Grilled Harissa Chicken

Grilled Harissa Chicken
Grilled Harissa Chicken

Harissa doesn't have the popularity it deserves...yet.  A spice blend originating from northern Africa, harissa has grown in popularity in the US as we've opened our embrace to the complex and sophisticated flavors of Middle Eastern food. Harissa is frequently served in a paste as a condiment and for ease of comparison is often referred to as a Middle Eastern sort of ketchup, but it's got a lot more going on than that. With our Harissa Spice blend, you can make a tomato-y sort of ketchup, but you can spike it with chiles and onions and create your own condiment. The Harissa Spice blend is distinctly spicy, yes, but there’s a depth of smokiness to it from guajillo chiles, and twang from some cinnamon and caraway that brings an inner warmth that’s more than just the burn of the heat.

Our in-house kitchen staff made a big batch of harissa paste by mixing our spice blend with some olive oil and divided it; one half used as a marinade for some chicken breasts (chicken thighs would also be delicious), and one half was mixed into a salad with sweet bell peppers and thinly sliced red onions. The blend acted differently in each application. On the chicken, harissa's smoky quality elevated our plain chicken breast with its vibrancy and brightness, adding tons of salt-free flavor. For the salad on the side, the paste enhanced the sweetness of the bell peppers and onions, its smoky elements providing contrast to the vegetables' natural sugars.

When cooking chicken--or any kind of meat--take it out of the refrigerator early, so it can come up to room temperature. If you are doing a quick, half-hour marinade, you can just leave it on the counter after the marinade is applied instead of putting it back in the fridge. If you're doing a four-hour marinade, take the chicken out at least half an hour before you want to cook it. We understand your concerns about handling meat that isn’t “fresh from the fridge” cold, but allowing your chicken (or steak, or fish) to rest on your countertop before you cook it results in evenly and fully cooked meat. Putting cold chicken breasts on a hot cooking surface means you run the risk of charring the outside and not raising the internal temperature enough to kill salmonella.

Our taste testers loved our Harissa Chicken and Harissa Salad and hadn't understood until lunch how versatile Harissa Spice could be. It's also delicious mixed into couscous or used on roasted vegetables, and it's a sturdy enough spice that it can stand up to heartier meats like lamb. Happy cooking! 

 Print Recipe

Prep Time: 15 min.
Cooking Time: 10 min.
Cuisine: African
  • 1 Lb. Boneless skinless chicken breast, lightly pounded
  • 3 Tbsp Harissa
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped
  • 8oz. Grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ Of an Orange bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ Of a Red bell pepper, sliced
  • ¼ Red onion, sliced
  1. In a bowl, whisk Harissa and olive oil together into a paste. Divide in half.
  2. Rub paste onto the chicken, cover and marinate 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  3. In a bowl, combine tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and Harissa paste and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Preheat grill to medium-high. Place chicken on grill and cook 4-5 minutes per side, until firm. Remove from grill and let sit 5 minutes before serving.
  5. Serve with tomato salad!