Harissa chicken is a spicy and flavour-packed dish that will tantalize your tastebuds with every bite. The combination of a whole roast chicken, fiery harissa paste, sweet honey, roasted peppers and tangy lemon come together to create a mouthwatering dish that’s also simple enough to make during the week!
- Bursting with complex flavours.
- The skin has a sweet and spicy hit, complementing the tender chicken perfectly.
- It looks impressive, too, thanks to the addition of bright red harissa paste.
- Versatile — serve with a side of rice, or taco style in a tortilla with sour cream and shredded cheese.
- Prepped and ready in under 1 hour.
Hearty, comforting, unique, and easy, this harissa chicken recipe ticks all of the boxes. It’s one of our favourites at home, and I’ve been making it for years. I love how simple it is — basic ingredients turn into a luscious, savoury dinner with little to no effort. I’m so glad I’m finally taking the time to share it with all of you.
This recipe was first published on May 25th, 2019. It has been updated with some tips for getting it perfect and new images including step by step photos.
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What is harissa?
Harissa is a condiment that originated in Tunisia, North Africa. It is commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. Harissa paste is made by mixing hot chilli paste with various spices (like coriander, cumin, paprika and caraway seeds), garlic, oil, and herbs. It’s taste is hot, sweet and a little tangy. I like to balance out that heat with something sweet, which is why this harissa honey chicken recipe works so well.
Ingredients you’ll need
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Whole Chicken: I’m using a whole chicken for this recipe. You’ll have enough for the whole family and maybe some leftovers for another meal. You can make this with chicken pieces too like chicken thighs, drumsticks or breasts but the cooking time will be shorter for the chicken. Bone-in, skin-on would give the best result.
- Red Onions: To place around your harissa chicken as it cooks. They’ll soften up as they bake, which will give you a lovely, almost caramelised flavour.
- Capsicums: Also known as bell peppers, the added veg makes this chicken harissa almost a complete meal on its own. The peppers may look like a lot in the pan before you roast, but they soften right down and become the perfect amount by the time it’s done.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: You just need a bit to make sure that the chicken and vegetables don’t stick to the baking dish as they roast.
- Fresh lemon Juice: A key component in the harissa honey chicken sauce. Opt for freshly squeezed juice instead of from concentrate, if you can.
- Garlic: Also needed for the sauce. 2 cloves will do the trick.
- Harissa Paste: The proverbial star of the show! If you can’t find it at your local market, try online.
- Honey: Here is where the touch of sweetness comes from. I like using a high-quality honey for the best flavour, but you can use whatever you have at home.
- Salt: Just a pinch to bring everything together.
How to make harissa chicken (step-by-step)
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Make the harissa marinade: Add the lemon juice, garlic, harissa paste, honey, and salt to a small bowl and mix until combined (photo 1). Set it aside for later.
- Butterfly the chicken: Use a pair of poultry shears to cut down one side of the backbone (photo 2), then cut down the other side (photo 3). Remove the bone (photo 4), then press down on the breastbone to flatten the bird (photo 5). Refer to this helpful guide for more in-depth instructions.
Poultry shears, while not essential, are so helpful for butterflying or spatchcocking chicken, which is the process described above. They’re heavy duty and cut through the bones easily making the job quick and easy. They’re not just for raw poultry either – they’re also good for chopping it up after it’s been cooked!
- Prepare the vegetables: Cut the capsicums and onions and scatter them in the baking dish (photo 6). These are going to provide a bed for our chicken and as they roast up they release juices and sweetness to create some gorgeous pan juices.
- Add the sauce: Rub that harissa and honey marinade all over the chicken so that it’s coated evenly.
- Roast: Place the harissa chicken on top of the vegetables with the breast side up (photo 7). Roast for 40-50 minutes.
- Broil: Spoon the pan juices over the chicken, then place the baking dish back in the oven grill/broil. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. I use bits of aluminium foil as it grills to cover up any bits that are getting too dark. The marinade has some sweetness so it can burn easily.
- Rest: Remove your harissa honey chicken from the oven and let the bird rest on a cutting board. Carve, serve, and enjoy!
What to serve with honey harissa chicken
I like to keep things simple and typically serve this harissa chicken recipe with a side of white rice and sometimes a salad. I do suggest topping it with a touch of Greek yogurt or plain yoghurt as it helps cool down the fiery harissa paste. Sour cream works too. You could also try it with some cauliflower rice for a lower-carb option.
Don’t throw away the pan juices – The resulting sauce that comes after roasting the chicken and veggies together is amazing too. It’s tangy, a little spicy, and has sweetness from the roasted peppers that are just lovely. It takes no extra effort to make and is wonderful drizzled over the chicken upon serving. So, make sure to pour the juice into a small jug and serve that up on the side.
Set yourself up for success
- If you have leftover peppers, you can blitz them up with some nuts and stale bread and make a romesco sauce of sorts. Really delicious.
- Use a meat thermometer to determine if your honey harissa chicken is done. After about 45 minutes, check the temperature in the thickest part of the bird. Once it hits 74°C (165°F), it’s safe to eat.
- Have foil pieces on hand: When overhead grilling / broiling the chicken, it will darken and can even burn in some places while not in others; this is due to the sweetness in the sauce but there’s a way to prevent it. First, try to push the veggies or pieces of screwed up foil under the chicken to make it as level as possible. Second, check it every 60-90 seconds and place small pieces of foil on the dark parts so that you can keep grilling and caramelising the lighter parts. It’ll look like a patchwork chicken but it works. And don’t worry if you get a few little charred parts. Charring adds a nice smoky flavour as long as it’s not just downright burnt all over.
Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and actually reheat quite well in the microwave.
If you want to use the leftovers for a meal in the coming days, try stripping the meat from the bones, roughly chop any leftover roasted peppers and heat it all up in a skillet over medium-high heat with a little oil to get some crispy bits. Serve in tortillas taco-style with some cheese, avocado and sour cream. Yum!
The spiciness of harissa chicken will vary depending on the type and quantity of harissa paste. While harissa paste is known for its heat, you can control the spice level by adjusting the amount that you use. Balancing it with other ingredients like honey and yoghurt (like I did here) will give you more control over the heat.
I typically don’t. That said, you can let the chicken harissa sit in the fridge for up to 30 minutes after applying the sauce. If you have the extra time and want extra flavourful (and spicy) results, feel free to try it out.
Yes. As I mentioned above, you can use chicken breasts or thighs to make this harissa chicken recipe. Remember that if you choose boneless, it will cook much faster. Keep an eye on it as it roasts to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Did you try this harissa chicken recipe?
Leaving a rating and comment below the recipe is so helpful!
- 1.6 kg whole chicken (3 ½lb)
- 2 red onions
- 4 large capsicums (bell peppers), mixed colours
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup harissa paste
- 1 ½ tablespoons honey (notes 1)
- ½ teaspoon salt
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- Large roasting tray
- Meat thermometer so worth having one of these for perfectly cooked meat every time
- Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan forced) / 400F.
- Remove the stem and seeds from the capsicums and cut into large pieces. Cut the onion into quarters. Add a little drizzle of oil, not too much to the bottom of a large baking dish or tray (large enough to fit the chicken), then scatter in the onion and capsicums.
- Butterfly the chicken: Cut down each side of the backbone of the chicken to remove it, then flip it over and press with the palm of your hand on the breastbone to flatten out the chicken. You should hear or feel a crack.
- In a small bowl or jug, combine the lemon juice, garlic, harissa paste, honey and salt. Rub the mixture all over the chicken.
- Place chicken on top of the vegetables, breast side up. Roast for 40-50 minutes or until it reaches about 65C / 150F in the thickest part (using a meat thermometer without hitting the bone). If you don't have a meat thermometer, you can wing it but you don't want it to be fully cooked at this point, it needs to still be under as it will continue to cook in the next step.
- Take the chicken out and switch the broiler / overhead grill to high. Let the elements heat up.
- Spoon the pan juices over the chicken then place the pan under the broiler / overhead grill. Cook for 6-8 minutes, checking every 1 ½ minutes to make sure it doesn't burn. Some char is good but you don't want all over burn. If you see some parts getting too dark but the rest still needs time, just place small pieces of foil over the dark parts. You can also use the veg underneath or pieces of foil under the chicken to prop it up so that all the meat is level, so that it crisps more evenly. Cooked chicken should have an internal temperature of 74C / 165F in the thickest part.
- Transfer the chicken to a chopping board and place a tent of foil over the top. Rest for 10 minutes.
- Turn the oven off, but put the pan with the veggies back in to keep them hot.
- Chop the chicken into pieces or slice with a carving knife or cleaver, drizzle a little of the pan juices over the top and serve with the vegetables.
- Serving suggestion: This is lovely served with rice with some yogurt on the side to cool it all down a bit.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- Tablespoons: I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons). Check yours before measuring.
- Nutrition details are approximate only – scroll below the recipe to find the full nutritional information.
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