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Harissa Grilled Chicken

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harissa grilled chicken

In the world of powerhouse pantry staples, harissa is a flavor bomb. We’re no strangers to its magic here at Delish—we've already stirred it into clams and aioli, and used it to spice up turkey breast and meatballs—and now we’re tapping it again for this easy, throw-together marinade for grilled chicken. 

Our top tip? Make sure to remove and save some of the marinade (we recommend ⅓ cup) before adding the chicken to the rest of it. You’ll want some extra (uncontaminated) marinade to brush over the chicken while it’s grilling! 

Read on for more tips and info on this easy harissa grilled chicken. If you’re looking for other ways to use your grill this summer, check out our favorite grill-out weeknight dinners.

What is harissa?

Harissa is a spicy chili condiment native to North Africa. It’s made from dehydrated chiles that have been reconstituted and blended with olive oil, herbs, and spices. While it’s not difficult to make your own, most people choose to buy theirs. The level of heat may vary between brands, and some brands even offer two separate mild and spicy versions. Find a brand that you like and stick with it.

How do I keep my chicken from getting too spicy?

Most of the heat in this recipe comes from the harissa, so the spice level will depend on the type of harissa you use. But to be honest, we tested this recipe with a “spicy” harissa, and even with that, we didn’t think it was super spicy—just flavorful. If you’re concerned about the heat level, buy a milder harissa and taste the marinade before you add the chicken. If it’s too hot, you can always add another tablespoon of olive oil to even it out.

How long can I leave the chicken in the marinade?

We suggest letting the chicken marinate, covered, in the refrigerator at least 45 minutes and up to 2 hours. If you really want to, you can leave the chicken in the marinade for up to a day, but that’s really the cut-off point. Any longer and the acid in the lemon juice will start breaking down the protein, causing the chicken to become mushy...and no one wants that.

Made this? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Yields: 4 - 6 servings
Prep Time: 0 hours 5 mins
Total Time: 1 hour 0 mins
1/2 c.


6 tbsp.

fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp.

extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grill

1 1/2 tsp.

ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp.

kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp.

smoked paprika

1 tsp.

ground coriander

2 lb.

skinless, boneless chicken thighs

2 tbsp.

fresh cilantro, roughly chopped


lemon, cut into wedges

  1. In a large bowl, stir harissa, lemon juice, oil, cumin, salt, paprika, and coriander. Pour ⅓ cup marinade into another container and set aside. Add chicken to remaining marinade and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 hours. 
  2. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; preheat 5 minutes. Lightly brush grates with oil.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade and grill, turning once and brushing with reserved ⅓ cup marinade, until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 165°, 8 to 10 minutes (these thighs are very forgiving; you can continue to grill until fat renders and thermometer registers 175° to 180°, if desired). 
  4. Transfer chicken to a plate and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges alongside.

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