Harissa Chicken Recipe

Harissa chicken is a Moroccan dish that is spicy, grilled, and a unique entree to serve up at your next barbecue! The harissa marinade is what sets it apart — and what gives it that unmistakable heat!

overhead: large platter of harissa chicken and grilled fruit with small dishes of extra harissa for serving

I’m constantly inspired by North African dishes! One of my favorites to try my hand at is Moroccan cuisine. I love this chilled Moroccan carrots recipe as well as these Moroccan couscous cakes. And I can’t forget Shakshuka for Sunday brunch!

Today I wanted to share a dish that you can use as a main course. Introducing my harissa chicken recipe (watch the video to make this below)! It’s spicy, grilled, and bursting with flavor. I love the idea of serving it up at a barbecue instead of burgers and hot dogs. You’re sure to make an impact on your guests — and their taste buds.

I will say that this dish isn’t for the faint of heart, but spicy food lovers will adore it. You can always use less if you like, too. Harissa is a chili sauce or paste made from dried red chiles, garlic, and a few other key ingredients. I love making my homemade version, but you can also find it at most supermarkets in the international foods section. And with that, let’s dive in!

map of morocco and algeria


  • Chicken – Opt for chicken thighs or breasts when making harissa chicken. And be sure that they’re boneless and skinless! If you must buy chicken with the skin on, you can remove it before you begin with a paring knife — just be careful!
  • Harissa Paste – Again, I love my homemade version. It’s simple and easy to make too! In a crunch, you can buy store-bought at Trader Joe’s and other markets.
  • Honey – The sweetness balances out the spice wonderfully.
  • Olive Oil – You need some olive oil for the marinade! 
  • Paprika and Black Pepper – You don’t need many other spices for my harissa chicken thighs thanks to all of the heat and flavor in the paste. But, you should add a bit of paprika and pepper to finish everything off!
  • Lemons and Plum Tomatoes – I love cooking these special extra ingredients along with the chicken to bring the entire dish together. Plus, they are delicious when grilled!
  • Chopped Cilantro – For your garnish.
spoonful of harissa over jar


1. Prepare the Marinade. Add the harissa paste, honey, olive oil, paprika, black pepper, and the juice of one lemon to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside. 

2. Prepare the Chicken. Pat your chicken dry with a paper towel, then use the tip of a knife to make small slits in order to help the marinade really sink in. Season both sides with salt and place in the bowl with the marinade. Make sure to coat both sides evenly! Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Longer is better if you can!

closeup image: spicy grilled chicken on platter with grilled lemon halves

3. Preheat the Grill. Preheat your grill to 350-375°F. While you wait, cut the remaining lemons and the plum tomatoes so that they’re ready to grill.

Love the feisty flavor of harissa?

Use it to make Moroccan shakshuka or Moroccan chicken stew! Or, use it to add spiciness to Mediterranean hummus.

4. Grill. Place the chicken thighs or breasts on the grill and allow them to cook for 4-minutes on each side. A few minutes before they’re done, add the lemons and tomatoes to the grill with your harissa chicken thighs. 

Because poultry doesn’t require tenderizing, the sole purpose of marinating chicken is to add flavor.

For this reason, I recommend a marinating time for chicken of 30 to 60 minutes, 4 hours tops.

After an hour, the acids in lemon juice will begin to slowly break down the protein, causing it to become mushy after a long marinade (over 24 hours).

5. Let Rest and Serve. Remove the chicken, lemons, and tomatoes from the grill and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with a bit of extra harissa paste on the side for dipping. Enjoy that spicy goodness!

platter of spicy North African grilled chicken

What to serve with grilled chicken

Keep the meal light, fresh and healthy by serving it with healthy sides like pomegranate barley salad or warm Moroccan carrots in yogurt sauce.

Other great options are bulgur salad or couscous cakes and Greek plaki beans.

For even more citrus flavor, make a quick lemon pickle to serve with the meal.

overhead image: beautifully arranged platter of harissa chicken with grilled lemons and tomatoes

How Do You Use Harissa in Cooking?

You can use harissa as a marinade as I do in this harissa chicken recipe! For a less spicy marinade, mix it with a bit of Greek yogurt to tone down the heat a bit. Some other recipes use it to add a bit of moisture (and spice), especially in dishes like meatballs and kofte (Turkish meatballs).

Can I Use Harissa Powder Instead of Paste?

If you happen to have harissa powder on hand, you can certainly make it work. I would recommend picking up the paste or making my homemade version for best results. To use powder in this harissa chicken thighs recipe, simply add a bit of water to the powder to create a makeshift paste. Be aware that the results may not be as spicy. 

What Does Harissa Taste Like?

Harissa tends to vary slightly in taste depending on the brand you go for and if you make it yourself. Some varieties are smoky, thanks to the addition of roasted fresh chile peppers along with the dried ones. Others are sharp due to added citrus or vinegar. The consistency also changes. Some are very thick, while others are thin. Choose whatever one you like best for your harissa chicken thighs!

Is Sriracha Similar to Harissa?

Spice lovers are likely already very familiar with Sriracha, another sauce made from red chili peppers and garlic. It’s often served with Vietnamese and Thai food, but I know people who put it on everything! It’s quite similar to harissa, especially in terms of ingredients. The biggest difference is that Sriracha is technically a sauce, while harissa is a paste.

This post, originally published on Silk Road Recipes June, 2021, was updated with new content, photos and/or video in June, 2022.

overhead: large platter of harissa chicken and grilled fruit with small dishes of extra harissa for serving

Harissa Chicken Recipe + Video

Harissa chicken is spicy, tender, and delicious in the best way possible! Get your taste buds tingling with this easy grilled recipe!
Servings: 5
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Marinating Time: 30 minutes
Total: 43 minutes



  • To a medium bowl, add harissa paste, honey, olive oil, paprika, black pepper and juice from 1 lemon. Whisk ingredients to combine.
  • Use paper towels to pat boneless skinless chicken thighs dry. Use tip of knife to make small slits over the thick parts for marinade penetration. Season both sides with kosher salt. Place in the bowl with harissa mixture and turn to coat evenly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or lid and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut the remaining 3 lemons in half for grilling and preheat grill to 350°-375°F.
  • Grill chicken thighs for 4 minutes on each side. In the last 3 minutes of grilling, add the lemons and tomatoes to the grill.
  • Remove all foods from grill and allow to rest 5 minutes. Serve immediately with garnish of chopped cilantro and extra harissa paste on the side.



Serving: 6oz | Calories: 378kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 172mg | Sodium: 531mg | Potassium: 756mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 851IU | Vitamin C: 54mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 3mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: North African
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image shows spicy grilled chicken and grilled lemons with dish of harissa sauce


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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    1. No I would not say that Nigel. Gochujang is definitely sweeter and different flavor notes. I hope you give this a try!

  1. You mdntion a less fiery form of harissa, but you don’t elaborate. I would very much like to have a less fiery version of it. I have an old stomach
    And I might need to staet slowly on this adventure. Babs

    1. I’ve seen some store bought labeled Medium and Hot. As for my version, I would start by using a 1/4 cup of the harissa Babs. Give this a try and let me know what you think.

  2. this recipe sounds really good, but I’m not a grillperson. Could it be adapted to oven or even better crockpot? Also, I love harissa, but 1/2 C seems like it would make this dish fiery hot. Though I have not tried making harissa paste from scratch yet, perhaps it is less hot then what we get in the jar?

    1. It may sound like a lot but spread over 2 pounds of chicken it’s not that much, buteel free to adjust to your liking though Kelle. Definitely can be adapted to either.