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Harissa Chicken

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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

  • Author: Yumna Jawad
  • Posted:

Harissa Chicken

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!

Final plated harissa chicken served over rice with lime wedges and mint leaves

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 marinade 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.

Harissa chicken in a large saute pan before and after cooking

When you’re done cooking the harissa chicken, serve it over white rice, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, flatbread, 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!!

Close up of harissa chicken in a bowl with rice

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!

For more chicken recipes, try these:

5 from 6 votes
Final plated harissa chicken served over rice with lime wedges and mint leaves
Harissa chicken
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
15 mins

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

Course: Entree
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: Chicken, Easy Cheese Dip, Mediterranean, Moroccans
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 245 kcal
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons harissa
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 pounds chicken breast cut into 2 inch chunks
  • Rice for serving
  • Fresh mint for serving
  • Lime wedges for serving
  1. 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.
  2. 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 lemon on top of the chicken.
  3. 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.

Recipe Notes

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 

Nutrition: Please note that the nutrition label provided is an estimate only. It will vary based on the specific ingredients used. For this recipe, the nutrition information does not include the rice.

Nutrition Facts
Harissa chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 245 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 17%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 96mg 32%
Sodium 437mg 18%
Potassium 599mg 17%
Total Carbohydrates 2g 1%
Protein 32g 64%
Vitamin A 4.9%
Vitamin C 3.9%
Calcium 1.4%
Iron 5.4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  • Reply
    March 30, 2019 at 4:23 am

    I just bought my first jar of Harrisa at Trader Joe’s and I’m excited to try your recipe!

    • Reply
      Yumna Jawad
      March 30, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      Yay! So excited for you to try it and I hope you enjoy the recipe!!

  • Reply
    Dayle S.
    March 9, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    Wonderful recipe. I worried it might be too spicy for us but it was percect! I followed the recipe exactly, marinating for about two hours. I will make it again!! I served with jasmine rice and green beans.

    • Reply
      Yumna Jawad
      March 9, 2019 at 9:32 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you so much for sharing with me 🙂

  • Reply
    Angela W Broyles
    March 6, 2019 at 6:29 am

    we really enjoyed this!

    • Reply
      Yumna Jawad
      March 6, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      So glad to hear it! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    December 9, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Exactly the spiciness and texture I was looking to make in a chicken dish.

    • Reply
      Yumna Jawad
      December 9, 2018 at 8:06 pm

      So glad to hear that! Thanks so much!!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Easy recipe, spicy and flavorful.

  • Reply
    Carol Aguirre
    November 29, 2018 at 9:36 am

    This looks and sounds amazing! Love all of the spices. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Reply
      Yumna Jawad
      November 29, 2018 at 10:21 am

      Thanks so much! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it!

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