Grilled Chicken Thighs with Green Harissa


I find myself becoming more and more inspired by food photography.  As I have grown my blog and reached out into the social media networks of Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, I find myself in awe of good food photos (they are certainly not easy to take as I’ve learned in the past year).  I came across a photo in the March issue of Cooking Light for a vegetarian recipe titled ‘Whole Roasted Carrots with Black Lentils and Green Harissa.’

Whole Roasted Carrots with Black Lentils and Green Harissa

Cooking Light March 2014
Whole Roasted Carrots with Black Lentils and Green Harissa

I tore the recipe out of the magazine and stuck it on the fridge. I kept finding myself walking by it and stopping to stare at the harissa imagining what wonderful flavors were packed in that beautiful vibrant green sauce.  The photo alone made my mouth water every time I looked at it (amazing how our senses are all linked!).  Harissa is starting to gain popularity recently as the hot sauce craze continues to grow in the United States.  Siracha, Japanese hot sauce, was not a very well known condiment just a few years ago and is quickly becoming a household staple (for those who like it hot!). Harissa is a North African chili pepper based hot sauce which can come in many different forms (depending on which pepper is used). It’s as common to North Africans as ketchup is to Americans.  I stumbled across a great NPR article called Harissa: The Story Behind North Africa’s Favorite Hot Sauce which explains it’s popularity better than I can.  If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that I’m a total sucker for a spicy green sauce or salsa of any sort (see Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Tomatillo Sauce or Carnitas with Houston-Style Green Salsa).  I knew I wanted to make this green harissa but I wasn’t sold on the vegetarian preparation (I could handle it, but I wasn’t so sure my husband and kids would be thrilled about grilled carrots for dinner!).  So I adapted and made what I thought would be the best foundation for this yummy Tunisian hot sauce.  The leftover harissa got eaten up within 24 hours.  I used the leftover grilled chicken on a salad the next day and topped it with the green harissa and a homemade Raita to tone down the spice. My husband also found that pita bread dipped in the harisa was an awesome snack.

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Grilled Chicken Thighs with Green Harissa (Serves 4-6)


10-12 boneless skinless chicken thighs

2 tsp cajun seasoning

salt and fresh ground pepper

1 pkg saffron rice (to keep it CLEAN, omit rice or substitute a whole grain like quinoa or farro)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups cilantro leaves

1/2 of one onion, chopped

4 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded

lime wedges for garnish


Green Harrissa: Combine cilantro leaves, onion, olive oil, and all remaining ingredients through jalapeno peppers in a blender or food processor.  Combine until smooth.  Set aside.


Chicken Thighs: Preheat grill.  Sprinkle cajun seasoning, salt and fresh ground pepper pepper over cleaned and dried chicken thighs.  Cook on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Rice and Beans:  Prepare saffron rice according to package directions.  Add black beans.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

*I used the leftover grilled chicken on a mixed green salad the next day.  I added cucumber and feta and I made a quick Raiti (Indian Yogurt Sauce) to complement the spicy green harissa.  To make the Raiti just mix together with plain greek yogurt, grated cucumber, ground cumin, dash of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and some chopped fresh cilantro.

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Adapted from Cooking Light March 2014 Issue 

2 thoughts on “Grilled Chicken Thighs with Green Harissa

  1. Sherry Barger

    I have looked for harrissa at Giant Eagle for several years ( wanted a shortcut). Of, course making my own is the best solution. Thanks!


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