Tunisian Harissa Chicken Recipe


Harissa is a favourite spicy condiment from North Africa found mainly in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. Tunisian cuisine commonly includes all kinds of exciting variations of harissa in predominantly chicken, seafood and lamb dishes. Not as scarce as you might think in the rest of the world, harissa paste can be bought readymade in tubes and tubs in certain stores and delis. However, a good base harissa paste is really quick and easy to make and it’s so much tastier than the store bought versions. Depending on your taste preferences and those of your guests you can make it as hot, sweet or smoky as you like. What is important is your choice of chilli. The type of chilli you use will impact flavour and kick. For a very mild harissa you can use roasted red bell peppers instead of chilli. We use bell peppers with a touch of chilli to give ours a light zing so as not to overpower diners with spice-sensitive palettes.


Recipe by: GOLD Restaurant
Serves: 8 (starter)
Difficulty: Moderate
Preparation: 30 minutes (plus two hours for marinating)
Cooking: 30 minutes (frying)


T = tablespoon
t = teaspoon

  • 2 medium red peppers and 1 red chilli OR 6 red chillies
  • 1 ½ t caraway seeds
  • 1 ½ t coriander seeds (or fresh)
  • 3 T garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil for paste
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup boiling water to soak chillies (chilli-only recipe)
  • OR
  • ¼ cup boiling water to soak chilli (red pepper and chilli recipe)
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 16 medium-sized chicken wings (or small drumsticks)
  • Salt to taste


To make the harissa paste:

Chilli-only recipe
If you are following the spicier chilli-only recipe, place the chillies in a bowl. Add a cup of boiling water and allow them to soak for 20 minutes or so until soft.

Red pepper and chilli recipe
If you are following the red pepper and chilli recipe, slice your peppers lengthways into long quarters. Remove the stems and seeds. Place the quarters in a skillet for 2 to 3 minutes on a medium heat and dry roast to char slightly on both sides. Remove peppers, allow them to cool and chop finely. Soak your chilli in a small bowl with ¼ cup of boiling water for 20 minutes or so until soft.

  1. Place the caraway, coriander and cumin spices in a skillet and dry fry over a low to medium heat for a minute, swirling them to prevent burning. You can tell they’re ready after 3 minutes or so when they become fragrant.
  2. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the roasted spices to a grinder and blitz (or mortar and pestle and grind) until powdery.
  3. Drain the chilli/chillies and reserve the liquid for later.
  4. Remove and discard the seeds and stems of your chillies. If you are following the red pepper and chilli recipe you will have already done this in Step 1.
  5. Combine the chillies and/or red peppers and all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor (or use your mortar and pestle). Put the food processor on low and slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil to form a puréed, thick paste. If you want your paste a little thinner add some of the reserved chilli water until you get the consistency you want.

To prepare and cook the chicken:

  1. Place your wings or drumsticks in a bowl and season with salt. Add your harissa paste to the bowl and rub it into the chicken with your hands. Cover and leave to marinate for at least two hours.
  2. Fry the wings or drumsticks in a pan in hot oil on a medium heat until the skin on both sides is crispy.
  3. Serve hot.


  1. Harissa paste can pre prepared and kept in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. In fact, the flavour deepens if left for a day or two. If you have left over paste keep it in a sealed jar with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil poured conservatively on top before sealing. Every time you use the harissa, add a fresh thin layer of olive oil.
  2. You can also add to your harissa paste, fresh or dried mint, fresh cilantro, tomatoes, cayenne pepper or paprika. It all depends on your personal preference. Have fun creating your own signature brand of harissa paste.

Share this post