Kotopoulo riganato is a rustic Greek recipe of chicken served with plenty of lemon and oregano
Κοτόπουλο ριγανάτο. Kotopoulo riganato (or as our mom refers to it, kota riganati) is village food at its best. This was a recipe that was made relatively often when our Mama was a young girl, living with her family in the mountainous village of Romiri, Messinia. There are very few ingredients involved, and all of them were easily available to the family; they raised chickens, had lemon and olive trees, and the wild oregano grew everywhere. If any food represents living off the land and using humble ingredients to create something magical, this is it. Kotopoulo riganato, or chicken with lemon and oregano, is one of those recipes that you will turn to again and again.
When made in the village, kotopoulo riganato was cooked outdoors, in the wood burning oven built large enough for several families to use at once. These ovens, fashioned out of stone and clay were useful in many ways. They kept the heat from cooking out of the home, did not require electricity, and we have to imagine, they made any food cooked in them that much tastier.
Still, even with a modern oven, cooking kotopoulo riganoto on the stove top will produce an amazing meal of chicken with lemon and oregano. Perhaps surprising given the simple and common ingredients, but trust us – this is going to become one of your favourite comfort meals.
Few ingredients mean that it is really important to ensure that each ingredient is of the highest quality. For us that means organic chicken, fresh lemons, exceptional Greek olive oil and dry Greek oregano.
How to carve a chicken
Carving up a raw chicken to get 8 pieces is really quite easy, but it does take a bit of practice. What you need is a cutting board (preferably one that you reserve for poultry), and a very sharp knife. Poultry shears can also be very handy and useful, but they are not necessary if you have a good knife.
When carving a raw chicken for our chicken with lemon and oregano (kotopoulo riganato) you want to end up with 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts, and 2 wings. Carving a chicken is really all about slicing through the joints; if you are not sure where the joints are, feel around with your hands until you have an idea where to direct your knife (or poultry shears).
Do we need to use an entire chicken for chicken with lemon and oregano?
Nope! If you don’t feel like carving a chicken, or are planning to half the recipe, you can substitute the whole chicken for chicken breasts, chicken thighs or whatever else you like. We do suggest keeping the skin on and having the bone-in. This is going to give you the most flavourful result. However, if you. are watching your diet, feel free to use skinless chicken pieces as well.
What is the difference between fresh and dry oregano?
Well, aside from the obvious (meaning, one is the fresh herb and the other is the herb in the dried form), we find that dry oregano, particularly Greek dry oregano has a much more pronounced and delicious aroma and flavour. The two really are not interchangeable in most recipes (at least, not in our recipes) and we very rarely cook with fresh oregano. We do like to snip it into small pieces and add it to salads however.
Can we use bottled lemon juice for this chicken with lemon and oregano recipe (Kotopoulo riganoto)?
You could, but we would really prefer that you don’t. There is nothing like freshly squeezed lemon juice. Even the best quality bottled lemon juice can’t compare – unless of course you have really sad lemons. Here’s a hint! When you find exceptional lemons, or great lemons on sale, squeeze them and freeze the juice! Then you can use this to make all sorts of delicious recipes that feature lemons, like our Avgolemono (egg and lemon) soup with chicken (Σούπα αυγολέμονο με κοτόπουλο), or our Lemon ricotta cookies or even our Broccoli with olive oil and lemon (Μπρόκολο με ελαιόλαδο και λεμόνι).
Looking for more Greek village recipes? Check these out:
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Chicken with lemon and oregano (Kotopoulo riganato)
- 1 large, deep frying pan
- 1 large pot
- 1 fine strainer
- 1 chicken, cut into 8-10 pieces, skin on
- 2 tbsp dry Greek oregano
- 1 tbsp salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup olive oil approximately, for frying. See Recipe Note
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons flour
- ⅔ cup water
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the chicken pieces, followed by the oregano. Set aside for a few minutes.1 chicken, cut into 8-10 pieces, skin on, 2 tbsp dry Greek oregano, 1 tbsp salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Pour olive oil into a large, deep frying pan (use enough so that the oil is ¼ of an inch deep)1 cup olive oil
- Heat the olive oil on medium heat and begin frying your chicken pieces until they are browned on all sides; this should take about 7-10 minutes total. Avoid overcrowding your pan; you will probably have to brown your chicken in two batches.
- Transfer the browned chicken to a large pot or wok.
- Strain the oil that you used to fry the chicken, and pour it over the chicken in the pot.
- In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice and the flour until there are no clumps and then add in the water and stir to combine. Pour this over the chicken.½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 teaspoons flour, ⅔ cup water
- Cover your pot and bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until your chicken is cooked through.
- Serve your chicken with the sauce from the pot poured over it.