Harissa Roast Chicken

harissa roast chicken

Finding random times to write blog posts is becoming a specialty of mine of late. Every bit of down time, like waiting for pasta water to boil, or rice to steam or shower water to heat up, my mind is formulating ideas and sentences. Whereas my husband would argue that there is plenty of time to do such things in his office (toilet), I draw the line there!

As luck or rather the lack thereof, would have it, all my craziness has just bought my life to a trundling stop. It was inevitable, I’ve been running on fumes for a couple of weeks now and this weekend was the last straw, I guess. I write this post in bed with my knee, swollen to the size of a watermelon, propped up and with an ice pack.

One thing about living with an auto immune condition, you only have so many energy rations per day. If you borrow from other days because you are trying to be some overachieving super hero, you will run out of your rations very quickly. When that happens, your body breaks down in the most horrible way. I am now at this point.

harissa roast chicken

There is nothing more frustrating for someone who is always on the go to be suddenly crippled. I can’t walk or stand or even sit for long periods of time. Dinner has been pizza and leftovers, so you can imagine nothing exciting will be happening in my kitchen until this knee heals. This predicament is terribly unfortunate because yesterday I was given a huge box of organic, Colorado peaches by a good friend (thank you soooo much Mariyam :)) I am itching to break into that box and get baking with the beauties. I hope it happens sooner than later and before they all ripen to a pulpy mess.

In the meantime, I am going to share some recipes and dinners I made earlier. Hopefully, it will cover a couple of weeks at least and I can stay sane with y’all’s company.

So, this Harissa Roast Chicken has been, lately, my go to roast chicken recipe. I’ve been making it for a few months now and it is so good, that I decided I would share it with you. It’s nothing fancy and everyone roasts chicken, but if you haven’t thought about smearing harissa over it, do it! It is amazing!

I think one of the reasons why it is so easy and tasty, is because harissa is so flavourful and has all the seasonings in it already; garlic, peppers, olive oil and so forth. I’ve been using a store bought paste imported from Morocco and I really enjoy its spicy and tangy kick. But since I’ve been making this chicken for so long, I’ve also been longing to make my own harissa paste.

Harissa Roast Chicken

I researched many, many recipes; some with tomatoes, some with peppers, some with carrots, some with dried peppers, others with fresh peppers! I just about lost my mind. I read the ingredients of the paste I use and like, and found it contained sweet peppers, so I decided to experiment with roasted red bell peppers and dried red chillies.

My harissa paste came out fiery hot and with an obvious bell pepper taste. It’s really good, but not what I’m looking for so I’m going to play with it some more before I post my recipe. It has been really great for adding depth of flavour to various dishes though because it has a sweet, yet very hot and garlicky bite.


Anyway for this dish, just use your favourite harissa paste or your own harissa recipe for this chicken.

Also, if you’d like, you can sprinkle a teaspoon or two of Moroccan Ras el Hanout spices over the top of the chicken before roasting. My local Whole Foods has been carrying this great array of organic, spice mixes from all over the world and it has made life easier! They come in small boxes so you don’t end up with a huge jar of spices that lose their effectiveness before you’ve had the chance to use them, and they aren’t too expensive ($2.99). But the spices are optional. I’ve made this chicken without the Ras El Hanout and it’s still really good.

ras el hanout spice mix

harissa roast chicken

Harissa Roast Chicken

Calories: 1454

Fat: 82g

a whole roasted chicken seasoned with spicy harissa and ras el hanout spices.
  • 1 whole chicken with skin, preferably organic or free range
  • ¼ cup or more harissa paste, homemade or store bought
  • 2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout spice mix (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • sea salt and pepper
  1. Clean and dry the chicken.
  2. Smear the chicken with the harissa paste getting under the skin.
  3. I loosen the skin first, make a few slits with a knife or just poke here and there under the skin on the breast and leg and thigh, and smear the harissa into the slits and all over.
  4. Pat the skin back in place and rub more paste all over the top and rub some in the cavity too.
  5. Drizzle olive oil and massage into the chicken.
  6. Place in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes (longer is better)
  7. When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 400℉/200℃
  8. Allow to the chicken to lose the chill from the fridge for about 15 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper over the top.
  10. Place in a roasting rack or a rack made with crumpled up foil and placed under the chicken in a baking pan/sheet.
  11. Roast for 45-60 minutes.
  12. Check the chicken to be golden brown and charred in places, and for the juices to come out clear when pierced.
  13. Let it rest 10-15 minutes before cutting.
As you can tell from the photos, I don't truss my chicken. I find it takes too long to cook the inside and then you don't get the nice crispy skin all over. So, though my chicken isn't quite attractive, it's cooked through and has lots of crispy skin. If your chicken is organic or free range, the fat that is rendered from the chicken, can be used to sauté green beans or potatoes. Here, the fat is nice and spicy and adds great flavor to sautéed vegetables.

Harissa Roast Chicken

This chicken wasn’t set up for a photo shoot because we, literally, ate it as soon as I put my camera down! They were taken on the dining table with my children waiting impatiently for the chicken to get its photo taken. I couldn’t do much with 4 hungry faces peering impatiently at me.

I hope you’re all having a better start to the week than I am! I would appreciate your prayers and happy thoughts to get me out of this unfortunate circumstance. We have a saying in Islam that states that we don’t know whose prayers get answered but it can be the most random person’s. Thank you in advance and have a wonderful week!

  1. I’m working on my spice level so that I get to enjoy more food like this delicious looking roast chicken! My husband loves spicy food in general but I am not accustomed to. However I am much better than before and enjoy little spice in food (before it was always “mild please…” lol). Hope to try harissa one day!
    Nami | Just One Cookbook recently posted..Castella カステラMy Profile

  2. Hi Nazneen – I LOVE things rubbed in harissa, seriously! Have you tried harissa-rubbed salmon? It’s incredible! Didn’t try doing it with a whole roast chicken though… must remember that for next time – I still have some of my home-made harissa in the freezer!
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  3. This looks like an amazing roasted chicken and reminded me that I have some harissa paste left in the freezer.I made two jars of harissa paste with tomatoes, carrot and fresh and dry peppers, my husband didn’t find it spicy so I have to add extra hot peppers whenever I use it. How hot is your harissa paste?

    Nazneen, I feel sorry for you and hope you get better soon.
    Balvinder recently posted..Polenta UpmaMy Profile

    • My harissa is pretty hot! But on the chicken it dissipates, and adds a bit of heat. You can try and find a mild harissa in the stores. They are generally not too hot. I think you’re going to have to train Alfie to eat spicy! That’s what I did with Laith!

  4. Nanzeen, don’t loose hope as there are still many options out there for RA. I know that you have been pushing yourself very hard with the move and that stress has taken its toll so now you will need to rest. Your health comes first so take some time to heal as we will always be here. I can completely relate to the issue you have with taking photos before the kids inhale it. I struggle with this same issue every day and I can see why with such a lovely chicken.
    Bam’s Kitchen recently posted..Better Than Mrs. Butterworth’s Pancake SyrupMy Profile

    • Thanks Bobbi for your very kind and reassuring words. You are right, I have been on the go since the move and it’s just hard on me. I am learning to take it easy. It’s hard with kids.

  5. Aw, hon. For some strange reason I don’t think I registered the fact that you have been living with an auto-immune condition. It makes me unreasonably angry… I work in health and I hate the fact that so many wonderful, talented people have life-limiting health issues that sometimes hold them back. You are amazing… strong and wise. I can definitely understand the ‘overdoing it’ part though. I tend to do too much all the time and I’ve made myself sick on occasion. It’s part of being excited about EVERYTHING I’m doing, not wanting to give anything up and trying to manage too much at once. Ah, I dream about blog stuff in the shower too. But not in the toilet 😉
    I am completely obsessed with harissa. I use it at least a few times a week, normally to coat chicken breasts or potatoes. I love this roasted version though. Yum, lots of delicious crispy skin is exactly what I’d be looking for! The sauteed vegetables look yummy too. I’ve never made my own harissa but I’m looking forward to reading your finished recipe 🙂 Thanks lovely. Rest up, hope your knee heals soon xxx
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  6. Poor you! I hope you mend soon. A little pizza now and again is nice, but as a steady diet? No thanks. I’d much rather have this terrific looking chicken! Brilliant idea to smear harissa on it before roasting – I’ll definitely try that (and I do have some harissa in the refrigerator). I never truss my chicken either – I think it cooks better untrussed, and is so much easier.
    john@kitchenriffs recently posted..Lentil, Quinoa, and Zucchini SaladMy Profile

    • Thanks Angie! Yes, it smells amazing! Of course, making the harissa, there was a lot of spicy smells making us cough quite often! Worth it in the end.

  7. Oh Nazneen! I’m so sorry to hear that you have an angry knee and you aren’t able to buzz around as you normally do – how frustrating. And the peaches! Perhaps this is a good time to start your children on an epic peach cooking adventure, that you can direct, watch, and ultimately enjoy from an appropriately reclined position?! Start them off easy with caramelised peaches done on the barbecue and served with ice cream, working up to free-form tarts and maybe even a trifle?! At least get them to bring you the ripest ones sliced into quarters with a cup of tea for you to enjoy as is (I know I could definitely get through a box of peaches this way!).

    I confess, I’ve never attempted my own harissa, as much as I love it. The ready-made (and even locally-made) versions that I can buy are so good, I’ve never been inclined. But if you hit the perfect balance of heat, spice and acidity with your experiments, you could absolutely change my mind! Your chicken looks beyond delicious!
    Jas@AbsolutelyJas recently posted..Eating at EightysixMy Profile

    • Thanks Jas, I’m doing somewhat better but still quite immobile. I do love your ideas about the peaches but the whole getting my kids to do it. Hmmmm. You haven’t met my teenagers. My most helpful one is my little 8 year old and that’s because he loves his mommy so much. My girls, well, lets say their needs come first.
      I can’t believe that you have local harissa too. I can’t seem to find any here in Colorado, but then again I guess I should actively look! So far, from all that you write, Australia is awesome, I want to move there. Actually, Aussie land has been on the top of my places to visit since my teens (and it has nothing to do with the fact that I was besotted by a hot Australian in school :))

  8. Very nice, Nazneen. Love the color harissa gives to a roasted chicken and I can almost taste your beautiful dish. In fact, I was going to post a very similar recipe in the weeks ahead. Just recently I discovered that one of my markets makes harissa on-site. The flavors are incredible and so much more convenient than trying to make harissa for one. I must admit, though, that I feel much more confident with my recipe, seeing that it is so close to yours, someone whose skills I admire. Thank you for that! 🙂
    ChgoJohn recently posted..My Tomatoes Are In A JamMy Profile

    • Thanks John! Lucky you to have access to local harissa! I haven’t seen anyone at our market making local harissa, but then again I wasn’t actively looking. I look forward to seeing your harissa recipe. I know it will be good!

    • Thanks Archana, and that’s exactly what I was thinking about my harissa, though I have to say, it’s very HOT!

    • Thanks Asha! I am resting and it seems to be helping. The upside of being bed ridden is being able to catch up with my reading and TV watching 🙂

  9. Roast chicken at its best 🙂 And what sensuous Harissa coated legs! 🙂
    I can die a thousand deaths to have a bite from that crispy, amber colored leg 🙂

    And my heart goes out to you; hope the injured knee gets better soon.

    Thanks for the drool inducing photos. Have a rockin’ day 🙂
    nusrat2010 recently posted..Mango ChutneyMy Profile

    • They are a bit sexy aren’t they ;)? What a smearing of spicy paste will do for your complexion 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Nusrat and for your kind words xx

    • Thank you! Yes you can! That’s where I get it :). Whole Foods and World Market both carry harissa and ras el Hanout. Any good food store will have both. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks so much Dixya, my dear. It’s on the mend but taking its time. Thanksgiving…just around the corner!

  10. First, a big hug and praying that your leg feels better and you get back to normal very soon. The chicken looks lip smacking gorgeous. Never heard of harrissa paste…I am going to put some research onto it. And thanks again for letting me know yesterday, it’s back to normal, thank God!
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    • Thanks Minnie! Hug is very much appreciated! The chicken is really good and I think you’ll really like harissa. Should be able to get it at a good food store, World Market has some.

  11. I feel for you, and wish you a most speedy recovery. This chicken looks and sounds so delicious I am going to give the Harissa paste a try. It’s good to shake up one’s roast chicken repertoire! xx

  12. Gosh, I’m sorry to hear about your knee :(. I really hope you make a quick recovery. Perhaps when you are feeling better you can make a little trip over to London, eh? We’ll take good care of u over here!
    I love harrissa as in ingredient. Here in the UK we get a great one by a company called Belazu (maybe u can find it in the US?). Its even got rose petals in it. Sometimes i mix it with a little honey and put it on chicken before going into the oven. Its super fast, easy, and really good.
    Love and kisses, Heavenly
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    • Thank you H, for the well wishes. Believe me, I would hop on the plane right now even with a bum knee to come to London! I will see if I can find the harissa paste you mentioned, I haven’t seen it here so far. Take care of yourself too my dear, xxxx