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Harissa Chicken

Harissa chicken is so easy to make and loaded with deliciously spicy North African flavor. It’s amazing that it only has 6 ingredients (plus salt + pepper). The rich, spicy harissa sauce is absolutely delicious.

Low angle shot of the harissa chicken on a bed of rice. The chicken is drizzled with yogurt and showered with fresh dill.

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The chicken is marinated and cooked in a spicy harissa sauce and then drizzled with yogurt and showered with chopped fresh herbs. This harissa chicken is a favorite weeknight chicken dish, served with rice or roasted potatoes and a green vegetable.

Overhead shot of the ingredients needed to make harissa chicken

What ingredients do you need to make harissa chicken?

One of my favorite things about this harissa chicken recipe is that it requires only a short list of ingredients. Here’s what you need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I prefer boneless skinless thighs, but you can also use boneless skinless chicken breast if you like)
  • Harissa paste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Plain yogurt (whole-milk preferred, can use Greek yogurt or regular yogurt)
  • Fresh dill
Overhead shot of a plate of harissa chicken thighs on a bed of rice.

What is harissa paste?

Harissa paste is a spicy North African or Middle Eastern chile paste. You’ll find versions of harissa paste in the cuisines of Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya.

Harissa paste recipes vary from place to place, but they all start with a base of hot red chiles. It isn’t just hot, though. It is loaded with layers of complex flavors—caraway seeds, coriander seeds, garlic, paprika, and often other ingredients like rose petals. (My Tunisian friend tells me that it’s not a proper harissa sauce if it doesn’t have caraway seeds in it!)

In North African cuisine, it adds flavor to stews, soups, sauces, dips, and spreads, or forms the base of a marinade for meat and fish. Thinned out with a bit of olive oil, this quick harissa sauce is perfect for dunking bread.

This Harissa Chicken recipe is a perfect example of how a single condiment like harissa sauce can add intense, complex flavor to a dish.

Where can you find it?

You can find harissa sauce or harissa paste in tubes, jars, or cans in the International aisle in many supermarkets, in Middle Eastern markets, or buy harissa paste online. There are many good brands.

Trader Joe’s harissa paste is surprisingly good! (by the way, this is a link to the TJ’s paste on Amazon. I don’t recommend buying it there if you can get it from TJ’s but you can see what the jar looks like and the ingredients).

You can also make harissa sauce or paste at home using this easy recipe for harissa paste!

How do you make baked harissa chicken?

Harissa chicken is very easy to make. I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

  1. Make a harissa marinade by mixing harissa paste with spices and olive oil. Toss the chicken thighs in the marinade to coat and then refrigerate it until ready to cook.
  2. Marinate the chicken thighs for anywhere from 20 minutes to overnight. I think it turns out best when it is marinated for at least an hour, but it will be delicious even if you only have 20 minutes.
  3. After marinating the chicken thighs, arrange them on a sheet pan and cook in the oven for about 35 minutes.
  4. Drizzle the cooked chicken thighs with plain yogurt.
  5. Sprinkle with fresh dill.

The yogurt helps tone down the spiciness of the harissa.

The prep for this harissa chicken recipe is super quick. It takes less than 10 minutes to make the harissa marinade and the rest is all hands-free time, making this a perfect dish for busy weeknights. You can even marinate the chicken the night before.

You can also make grilled harissa chicken (marinate the chicken as directed in the recipe, and then grill it on a hot grill for about 15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking time) or cook the harissa chicken in an air fryer (380 degrees for about 10 minutes per side).

Low angle shot of harissa chicken over rice

What to serve with harissa chicken thighs?

I like to serve harissa chicken with basmati rice or roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes (which you can roast on the same sheet pan alongside the chicken!) Quinoa, farro, or couscous are great sides, too.

And a crisp green salad with a lemon juice vinaigrette is a nice, refreshing counterpart to the spicy chicken.

You can also serve this harissa chicken with flatbread, which is great for wrapping around the chicken or for sopping up the irresistible harissa sauce. I sometimes serve it as part of a sort of mezze platter with homemade hummus, pita bread to wrap it up in, and sliced cucumbers.

overhead shot of a baking dish of baked harissa chicken and a plate of the chicken served over rice.

More great chicken recipes you’ll love

If you’re looking for more delicious chicken recipes that are easy to make and sure to please your family, look no further. Some of my favorite chicken recipes are Air Fryer Korean Fried Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma, Thai Chicken Curry, and Thai Chicken Satay.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Harissa Chicken

Harissa Chicken

This deliciously spicy sheet pan chicken takes just a few minutes to prep. The recipe was inspired by one in Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/3 cup harissa paste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt (whole-milk preferred)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the harissa paste, olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper together. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Marinate for at least 20 minutes or as long as overnight (refrigerate if longer than 20 minutes).
  2. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
  3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes, flip the chicken pieces over, and
    cook for about 15 minutes longer, until the edges are charred and the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Transfer the chicken to serving plates or a large platter. Drizzle the yogurt over the chicken and sprinkle the dill on top.
  6. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. The longer you marinate the chicken the better. You can marinate it as long as overnight.
  2. If you plan to marinate the chicken for more than 20 minutes, refrigerate it.
  3. You can use boneless skinless chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts in this recipe. You can even use bone-in chicken thighs or chicken breasts, if you like, but you may need to adjust the cooking time.

Nutrition Information

Yield

5

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 379Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 167mgSodium 916mgCarbohydrates 5gFiber 2gSugar 1gProtein 35g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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Last Updated: January 7, 2022
By on January 7th, 2022

About Robin Donovan


Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 40 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners, 5 Ingredient Cooking for Two, Sushi at Home, The Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other popular publications.

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2 thoughts on “Harissa Chicken”

  1. Everyone in the family liked this. However, I did change it a little by cutting back on the harissa and cumin and adding 1 Tbs of Molasses after tasting the marinade. It seems harissa pastes vary a lot by brand.

    Reply
  2. This was delicious. We all liked it. The yogurt and dill on top was great. I thought it looked anemic and not done, as it wasn’t crispy. If I had cooked it any longer it would have dried out. Marinated for several hours. Leftovers tonight, yum.

    Reply

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