Harissa Chicken

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Harissa Chicken is so deliciously rich and complex, everyone will assume it took all day to make. But this easy dinner comes together in minutes, thanks to a North African condiment which does all the heavy lifting. Serve with lots of fluffy basmati rice and a drizzle of creamy labneh sauce.

A white plate with Harissa chicken and rice.


 

Inspired by a tagine from Morocco, a long-simmered spicy stew with meat, vegetables, and dried fruit, this Harissa Chicken recipe is ready in a fraction of the time, but tastes just as amazing.

Harissa (pronounced ha-RISS-uh) is one of my favorite condiments. In almost no time at all, it melts into a complex, unforgettable sauce. Combined with the dates and carrots, the harissa chicken thighs become sweet, smoky, and a little bit spicy.

No surprise here: I like to make my own harissa sauce. But if you already have a little jar lurking in your pantry, get it out. Once you do, you’ll have a delicious feast of a dinner on the table in under 30 minutes flat.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for harissa chicken with rice.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Chicken: Or substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
  • Harissa: I love to make my own harissa paste to control the sodium and other preservatives, but you can use any store-bought harissa that you like. Harissa paste spice levels vary from mild to fiery-hot depending on the brand or you how personally make it.
  • Dates: These add a chewy texture and natural sweetness to the dish. Feel free to substitute an equal amount of raisins or Zante currants for the dates.
  • Labneh: Aka Labne or labnah, this strained yogurt cheese is easy to find in Middle Eastern markets. See Recipe Tips and Variations for a Greek yogurt substitute, or substitute tzatziki sauce.
  • Basmati rice: Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 cup basmait rice and salt to taste (I like 1 teaspoon). Stir and return to a boil. Boil uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer, drain rice and rinse with hot water. Return to the pot and cover to keep warm.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a large non-stick pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken in a single layer, top with carrots, and cook until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. 
Chunks of chicken and sliced carrots sauteing in a black skillet.
  1. To the skillet, whisk in dates, ½ cup of water, and harissa paste to taste (1 to 2 tablespoons depending on how spicy it is). Cook until the liquid has thickened and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 2 to 4 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). 
Harissa chicken in a black skillet.
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the labneh, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired. To serve, add rice and chicken with carrots to bowls. Drizzle with the labneh mixture and garnish with parsley.
Three white plates of Harissa chicken and rice.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 4 servings of Harissa Chicken. Each serving includes about 6 ounces cooked chicken with carrots, a few tablespoons of labneh sauce, and ¾ cup basmati rice.
  • Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Make the harissa paste up to 3 days in advance. The rice can be cooked, bagged, and frozen for up to 3 months.
  • No labneh: To substitute plain Greek yogurt for the labneh, arrange a few layers of cheesecloth over a strainer, then place that over a bowl to catch the liquid. Spoon plain Greek yogurt into the cheesecloth, then refrigerate the whole set-up for a few hours. The moisture will drain into the bowl below, drying out the yogurt to the consistency you need. For even more flavor, add lemon zest before squeezing the lemon for juice.
  • More veggies: For even more veggies, add a handful of baby spinach or diced zucchini.
  • Grilled Harissa Chicken: Add harissa paste to chicken for a quick and easy protein-packed main dish option.
    1. Coat chicken breasts with a few tablespoons harissa paste. Preheat grill over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then oil grates.
    2. Place chicken over direct heat on the grill, close the cover, and grill 5 minutes on each side, turning once.
    3. Transfer chicken to indirect heat and continue to cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the largest chicken breast reaches 165 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Slice or chop if desired and keep warm in the oven until serving time.
Harissa in a clear bowl.
Harissa is a dried chile paste in African cuisine made with garlic cloves, caraway seeds, coriander, cumin, and olive oil. It’s packed with flavor and delicious as a condiment, marinade, or spread, and it’s the cornerstone of this Harissa Chicken recipe.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you pronounce “harissa”?

This North African condiment is pronounced ha-RISS-uh.

Where is harissa from?

Harissa is a dried chile paste from Northern Africa. It is often used in the recipes of Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya.

How do you cook basmati rice?

I like to use “the pasta method” when cooking basmati rice. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 cup basmait rice and salt to taste (I like 1 teaspoon). Stir and return to a boil. Boil uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer, drain rice and rinse with hot water. Return to the pot and cover to keep warm.Rinse basmati rice after cooking.

How do you pit dried dates?

Plump and leathery, dried dates have a hard pit inside that must be removed before consuming. Just pull the soft edges of the date apart to expose the middle. Pull out and discard the pit.Pitting dried dates.

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A white plate with Harissa chicken and rice.

Harissa Chicken

Harissa Chicken with Rice is a dinner that tastes like it took all day to make, instead of minutes. Every tender bite is full of North African spices, dates, and carrots; the fragrant basmati rice soaks up the sauce. The secret? That little jar of harissa paste lurking in your pantry.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Calories 397
5 from 2 votes

Ingredients 

For the chicken:

For serving:

Instructions 

  • In a large non-stick pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. 
  • Add dates, ½ cup of water and harissa paste to taste (1 to 2 tablespoons depending on how spicy it is). Cook until the liquid has thickened and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 2 to 4 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). 
  • In a medium bowl, combine the labneh, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired.
  • To serve, add rice and chicken with carrots to bowls. Drizzle with the labneh mixture and garnish with fresh parsley.

Notes

  1. Chicken: Or substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
  2. Harissa: I love to make my own harissa paste, but you can use any store-bought harissa that you like. Harissa paste spice levels vary from mild to fiery-hot depending on the brand or you how personally make it.
  3. Dates: These add a chewy texture and natural sweetness to the dish. Feel free to substitute an equal amount of raisins or Zante currants for the dates.
  4. Labneh: Aka Labne or labnah, this strained yogurt cheese is easy to find in Middle Eastern markets. See Recipe Tips and Variations for a Greek yogurt substitute, or substitute tzatziki sauce.
  5. Basmati rice: Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 cup basmait rice and salt to taste (I like 1 teaspoon). Stir and return to a boil. Boil uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer, drain rice and rinse with hot water. Return to the pot and cover to keep warm.
  6. Yield: This recipe makes 4 servings of Harissa Chicken. Each serving includes about 6 ounces cooked chicken with carrots, a few tablespoons of labneh sauce, and ¾ cup basmati rice.
  7. Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 6 oz chickenCalories: 397kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 47gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 217mgSodium: 306mgPotassium: 849mgFiber: 2gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 10272IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 74mgIron: 2mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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  1. I feel like I have so much to catch up on here! I hope everything is going amazingly and I LOVE your site revamp. What stunning photos and awesome, mouthwatering recipes, lady!5 stars