each — so they cooked up very quickly. If you’re using larger legs, you’ll want to be sure to adjust the cooking time. If you use a thermometer, pull them out of the oven when they reach 160. If you don’t care for leg meat, you could also make this with thighs or breasts. I left the skin on while these cooked, but discarded it before I ate. Nutrition information is calculated with skin. I also prefer to use organic lemons, which I find to have a much less astringent and much more “lemony” flavor than conventional lemons.
  • 4 chicken legs (approx. 1 Lb)
  • Zest and juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large leek, cut into half moons
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 Tbs cold butter
  • pepper to taste

Combine the lemon zest, garlic, thyme, and salt in a small dish. Rub this mixture into the chicken and set aside to rest.

Place a large, oven proof pan over high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is heated, add the chicken. Cook until the skin turns golden and begins to crisp. Add the lemon juice and the leeks to the pan, cover and transfer to a 425-degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160-degrees.

Remove the leeks and the chicken and set on a plate tented with foil to keep them warm. Place the pan on a burner set to medium heat. Whisk in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Add the lemon slices. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to about half. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the chicken and leeks.

Serves 4
Approx. 117 calories, 7 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams protein


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  1. I just saw leeks the other day but I did not buy it. Ok, I will the next time for this chicken dish. Looks delicious.

  2. It looks very attractive to me for a big chicken.Lemon makes it less greasy.

  3. Looking at your lemon chicken photos this morning. Chicken seems to always look yummier than it tastes, but I’ll bet your recipe is tasty too. I see you found the bamboo placemat to use as a prop. I’ve got one too (Pier 1 bargain bin). Good source of food photo props. Keep up the delicious blog. Have a great week.

    • Good eye – it is from Pier 1! I love the texture it gives the background. I agree that Pier 1 is great for nice, inexpensive props. I’m sure they think I’m crazy though, since I keep going in and buying 1 plate or 1 place mat. lol!

      I’m not really a huge fan of chicken either, and I really didn’t care for the legs at all. They were a little greasy and the texture bothered me. My favorite is thighs – they have the flavor of dark meat but a much better texture. Unfortunately, the co-op that I shop at has a very limited selection of meat and they were all out of thighs that day.

  4. Even though I LOVE Mom’s lemon chicken more than anything, I am probably going to make this soon. It looks soo yummy and I like that there is tons of sauce for the rice. :)

  5. This looks really tasty and pretty healthy, a win-win!

  6. i am so drooling all over my desk right now…this looks and sounds incredible! i think i might try to adapt it to roasting cornish hens…yum!

  7. Neat – I didn’t know that organic lemons had that much of a flavor difference. I’ll give it a test next time I’m near the co-op!

    • Let me know if you notice a difference. I can’t guarantee that them being organic is the reason, and I haven’t found anything that backs up my claim, but I *swear* the organic lemons I buy are juicier and more lemony than the conventional ones (even compared to conventional ones from the co-op)

  8. This looks wonderful and the flavors sound great together!

  9. i think next time I visit you it will be for something from your kitchen. That sauce looks amazing and even tho im stuffed from the giant ass pineapple i just ate, i would gladly upset my stomach for that chicken! MMMm

  10. I am loving bright, springy recipes these days. This one looks great – and simple, too!

  11. I have to say. I am pretty sure that is the prettiest chicken I have EVER seen. And my mom was big on cooking chicken (badly. No offense mom.) so I have seen a LOT of it,.

    This looks amazing!

    • thanks! I like when my food looks pretty – it makes a small portion seem so much more satisfying. Like when you get a tiny potion at a super fancy restaurant.

  12. Your pics are always so nice. It’s quite appealing to look at.

  13. Hello Lauren!!

    Brussels calling! What a superb looki,g chicken dish!! It is truly spring!

  14. That is such a funny story. A few years ago while my husband and I were still dating I decided to make his favorite meal that his Mom used to make growing up – salmon croquettes and homemade french fries. The croquettes were positively disgusting and the fried were greasy. It was the WORST meal I have ever made. I’ve improved greatly on the fries since then, but I’ll leave the croquettes to dear mother-in-law.

  15. What a gorgeous chicken dish and the photos are outstanding.

  16. I think you can pull a great chicken on your own! This one looks fantastic and it just so happens I have a cut up leek and some chicken and lemon and of course garlic in my fridge! How about that! It was meant to be, I say!

  17. Lauren, I agree re: the organic lemons being more flavourful than regular ones. I *love* this dish!

  18. Andy Popek says:

    Lemon oil may be used in aromatherapy. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood.

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