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March 2, 2024

Easy Harissa Chicken

Chicken thighs marinate in a homemade harissa sauce, then hit the grill for a super quick, easy chicken dinner that packs a major, major smoky, spicy burst of flavor.

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Grilled harissa chicken on a plate with arugula

A Homemade Harissa Chicken Marinade That’s Easier Than It Sounds!

This grilled harissa chicken might just be one of the simplest, best chicken recipes we’ve ever created. With a harissa-inspired marinade made quickly and easily in a high-powered blender, we were able to take some humble chicken pieces and create a truly praise-worthy meal. If you are looking for a way to amp up your weeknight chicken game, and love our Sheet Pan Harissa Meatballs and Cabbage, then this is the recipe for you.

roasted red peppers, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, spices and boneless skinless chicken thighs
roasted red peppers, garlic, cayenne, smoked paprika, coriander, caraway, olive oil and red wine vinegar in a blender
harissa marinade in a blender
harissa chicken marinade in a blender and on a spoon

What is Harissa Made Of?

Harissa is a spicy North African chili paste traditionally made out of roasted red peppers, chili peppers, baklouti pepper, serrano peppers, and other hot chili peppers. It also often contains garlic paste, coriander seed, saffron, rose, or caraway. Olive oil rounds things out and often citrus is in the mix, too. In other words harissa paste is delicious in every way and takes whatever it touches to the next level. We wanted to make a simple harissa-inspired marinade that would be a perfect go-to for any night of the week, so we created a pared-down harissa-inspired sauce recipe for marinating chicken thighs. Simply blend together:

  • Roasted red peppers

  • Lots of fresh garlic

  • Caraway and coriander

  • Smoked paprika

  • Cayenne

  • Olive oil

  • Red wine vinegar

boneless skinless chicken thighs on a rimmed baking sheet covered in harissa marinade
harissa marinaded chicken cooking in a grill pan
harissa mayonnaise in a bowl
grilled harissa chicken on a baking sheet

What Cut of Chicken Should I Use to Make Grilled Harissa Chicken?

While you can use this marinade to make harissa chicken breast, or bone-in, skin-on harissa chicken thighs, our favorite for making grilled harissa chicken is boneless, skinless thighs! Not to toot our own horns, but they taste delicious (we’ll take dark meat any day of the week), plus you can often find them on sale. You could even use this quick harissa marinade on a whole roasted chicken. Whatever this marinade touches is destined to be delicious.

a plate of arugula topped with harissa chicken with harissa mayonnaise

How Do You Make Harissa Chicken?

Our delicious grilled harissa chicken recipe could not be quicker (really!) or more simple. That smoky, lightly spicy, creamy harissa marinade makes basic grilled chicken truly dinner party worthy! Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Make the harissa marinade. You could even do this a day or two ahead of time, if you’re trying to work ahead.

  2. Coat the chicken pieces with the harissa marinade and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight. Before you toss the chicken with the marinade, save about 1/4 cup of the harissa sauce, because you’ll need it later to...

  3. Make a quick harissa mayo to serve with the grilled chicken by mixing together that reserved harissa sauce and some mayonnaise. YUM.

  4. Grill the harissa chicken! Grill over high heat until you see an internal temp of 165°F on an instant read thermometer. Then your chicken is done and it’s time to dig in!

grilled harissa chicken on a plate with arugula and harissa mayonnaise

Tools You’ll Need

What to Serve With Grilled Harissa Chicken

This grilled chicken is so full of flavor that it doesn’t need much accompaniment! That said, if you’re in the mood for a Mediterranean feast, or making a big meal for company, round it out with:

grilled harissa chicken on a plate with arugula and harissa mayonnaise
grilled harissa chicken on a plate with arugula and harissa mayonnaise

So, Is This Everyone’s New Favorite Grilled Chicken Recipe?

When you decide to give this grilled harissa chicken recipe a try, we’d love to hear about it! Be sure to snap a photo, add it to your Instagram feed or stories, and tag @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Also feel free to leave a comment on this post and be sure to tell your friends where you discovered the recipe.

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Easy Harissa Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  35 min
  • Cook Time:  20 min
  • Calories: 660

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds or ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges
  • 4 cups arugula, optional

Method

  1. Add the red peppers, garlic, caraway seeds, coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne, salt, olive oil and vinegar to the container of a high powered blender and secure the lid.

  2. Blend on high until smooth, about one minute. Reserve 1/4 cup of the harissa marinade to make the harissa mayo.

  3. Pat chicken dry. Place on a rimmed baking sheet or into a large bowl. Pour the remaining harissa sauce marinade over the chicken, turning a few times until fully coated. Place the bowl of chicken in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes. This step can be completed the night before, simply cover the bowl and place in the fridge.

  4. Heat a grill to medium-high heat, about 400°F. Grill the chicken until lightly charred, about 4-5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and grill the chicken on the other side until lightly charred, another 4-5 minutes. Continue grilling chicken, flipping it every 3-4 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165°F on an instant read thermometer, about 20 minutes total.

  5. In a small bowl, make the harissa mayo by mixing the reserved ¼ cup harissa marinade with the mayo until fully incorporated.

  6. Serve the grilled chicken over a bed of arugula with a drizzle of the harissa mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon!

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories660
  • Protein68 g
  • Carbohydrates14 g
  • Total Fat36 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol315 mg
  • sodium2324 mg
  • Total Sugars7 g

Easy Harissa Chicken

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Stacey

    Very easy and very good! I mixed the reserved marinade with Greek yogurt. Squeezed a bit of lemon juice in it, and used it as a salad dressing.

    Glad you loved it Stacy, using it as a salad dressing sounds deilcious!

  • Jennifer

    Can you suggest another method of cooking this dish instead of grilling? Thank you!

    You can cook it in the oven or on the stovetop Jennifer, either will work fine! Hope you enjoy!

  • Mom

    This was amazing and easy. Everyone LOVED it. Do you think I could sub greek yogurt for the mayo ( or even half and half)? for a bit of a lighter dish?

    We haven't tried that but would love to hear how it turns out if you decide to give it a shot!

  • Vangie

    If I don’t have a Vitamix blender can I use a Bullet ?

    Definitely!

  • Patti

    Could you pour marinade over chicken, then put in freezer to use later?

    Hi Patti, yes, that should work just fine!

  • Haley

    This is the meal I make when I want to impress friends and family. Pair it with some rice or couscous. Yum!

    Thanks Haley, we are so glad you love it!

  • Susan

    Great recipe, easy and flavorful. Served with citrus fennel salad, grilled broccolini, and rice made with carmelized onion, cumin, raisins and slivered almonds. Topped with some paper thin slices of jalapeño pepper. Delicious!

    Thanks Susan, so happy you loved it!

  • Genevieve

    This was so good! Finally used a frozen jar of red peppers that had been languishing in the freezer. My husband would have made it a bit spicier but I was short on garlic so the original recipe probably has more zing.

    Thanks Genevieve, we are so happy you loved it!

  • Katie

    Super yummy, easy and fast. Crowd pleaser.

    Thanks Katie!

  • Amy

    The flavor on this chicken was insane! Do not skip the sauce! We ate the chicken with rice and roasted Brussels sprouts and just drizzled the sauce over everything. So, so good!

    Thanks Amy, so happy you loved it!