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This super-tasty harissa chicken is full of smoky spices and gentle heat, and it’s simple to prepare in one baking pan. All you need to do is bake boneless, skinless chicken thighs with the sauce and add chickpeas. Serve one of our favorite chicken recipes with cooked couscous or rice for an easy dinner any night of the week.
It’s been a busier time than usual in my life, and I’ve been making this stick-it-in-the-oven-and-walk-away harissa chicken at least once a week. I think you’re going to love it as much as I do!
There’s a variation of this recipe in my cookbook, but this is my latest “tweaked” version.
- Cooking boneless chicken thighs
- Step by step recipe instructions
- About harissa
- Make ahead tips
- What goes with harissa chicken
The chicken thighs bake in the oven, smothered in a savory, spiced sauce blended with harissa paste, lemon, smoked paprika, cumin and garlic and sweet red onion (or shallots).
Throw in some chickpeas when the thighs are almost cooked, and you have a one-dish and done meal.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a family favorite
We LOVE cooking and eating boneless, skinless chicken thighs in our house. First of all, they are tasty as AF. Plus you can be sure they’ll turn out tender and juicy every time, which is not often the case with chicken breasts.
And chicken thighs go with just about any sauce or preparation you could possibly imagine throwing at them — the bolder the better!
Harissa chicken cooking steps
If you’ve been cooking with me for a while, you know that I have a love affair with Mediterranean food and all the flavors that go with it.
I highly recommend any of their books if you want a deeper dive into this cuisine, which is full of seductively vibrant produce, olive oil, lemon and spices.
It can have the consistency of a paste or thick sauce, and it’s usually made with a blend of dried red peppers, dried chilies, garlic, spices and olive oil. Sometimes spices like caraway seed are in the blend, as well as tomatoes.
Adding a few tablespoons harissa as a seasoning adds amazing savory depth to food. It has such intriguing layers of flavor that are smoky, sweet and spicy, along with mild heat from the chilies.
If you’re up for a small project, you can make harissa fairly easily at home, using my recipe for homemade harissa paste.
Otherwise you can find jars of harissa is most well stocked grocery stores. This is my latest favorite brand of prepared harissa that’s widely available.
The spice base
- Cumin: Ground cumin creates an earthy, aromatic base for the sauce.
- Smoked paprika: This spice is made with ground smoked paprika chili peppers. It adds that seductive quality to the dish that makes you want another bite.
- Harissa: The best prepared store-bought harissa to use for this recipes is one from a jar. If you only have harissa in a tube, thin it out with a tablespoon or so of water or broth to loosen up the texture.
Make ahead tips
- To make your life even easier, mix the harissa sauce and toss it with the chicken in your baking dish.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight or while you’re at work, then pop into the oven when you’re ready to bake.
What to serve with harissa chicken
You could serve this chicken right out of the pan with a salad or vegetable on the side. I suggest serving it in shallow bowls with cooked couscous to soak up the tasty juices. Harissa baked chicken is also delicious with:
- Short grain paella-style rice
- Brown rice
- Warm flatbread
Baked Harissa Chicken with Chickpeas
- 2 pounds (900 g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6 thighs)
- ½ red onion or 1 large shallot, sliced
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons (45 g) harissa paste
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) grated or pressed garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
- Chicken broth, optional
- 1 15-ounce (425 g) can chickpeas, drained
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Preheat the oven to 450 (225C) degrees
- Put the chicken in a baking dish or pan large enough to hold the chicken snugly, such as a 3-quart size. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon of the salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Scatter the onion over the chicken.
- Stir the harissa, olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic, lemon juice and remaining ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl until combined. If the mixture seems thick and pasty, stir in a tablespoon or two of chicken broth until it has a saucy consistency. Pour over the chicken and onion and toss around to coat.
- Bake 20 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the baking dish and flip the chicken pieces over. Continue baking 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the pan juices are bubbling.
- Sprinkle the cilantro over the chicken. Serve with cooked couscous or rice if desired.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Depending on the brand, harissa can be a thick paste or more like a pourable sauce. Add chicken stock as needed to thin it out, if needed.
- Make ahead: Mix the harissa sauce and toss it with the chicken in your baking dish. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours in advance of baking.
- Leftovers: Leftover chicken can be kept refrigerated up to 5 days. Reheat, covered, at 350 for about 15 minutes. Add a bit more olive oil and some broth or water before reheating if the juices have absorbed into the chicken.