Nothing quite says spring and summer like lettuce wraps! And these shredded harissa chicken thighs are so perfect tucked inside. Although this is one of those recipes that are on the messier side (in terms of eating them), they’re well worth the mess. I’ve topped these crunchy wraps with beautiful additions like a spiced almond mix, all the fresh herbs and a simple sumac-lemon yogurt dressing. The flavours in this recipe will definitely make your tastebuds sing and your mouth very happy.
What is Harissa?
Harissa is a blend of hot peppers, oil and various spices. It’s a flavor base for curries and stews, as well as a condiment, in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, according to Middle Eastern food expert Paula Wolfert. The ingredients in harissa vary by neighbourhood, country, and ethnicity. The basic recipe calls for hot peppers, garlic, salt and lots of olive oil. Can you see why it’s so tasty now?! It’s a newer ingredient for me and one that I personally can’t wait to play with more.
Is Harissa Chicken Spicy?
It depends! Since this is a newer ingredient to me, I purchased a mild harissa paste. It was ok, but not nearly as flavourful as I wanted, this is the brand I used. I think it’s good as a base and especially if you don’t want any spice. However, going forward I think I’ll try making my own or I’ll look for another brand that makes one with a bit more flavour and kick.
To make these delicious harissa marinated chicken thighs, you’ll need a few staple ingredients. Depending on the type of harissa paste you use, you can either add or omit the spices I used. After tasting the harissa paste, I knew I wanted more flavour, these were my additions (cumin, Aleppo pepper, and ancho chile powder).
Aleppo pepper doesn’t have as much spice as chili flakes (or red pepper flakes), it’s mild with more complexity in terms of flavour. It makes a great addition to your spice rack. I’ve also used it here with my roasted cauliflower tacos!
Ancho Chile Powder
Ancho chile powder is ground ancho (poblano) pepper only. It adds a little bit of heat and is much different than regular chili powder, which is a blend with other spices. I used it as well with my roasted cauliflower tacos.
I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I generally prefer using dark meat in recipes because they just have more flavour. To be honest, I only like using chicken breast if it’s getting breaded and drizzled with hot honey, like these paleo chicken tenders! I use boneless and skinless because of how it’s shredded and served in a wrap. Be sure to trim excess fat from them, and then let it marinate for about 20 to 30 minutes. You could do it longer if you have the time. You will need about 1 1/2 pounds total to serve 4-6 (about 4 lettuce wraps per serving).
The chopped almond mixture is SO good in these wraps because it adds a really nice crunch. If you don’t have almonds, try it with cashews instead. You’ll be using some extra virgin olive oil to toast them in, along with sumac, and cumin seeds.
I use Greek yogurt for this recipe, but any type of yogurt will do, so long as it is full fat and unsweetened. Coconut yogurt may work for a dairy free alternative, although it will obviously add a coconut flavour. You’ll simply add some sumac to the yogurt which provides a nice tangy flavour, along with a squeeze of lemon juice, zest and minced garlic.
I use Boston lettuce for these wraps. Feel free to use another type of lettuce for the wraps, or even cabbage leaves.
I love the mix of fresh herbs for these wraps. Parsley, mint and dill all work so well together for these harissa chicken thighs. Use any mix of these, or add your own.
How to Make These Harissa Chicken Thighs
The first thing you’ll need to do is marinate your chicken. After trimming any excess fat from the chicken, go ahead and put it in a large bowl along with the harissa paste and spices if using. Toss it around and let it sit for about 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.
Just look at that colour!
Next, place it in a baking dish and transfer to the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s all cooked through. From there, you’ll want to let it rest for about 5 minutes and then you can shred it.
While your chicken is baking, you can prep the spiced almonds. Simply add some EVOO to a small skillet and add the chopped almonds. Toast for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Once they smell a bit fragrant, add some cumin seeds and sumac. Give it a toss and then drain them from the oil (reserving that oil for the yogurt dressing!). Lay the almonds on a plate lined with paper towel.
Now, mix together the yogurt dressing. In a small bowl, add the yogurt along with a clove of finely minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and zest and a dash of sumac.
Prep your fresh herbs and lettuce wraps by giving them a rinse as well.
How to Crisp Your Chicken
For these harissa chicken thighs I liked shredding them and then broiling them in the oven to crisp them up a bit. To do this, just place the rack in your oven to the highest position. Then turn the broil on high, and place the cooked and shredded chicken on a parchment lined pan. Place this in the oven to broil for about three to four minutes.
Grilled Harissa Chicken
Another option for cooking these harissa chicken thighs is to grill them. I don’t have a BBQ or access to a grill at the moment, so I use my oven. But, these would be so easy to do over a grill. Reserve extra sauce (that the chicken wasn’t marinating in) and brush it on the chicken as you grill.
- Use chicken breast instead of thighs
- Nut-free: omit the spiced almonds
- Dairy-free: use a dairy-free yogurt
- No lettuce wraps: use another type of tortilla instead, or wrap them in collard greens
How to Store
These harissa chicken thighs should keep in your fridge in a sealed container for up to 3 days. The best way to store these would be to keep everything separate. This way, you can easily assemble them again and enjoy them just like they were freshly made.
What to serve this with
These wraps go great with a side of rice, or crispy potatoes, or even a fresh green salad (I love my vegan kale caesar salad).
- Kale and Lentil Salad with Feta and Spiced Almonds (use the almonds twice this way!)
- Sweet Potatoes with Hot Honey & Butter
- Mango Coleslaw
- Raw Beet Salad with Lentils
- Za’atar Sheet Pan Roasted Veggies
- Harissa Cauliflower Steaks (skip the lentils!)
If you make these harissa chicken thighs, let me know. Tag me on Instagram, or leave a comment and/or a rating below. I love hearing from you!
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Harissa Chicken Thighs
Delicious harissa chicken thighs served in lettuce wraps with a lemony yogurt dressing and lots of fresh herbs!
For the Chicken
For the Spiced Almonds
For the Yogurt
- 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
- 1 clove Garlic finely minced
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice plus zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 tsp Sumac
For the Wraps
- 1 Head Boston Lettuce washed, dried
- 1/2 Cucumber sliced thin
- 1/4 cup Fresh Dill chopped
- 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley chopped
- 1/4 cup Fresh Mint chopped
In a large bowl, add the chicken along with the harissa, spices, salt and extra virgin olive oil. See note about the type of harissa paste you use. Let this marinate for at least 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (204ºC). Place the chicken in an oven safe baking dish and place in the oven to cook for 28-32 minutes, flipping halfway through, until cooked through and the juices run clear. Remove, let cool and then shred the chicken with two forks.
If you want to have your chicken a little more crispy, broil the shredded chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Broil for about 4 to 5 minutes on high. Do this right before serving.
Meanwhile, prepare the spiced almonds. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, add the extra virgin olive oil and the chopped almonds. Toast for about 5 to 6 minutes, until fragrant and slightly toasted in colour. Add the cumin seeds and sumac and toss to combine. Turn off the heat. Drain the olive oil using a small sieve and reserve the oil for the yogurt. Add the almonds to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside. Season with kosher salt.
In a small bowl, add the yogurt, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest and reserved oil from the almonds and stir to combine. Sprinkle with sumac and set aside.
To serve: add the lettuce wraps to a plate, top with sliced cucumber, chicken, toasted almonds and yogurt. Top with fresh herbs and enjoy!
Harissa: I used a mild harissa that wasn’t spicy at all, so I added a few spices. If your harissa is spicy, you don’t need to add anything to it, except the extra virgin olive oil if baking it. Also, reduce the amount of harissa to 1 to 2 tbsp. Always taste your harissa to see if it is to your liking.
Serving Size: this recipe makes enough for approx. 4 servings, based on about 4-5 lettuce wraps per person.