Harissa Chicken

5 from 685 votes

Harissa Chicken paired with rice is a Tunisian inspired recipe that uses a sweet and smokey red chili pepper paste to create a bold, spicy and flavorful dish

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This easy and healthy harissa chicken is quick to make and perfect to serve over rice for a weeknight meal. Chicken breast is marinated in harissa paste for a sweet and spicy dish. Gluten free and low carb.

Final plated harissa chicken served over rice with lime wedges and mint leaves
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Although I’m biased towards Lebanese cooking, I love creating all types of Mediterranean recipes, and I’ve been experimenting with Harissa paste lately and adding it to flatbreads, fish and now chicken. This harissa chicken recipe uses harissa paste as the main ingredient along with fresh garlic paste, olive oil and a few other spices. It’s a quick and easy marinade that has a sweet and smokey flavor – perfect way to punch up any chicken recipe!

What is harissa?

But first, what is harissa? Harissa is a spicy North African chili pepper paste that originates from Tunisia. It basically brings alive any dish you’re making because of its zesty and aromatic flavor. You can make your own harissa sauce at home by smoking hot chile peppers and blending them with garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and various spices, including cumin, coriander and caraway.

However, it’s so easy to find harissa in mass grocery stores these days that I opted for the quick route in creating my harissa chicken. I just used the store-bought condiment. I found mine at Trader Joe’s, and I’ve seen it at other local grocery stores like Meijer and Kroger. You can usually find it in a jar or tube sold in the Middle Eastern section of the International isle or sometimes in the condiment section.

A small jar goes along way! All I used was two tablespoons in this recipe with two pounds of chicken. It will totally wow your taste buds and transform any boring chicken dinner to a flavorful and bold one!

How do you make harissa chicken?

It starts out as an easy marinade that includes the following: harissa paste, olive oil, garlic cloves (preferably crushed to become paste-like), paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. You can play around with the measurements here to add more or less of certain ingredients as you like. But I think two tablespoons of the harissa paste for two pounds of chicken gives the perfect mild spice level!

Chicken breast in a large bowl along with harissa, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper before and after mixing

I prefer to marinate the chicken in the morning and cook this in the evening. It also works really well if you prepare it overnight and allow the flavors to really get absorbed. When it’s time to cook it, it’s a simple pan-fry method that will take 8-10 minutes.

Chicken in a large saute pan before and after cooking

Top tips to make this harissa chicken recipe

  1. Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours and up to 24 for the best flavor.
  2. Use organic chicken breast that is raised without antibiotics.
  3. Leftovers will last in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to serve with harissa chicken?

When you’re done cooking the harissa chicken, serve it over white rice, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, flatbread, roasted acorn squash, salad or whatever you’re in the mood for. The classic way to eat is with over white rice, but it’s a flavorful chicken recipe that you can use in so many ways. My husband likes wrapping it up with pita bread, hummus and tabbouleh. He’s basically living his best life!! I also like to pair it with a veggie like air fried cauliflower or a vegetable medley.

Is harissa healthy?

Harissa has several healthy benefits, and it’s a great food to incorporate into your diet. It’s rich in vitamins E, C, B6 and K as well as iron and copper. It can help boost metabolism and is rich in antioxidants.

Close up of harissa chicken in a bowl with rice

I love how easy it is to make this delicious chicken dish and it’s so versatile too! It’s a real punch of flavor that will spice up your weeknight meal!

For more chicken recipes, try these:

If you make this healthy-ish feel good Harissa Chicken recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

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Harissa chicken

Harissa Chicken paired with rice is a Tunisian inspired recipe that uses a sweet and smokey red chili pepper paste to create a bold, spicy and flavorful dish
5 from 685 votes
Servings 6 servings
Course Entree
Calories 245
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds chicken breast cut into 2 inch chunks
  • Rice for serving
  • Fresh mint for serving
  • Lime wedges for serving


  • In a large bowl, combine olive oil, harissa, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the spice mix and mix well to incorporate. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Heat a large saucepan on medium without any oil, then transfer the chicken from the bowl to the saucepan. Cook until the chicken is well done, about 8-10 minutes. When it’s cooked, squeeze some fresh lime juice on top of the chicken.
  • Serve over rice with a lime wedges and fresh mint, if desired. Due to the spice level, plain yogurt also works really well with the recipe.


Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
Make Ahead Tips: I highly recommend marinating the chicken in the harissa sauce up to 4 hours in advance or even 24 hours in advance. This will allow the flavors to truly get absorbed into the chicken.
Sourcing: You can find the Harissa at Middle Eastern markets, natural-foods stores or even in large supermarkets, often located with other Middle Eastern ingredients. I found this at Trader Joe’s.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However, you can substitute the garlic paste for garlic powder if you prefer. You can also 
* Please note the nutrition label does not include the rice.


Calories: 245kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 32g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 96mg, Sodium: 437mg, Potassium: 599mg, Vitamin A: 245IU, Vitamin C: 3.2mg, Calcium: 14mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Course: Entree

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  1. I never make comments on recipes, but I had to say that this was an amazing recipe! I used the Harissa paste from Trader Joe’s, which I bought because it looked good but I was totally stumped on what to use it with. I made a batch of this for dinner (using diced chicken thighs) and even my picky husband liked it! That’s rare. I made another batch and froze the raw chicken in the marinade and will defrost for an easy weeknight meal.

  2. Wow – I absolutely loved this recipe. Incredibly easy and the chicken was so good. Will definitely make again for guests!

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