Smoky And Spicy Harissa Chicken Thighs Recipe

It's time to spice up your weeknight dinners with a recipe that's all about bold flavors. These smoky and spicy harissa chicken thighs by recipe developer Catherine Brookes are packed with aromatic spices and a little heat, transforming simple chicken thighs into the ultimate punchy addition to any main meal.

The recipe features an easy homemade harissa paste, made by toasting cumin and coriander seeds and blitzing them up with some other tasty ingredients, such as roasted red peppers, garlic, and lemon juice. We then marinate the chicken in this flavor-packed paste, allowing them to soak up all the deliciousness for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. 

Baked until perfectly tender on the inside and beautifully crisp and darkened on top, this succulent, mouthwatering chicken is ready to serve alongside your favorite sides. Whether paired with fluffy rice and a crisp green salad or mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, the savory flavors of the chicken are sure to shine.

Gather the ingredients for smoky and spicy harissa chicken thighs

What's great about this recipe is that it consists of just a few simple steps. First, we make the harissa paste. For this, you'll need cumin seeds, coriander seeds, deseeded and chopped red serrano chiles, minced garlic cloves, roasted red peppers, smoked paprika, tomato paste, lemon juice, olive oil, and a little salt to taste. Then, we simply marinate some skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs in this flavor-packed mixture before oven-baking them to perfection.

Step 1: Toast the spices

Add cumin and coriander seeds to a dry frying pan over medium-high heat and toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Step 2: Grind the spices

Transfer seeds to a spice grinder and blitz into a powder.

Step 3: Add the harissa ingredients to a food processor

Add the ground spices into the bowl of a food processor along with the chiles, garlic, roasted red peppers, paprika, tomato paste, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Step 4: Blend the harissa paste

Blend until you have a smooth paste.

Step 5: Marinate the chicken

Add chicken thighs to a bowl, coat with the harissa paste, and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Step 6: Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Step 7: Transfer the chicken to a baking dish

Place the marinated chicken thighs in a baking dish.

Step 8: Bake

Bake for 40 minutes, until cooked through and darkened in color.

Step 9: Garnish and serve

Transfer chicken to a plate and top with lemon wedges and parsley, if desired, before serving.

How can I adjust the spice level of harissa paste?

Adjusting the spice level of harissa paste is fairly simple. Whether you prefer a mild kick or an extra-spicy punch, it's easy to tailor the heat to your personal preference.

The recipe provided here will give a subtle kick of heat, but you can of course amp this up or bring it down. The best way to do this is by switching up the type and quantity of chile peppers. Red serrano chiles provide a moderate heat, but you can easily adjust the spice by increasing or decreasing the amount used. For a spicier paste, keep the seeds and white parts from the from the chiles intact before adding them to the mixture. Alternatively, use hotter varieties of chile peppers, such as red jalapeños, scotch bonnets, or Thai bird's eye chiles.

Additionally, acidity — in this case, from lemon juice — can help balance out the heat of the peppers. If you find your harissa paste is too spicy, adding a bit more lemon juice can help tone down the heat without sacrificing flavor. Conversely, if you prefer a spicier paste, reducing the amount of lemon juice can help the chiles pack the ultimate fiery punch.

How can I grind spices without a spice grinder?

If you don't have a spice grinder at home, don't panic! There are plenty of other ways to grind spices using common kitchen tools. First, a mortar and pestle is the traditional tool that's perfect for grinding by hand. Simply place the spices in the mortar (bowl) and use the pestle (club-shaped tool) to crush and grind them into a powder. This method might require a little more time and elbow grease, but it's certainly an effective option. Another makeshift solution for crushing by hand is to place the spices in a sturdy plastic food bag and seal it tightly. Then, use a rolling pin to crush the spices until they are ground. 

If you have a coffee grinder at home, you could also repurpose this to grind spices. Just make sure to clean it thoroughly before and after use to avoid any flavor transfer. Simply pulse the spices in the grinder until they reach the desired consistency.

Smoky And Spicy Harissa Chicken Thighs Recipe
5 from 31 ratings
Homemade harissa paste, made with aromatic spices and spicy chiles, is the ultimate marinade for these easy yet flavor-packed roasted chicken thighs.
Prep Time
40
minutes
Cook Time
45
minutes
Servings
4
servings
harissa chicken thighs on plate
Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 red serrano chiles, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 roasted red peppers
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • Salt, to taste
Optional Ingredients
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish
Directions
  1. Add cumin and coriander seeds to a dry frying pan over medium-high heat and toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer seeds to a spice grinder and blitz into a powder.
  3. Add the ground spices into the bowl of a food processor along with the chiles, garlic, roasted red peppers, paprika, tomato paste, lemon juice, and olive oil.
  4. Blend until you have a smooth paste.
  5. Add chicken thighs to a bowl, coat with the harissa paste, and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  7. Place the marinated chicken thighs in a baking dish.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes, until cooked through and darkened in color.
  9. Transfer chicken to a plate and top with lemon wedges and parsley, if desired, before serving.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 585
Total Fat 44.8 g
Saturated Fat 11.2 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 222.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 6.1 g
Dietary Fiber 1.2 g
Total Sugars 2.5 g
Sodium 671.2 mg
Protein 38.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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