Love? Hate? Spatchcocked Coriander Chicken

Many of us love cilantro. We adore the fresh, fragrant tanginess of the delightful herb. Some hate coriander. They can’t abide the soapy, earthy taste. This is genetic and there is little that they can do about it. For clarity, coriander is cilantro. They are the same thing. It’s not like “vest”. American’s wear a vest over a shirt. Europeans wear it under. It’s also not like “rubber”. Europeans use it to erase pencil marks. Americans, well Americans do something else altogether.

But back to the coriander.  The debate is confused further as there is the ‘Generation Snowflake’ thing going on and you are nobody on “Insta” if you are not allergic to something these days. This helps divide the coriander/cilantro debate some more. A Thai restaurant owning friend of mine told me of a customer who said that they were fine with cilantro but were allergic to coriander. They were served their coriander laden dish and loved it. There’s no accounting for fads. In short, if you like coriander or cilantro read on. If you can’t abide one but are fine with the other, go see a shrink.

My recipe for coriander chicken follows a pretty straightforward almost Thai theme. It uses plenty of fish sauce, garlic, ginger, chilli and a bit of pepper and sugar. I would have made it more like the real thing if I could have got my hands on some decent lemongrass but, it was not to be so. It is not in any way ‘authentic Thai’. But, it was extremely tasty.

You can tell the quality of the chicken from the photo.


  • 1 top quality free range chicken (about 1.5kg/3lb)
  • 4 to 6 cloves of good garlic
  • 5cm (2 inch) piece of root ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 3 or 4 red chillis
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of Muscovado sugar
  • 1 big bunch of coriander (or cilantro, if you insist)
  • 1 lime

Peel, slice and dice all the ingredients (that need it) bar the chicken, lime and cilantro. Place everything except the chicken, lime and cilantro in a blender and blitz to an aromatic paste.

This is a punch of flavour and great with the chicken.

Side note on keeping the coriander fresh. Coriander wilts and dies very quickly. If you buy the coriander pre-cut, trim the ends off the stalks and place it in a glass of water as soon as you get home from the supermarket. This will allow the plant to stay at it’s best, right up until you chop it for this dish. If, like me, you need to chop it for a pre-cooking photo, do likewise.

To spatchcock the chicken, lie it down on the chopping board, breast side down. Take a good pair of kitchen scissors and cut through the flesh and bone that runs down the backbone, starting at the side of the ‘Pope’s Nose”. Go all the way to the end.

If this is too gruesome for you, you have no place in a kitchen.

Side note on The Pope’s Nose. This is not an attempt by me to insult the head of the Catholic church. This is an ancient description (once meant as an insult but now just mildly funny) that refers to the bit of the bird that holds the tail feathers.

Do like wise on the other side of the bird and remove the backbone.

The backbone gone, spatchcocking can commence.

Turn the bird over and place your palm on the breast. Press down firmly. You should hear some cracking and so forth. the bird will lie flat. Press two skewers diagonally across the bird to hold the legs and breast together.

Give this a good press downwards. The bird will flatten.

Slash across the breasts and thick part of the legs with a sharp knife. This will allow the marinade penetrate the meat and also helps the bird cook more quickly. If you are using a scrawny cheap supermarket chicken, skip this step as it will only end up in a dried out piece of meat.

A good sharp knife is essential for this. It cuts through the skin without pulling it off the meat.

Place the chicken in a dish and pour over the marinade ingredients. Rub them all over the bird, massaging into the slashes in the meat. Cover and leave this to improve in the fridge for at least four and preferably eight hours.

If you have the organisational skill to do this a day in advance, all the better.

Heat the barbecue to high then turn down (or let the charcoals cool) to medium low. Place the bird on, breast side down, spoon over the marinade, cover and leave it alone for twenty minutes.

The bird looks pretty close to cooked at this stage. But, it needs to cook through.

Turn the bird over leave for an additional twenty minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a skewer or fork into the leg flesh at it’s thickest point. If it runs clear, it’s cooked. After 40 minutes on the grill, it should be.

Don’t be shy with the coriander/cilantro.

Chop the coriander, including the stalks, roughly. Sprinkle all over the chicken. Put the cover back on for a couple of minutes to let the coriander wilt. Remove to a chopping board.

The resting is as important as the cooking. Don’t skimp on it.

Allow the meat to rest for about ten minutes. This is an important part of the process and will give a juicy end result. Just before carving / hacking, squeeze the lime juice over the bird. Remember to remove the skewers. Serve with your choice of sides and enjoy.

I like to cut it into chunky lumps and let everybody choose their own pieces from the board.

Thankfully, we don’t have any coriander/cilantro haters in our family. I do know of one convert who used to hate it but now loves it. There is nothing I can do for you if, like that Thai restaurant diner, you love coriander but can’t abide cilantro. Enjoy.

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Latest comments
  • We love coriander but it’s tricky to grow, it bolts as soon as it’s nearly grown. And the packets in Intermarché are pathetic in size.
    Where we come from, the tail end was called “the parson’s nose”. Looks a good idea, we’ll give it a go. Cheers. Pip

  • As I love coriander as well as Thai food I read on and I’m glad I did. I had to chuckle when you were describing the nuances between the Queen’s English and American English. I once mentioned to a young lady from England that she had something on here “pants”. I meant trousers, jeans and such. Red faced I was when I was told what it referred to in Queen’s English.

  • I always thought cilantro was the herb part of the plant and the coriander was the seed. I also have a couple of friends that have the gene that makes cilantro/coriander taste like soap. Either way I love it and it looks great on the spatchcocked chicken, and thanks for showing how to cut one up – I made a mess the one time I tried it.

  • I’m chiefly grateful for the spatchcocking lesson, as I like only very modest quantities of fresh coriander, although I like the seed as part of an overall spicing. But I can see that this lovely dish must provide a real flavour explosion 🙂

  • I can’t tell you how lovely that is to me! Your Asian marinade is a beautiful site, and all that cilantro… oh my. Be still my heart!

  • This made me drool. Almost literally… Love everything about it, coriander included… briiiiiing it!

  • Southern California, so “cilantro” all the way. 😋 Whatever you call it, it’s delicious! Apparently, my pets think so too because my coriander (along with basil, mint, and a couple other herbs) are quickly reduced to stumps whenever they get a foothold. I have a big pack of lovely chicken thighs that deserve to be treated to your recipe.

  • Some great pouring shots! I am one of those who are genetically disinclined towards cilantro, but I have grown to tolerate it in small amounts and in some cases I even like those small amounts. So this is probably too much cilantro for me, but the chicken looks great anyway.

  • Oh sheesh! I am plain boring 🙂 ! Love cilantro tho’ call it coriander. Love growing it: talk to it daily and it does not bolt !! Am not allergic to any food but stinky fruit durian and that does not count ! Loathe being in the same room with ‘gluten-free’ and other diets! Have had my troubles with Stateside English . . . . love the prof Higgins’ song statement re that . . . . second act methinks! Like your chicken . . . shall prepare . . . .as I said: boring !!

  • OK: I love this roughly four-year–old Royal Albert Hall version of Kiri te Kanawa and Jeremy Irons so much, I looked it up for you . . . . It’s about three-four minutes in when Jeremy Irons clearly enunciates what he thinks of American English . . . I’d lose everyone I knew if I repeated it 🙂 !

  • People are weird especially when you add in fads. Then it goes wonky. I’ve pinned this, I think we would all love this dish.

  • Looks delicious, Conor. We called it the parson’s nose as well, growing up. Coriander always goes to seed really fast … we’ve accepted the inevitable now and just collect the seeds once dry. BTW we’ve had some success sticking supermarket lemongrass in a glass of water until they sprout roots, then planting and growing on. Lx

  • Thank you, Linda! With spring on the rise in Australia and my lemongrass outside having ‘given up’ – I can buy lemongrass at all my supermarkets: this surely would be the most economical way to replace the ‘dead ‘uns’!

  • I’m allergic to cilantro mixed with coriander. That’s why I am safe and only eat Chinese parsley!

  • We did this on Sunday (instead of the usual boring roast chicken), in the oven 200 for 40 minutes turning once, per recipe but with just one clove of garlic, it was excellent. We used up the cooked chicken meat in a Thai curry the next night, it was still moist and tasty. Bonne cuisine, Monsieur B.

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