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A white plate with Harissa chicken and rice.
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Harissa Chicken with Rice

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.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 565kcal

Ingredients

For the rice:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • salt

For the chicken:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs chopped into bite-sized pieces (see note 1)
  • 4 carrots peeled, cut into 2-inch long matchsticks
  • 1-2 tablespoons red harissa paste homemade or store bought (see note 2)
  • 4 dates pitted, roughly chopped (see note 3)
  • 3/4 cup water

For serving:

  • 1/2 cup labneh cheese or Greek yogurt (see note 4)
  • 2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • fresh parsley minced, for garnish

Instructions

To make the rice:

  • Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add 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.

To make the chicken:

  • 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, 1/2 cup of water and harissa paste to taste. 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 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). 

To serve:

  • In a medium bowl, combine the labneh, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Taste and add more vinegar if desired.
  • To serve, add rice and chicken with carrots to bowls. Top with some of the labneh mixture and garnish with parsley.

Notes

  1. Chicken: I use boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat in this recipe, but feel free to switch it up with chicken breast, too. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs will need more cooking time, obviously.
  2. Harissa paste: Store-bought or homemade. You can find store-bought harissa paste from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Aldi, or Tesco. In case you're curious, I run you through the details of making easy harissa more in depth, in case you want to try it.)
  3. Dates: Add natural sweetness. If you don't have any, use an equal amount of dried golden raisins or Zante currants.
  4. Labneh: Aka Labne or labnah, this strained yogurt cheese is easy to find in Middle Eastern markets. To make your own substitute from Greek yogurt, 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.
  5. Adding veggies: Boost your daily vegetable intake and throw in a handful of baby spinach or diced zucchini.
  6. Cooking basmati rice: I prefer the pasta method for cooking basmati rice. No rice-to-water ratio to remember! Just add the rice to a generous amount of boiling water and cook it until tender. When the rice is done, drain off the excess water.
  7. Extra sauce: It makes an excellent easy sauce drizzled over the chicken. You can pour it into a small bowl and pass it around the table so everyone can help themselves.
  8. Leftovers: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 565kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 217mg | Sodium: 320mg | Potassium: 899mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 10271IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 2mg