Air Fryer Harissa Chicken Recipe (Quick & Easy)

It was a warm summer night when my hungry boys cried to me about hunger. “Mum, what is for dinner?” My older boy asked.

Perplexed about what I could make for dinner; indeed, this is a big problem many mums face. 

But, blessed with an air fryer and two hungry teenage boys, my imagination kicked into life.

My chicken thighs, which had been lying dormant, suddenly became very useful. 

It was time to make us an air fryer, harissa chicken. However, before I start to teach every mum out there armed with hungry boys, let’s get to know about this tasty meal. 

Harissa spice comes from the Arabic word “hot,” which is appropriate because this spicy condiment packs a wallop.  

This sauce is actually a Tunisian condiment, best known for contributing to Moroccan and Tunisian cuisine.

Made from red chilies, garlic, citrus, extra virgin olive oil, and a few warm spices including cumin, coriander, salt, and caraway seeds, Harissa is typically served with couscous or bulgur wheat.

For an easy-peasy quick-fix meal, this harissa chicken recipe is the real deal. It is super easy, and trust me when I say you can develop a great love for this meal, even at first sight!

The harissa spice here makes the difference, because this spicy condiment packs a wallop, as I have mentioned earlier.

While the myriad of flavors you can achieve with an air fryer are plenty and a pleasure to experiment with, this Harissa Chicken was perhaps one of the tastiest meals I’ve cooked up to date.

The chicken is juicy, tender, and flavorful, paired with the smoky heat from the harissa. Isn’t this sounding lovely already?

You really need to get along. All you require is the chicken thighs marinated in harissa paste, minced garlic, some flavour-filled spices and an air fryer.

So the next time your boys cry about hunger, I am sure they will be impressed with this recipe I will be teaching today. 

Ingredients:

  • 6 skinless chicken thighs- The most important ingredient we will be needing here is our chicken. Choosing the thigh as the best part of your chicken can be so delicious, and flavorful than any other, you get to enjoy both the bone and the skin. I recommend that you use boneless, skinless chicken thigh You can swap the thigh with chicken breast if you prefer that.
  • Pink Himalayan salt – I am making this harissa chicken recipe healthier than any other, so this salt will be used because it is loaded with lots of health benefits, and it’s much healthier
  • 8 medium garlic cloves (minced) – This is needed for enhancing the flavour. You want your harissa chicken to be flavourful right?
  • 1/3 red onion (sliced) – A strong aroma, with a spicy taste
  • ½ and 1/3 tsp coriander – This spice pairs with other to give this recipe a tasty flavour
  • ½ and 1/3 tsp black pepper- This will give you a subtle heat and bold flavour. I recommend this for an extra spicy taste
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika – For a bright dish, rich, and healthier flaour, you really need to add this
  • ½ tsp cumin – This adds a warm flavour to your dish
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 4 to 5 tbsp homemade or store -bought harissa paste – This is the real deal here. It can be bought in a grocery store, and you can decide to make your own by yourself. You will also find the ingredient here.

You can find two varieties of harissa paste in your store, do well to go for the hot variety if you want your harissa chicken to be spicy, and if you want yours to be sweeter with less heat, go for the mild variety. You can add more or less to suit the heat you want.

  • Lemon juice from a large lemon –  Lemon is added to give your dish a fresh, clean taste.
  • Olive oil – A little amount of olive oil is needed to avoid the chicken drying up, so brush the chicken lightly. Extra quality olive oil is recommended. You can replace this with an avocado oil, if you prefer that. For me, I’ll be going with olive oil today

Moroccan Harissa paste:

  • 500 grams of red chili peppers seeded and cut into pieces 
  • 4 medium seeded red bell peppers, cut into pieces and roasted 
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 pickled lemon 
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander seeds 
  • 1 tsp of salt 
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp of paprika 
  • ½ cup of olive oil

How To Make The Harissa Chicken (Step By Step)

STEP 1. 

Pre-heat the air fryer to 380F and spray the inside of the basket with non-stick cooking spray.

STEP 2. 

Clean chicken thigh and pat-dry with paper towel to get rid of excess moisture, then season with pink Himalayan salt.

STEP 3. 

In a bowl, make a marinade using the above-mentioned herbs, spices, olive oil, lemon juice and the star ingredient, the Moroccan harissa paste, using a spatula mix all ingredients together.

STEP 4. 

Toss chicken thighs into the marinade, coat each thigh generously using your hands (properly washed or gloved-up), cover up and allow to marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how fast you want the lunch or dinner to get done.

STEP 5. 

Place the chicken thighs skin side down into the air fryer.

STEP 6. 

Time the air fryer for 10 minutes, after which you will flip the chicken thighs and cook the other side for an additional 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken thighs. 

STEP 7. 

If after cooking for 18-20 minutes you’d like your chicken thighs to be crispier, cook for another 2-4 minutes.

Use a cooking thermometer to check the internal temperature of your chicken thighs, if it reads 165F remove chicken thighs from the air fryer and allow to rest for 5-8 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Can I Use Another Type Of Paste Or Sauce?

If by any chance you didn’t have the time to make the harissa paste yourself at home or get it at the condiment aisle in the store, here is a list of ways to mimic the fiery taste of this North African condiment. 

  1. For a mild smoky flavour, go for ancho chiles.
  2. For a sweet, smoky flavour with a bit more heat, opt for chipotle.
  3. To get the bright red colour of the harissa paste, mix tomato paste with smoked hot paprika.

What To Serve the Harissa Chicken With?

  • Serve it over a bowl of quinoa, couscous or plain jasmine rice.
  • Steamed or baked zucchini with cherry tomatoes and onions.
  • Or simply wrap a pita bread over some shredded harissa chicken using the harissa paste as the sauce or dip.

All is a way to enjoy and explore the deliciousness of the harissa chicken.

Other Versions Of This Recipe?

Harissa Hot Wings with Hazelnut Dukkah: Frank’s RedHot sauce, harissa, and hazelnuts are used to spice up your homemade chicken wings.

Sticky Harissa Chicken:  Our yummy moist harissa chicken is a healthy option for a mid-week meal – but don’t be surprised if it steals the show. There will be plenty of sauce, so serve with rice or grains to soak it up, and perhaps a bitter leaf salad.

Harissa Chicken and White Bean Bake:  This recipe is vibrant, with chicken thighs slathered with harissa and cooked in a rich tomato sauce with beans, olives, and chilies—a healthy, high-protein meal with a punchy kick of heat.

Lemon Harissa Chicken –  North Africans have perfected the art of smoking hot chiles with a smoky tomato sauce. And here’s your chance to taste it for yourself.

Cooking Chart for Harissa Chicken by Air Fryer Model 

Based on each air fryer model having different cooking time, it’s very important that you pay attention to the chart below.

ModelCooking timeTemperature
Ninja Foodi20 minutes380 degrees F
Phillips Air fryer XXL (HD9630)30 minutes375 degrees F
Nuwave Bravo XL Grill22-25 minutes400 degrees F
Power XL 2&3 Qt Vortex30 minutes400 degrees F
Cuisinart30 minutes400 degrees F
Cosori25 minutes380 degrees F
Breville Smart Oven 30-35 minutes450 degrees F

Can You Make/Prepare This Recipe Ahead of Time?

Absolutely! The harissa paste can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated to be used for this recipe as well as for other use in meat, fish or salad, if you ever crave some little spice in your veggies.

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Using the home-made harissa paste helps you measure the herbs and spices to your likeness; you can control the mildness or hotness of the paste as well as the freshness in the taste unlike store-bought harissa paste which may contain preservatives therefore causing it to be more salty and spicier.
  • Leave chicken to marinate in the harissa paste and other spices for you to have an even more tasteful harissa chicken.
  • The chicken should be braised in order to attain some crispiness as excess liquid only let the chicken cook but not crispy.
  • Do not overcrowd or overfill the air fryer basket with chicken thighs to allow for even baking.
Air Fryer Harissa Chicken

AIR FRYER HARISSA CHICKEN

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Harissa chicken is a party staple in Morocco, but it's also delicious as a healthy midweek meal at home.

Ingredients

  • 6 skinless chicken thighs
  • Pink Himalayan salt
  • 8 medium garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/3 red onion (sliced)
  • ½ and 1/3 tsp coriander
  • ½ and 1/3 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 4 to 5 tbsp homemade or store -bought harissa paste 
  • Lemon juice from a large lemon
  • Generous amount of olive oil

Instructions

  1. Pat-dry chicken thighs with a piece of paper towel to get rid of excess moisture and season with pink Himalayan salt.
  2. In a bowl, place chicken thighs, add spices, garlic, onions and harissa paste. Add a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Pre-heat the air fryer to 380 degrees F and spray the inside basket with cooking spray. Bake chicken skin side down first for 8-10 minutes. Flip chicken and bake for 10 minutes more. Allow to bake for 2-4 minutes more for extra crispiness. Chicken’s internal temperature should read 165 degrees F to confirm it’s fully cooked. Leave to rest for 3-5 minutes. Serve with steamed or baked veggies or over a bowl of quinoa.

Notes

Harissa paste can be made in advance, store in a tight jar and refrigerate to be used for this harissa chicken recipe and other use in fish, meat and your salad if you ever crave a spicy taste in your veggies.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 372Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 137mgSodium: 1024mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 7gSugar: 1gProtein: 31g
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