Harissa chicken with preserved lemons is a sheet pan dinner you’ll make over and over again. It’s flavor forward, flexible and a snap to pull together. You can buy the harissa and preserved lemons or whip them up yourself. Find the harissa recipe and preserved lemon recipe on my blog.
Another delicious chicken recipe is my roasted chicken with clementines, onions, and fennel.
For ease of browsing, here are all of my main course recipes in one place.
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Why you'll love this recipe!
This sheet pan dinner (or traybake as they call them in the UK), really is a winner winner chicken dinner. You put all the veggies and chicken on the same tray, slather them with the harissa preserved lemon mixture and put it in the oven.
Depending on the vegetables you use and the size you cut them, they'll likely cook in the time it takes for the chicken to bake. What could be easier?
And once you cook with harissa and preserved lemons, you'll go back to them as flavor makers again and again.
Ingredients you’ll need
The two main flavor makers in this dish are the harissa and the preserved lemons. All the other ingredients can vary. Even the harissa base can vary but be sure to taste for spiciness!
- Harissa: Harissa is a Tunisian spice paste (sometimes found as a dry blend also) with a blend of fresh and dried peppers. You can make your own or buy it at the store - even Trader Joe's carries a jar - which is quite spicy, by the way.
- Preserved lemons: These are lemons preserved with salt and lemon juice. They are easy to make and once preserved, keep in the refrigerator for a very long time. You can also find them in specialty stores or online. Make your own using my recipe -- it takes little effort to create a magical ingredient.
- Chicken: My favorite cut for this recipe is boneless, skinless chicken thighs. But you can use bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless or white or dark meat. Just adjust the cook time.
- Yogurt: Use Greek yogurt or regular, just be sure it's plain with no added sugar. If you use thicker Greek yogurt, you might need extra lemon juice to achieve a saucy texture.
- Vegetables: In this recipe, I used cauliflower, brussels sprouts, carrots and potatoes. I've also used zucchini, carrots and potatoes. You’ll notice in the zucchini tray, my zucchini pieces were quite large, because zucchini cooks up much more quickly than carrots or potatoes if cut the same size.
How to make this recipe
The steps for making this flavorful meal are minimal and quick.
Step 1: While the oven is preheating, mix up the sauce ingredients which include chopped preserved lemons, harissa, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and some pepper.
Step 2: Chop your veggies and place the chicken and vegetables on a parchment-lined sheet tray (it doesn’t have to be parchment-lined but I prefer the easier clean-up)
Step 3: Use a basting brush or your hands to spread the harissa sauce all over the chicken and vegetables.
Step 4: Place in the oven, set the timer for 15 minutes (I always check five minutes before the expected finish just in case). Then leave it for five more minutes if all is well – or remove any vegetables or chicken already done.
Step 5 (Optional but highly recommended): While it’s cooking, make the yogurt sauce by mixing some preserved lemon juice, fresh lemon juice, pepper and fresh parsley or mint into the yogurt. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remember if you use the preserved lemon juice, it is salty – so don’t add salt before tasting it!
See my harissa chicken web story for a quick visual guide of how to make this recipe.
Expert Tips and FAQs
- Skinless, boneless thighs are a great choice for this tray bake. I find they cook up at a very similar rate to how I cut my vegetables. If you use bone-in chicken pieces, as I did on the zucchini tray pictured above – then either remove your vegetables early, cut them larger so they cook longer, or add them part way into cooking the chicken.
- Pile the different vegetables and chicken together rather than mixing them up. If you do need to remove any vegetable or even the chicken before the other elements are done, it will be super easy to do so.
- Use the same type of chicken pieces so they cook at the same rate. If you mix bone-in and boneless or breasts and thighs, they are less likely to be done at the same time.
Harissa’s origin is North Africa. You’ll find it used widely in the Middle East but it's gaining popularity elsewhere including the United States. I saw it often on the table in restaurants when I visited Israel. You’ll now see it appearing on some grocery store shelves including Trader Joe's and popping up on restaurant menus more and more.
Harissa spice paste is made with fresh and dried peppers, and usually includes cumin, caraway and other aromatic spices that give it a rich, pungent, deep flavor. The rose harissa recipe on my blog adds rose water and rose petals for a surprise floral backdrop. But it’s equally wonderful without the rosy additions.
Preserved lemons are exactly as their moniker suggests – lemons that have been preserved in salt. And once they hang out in the lemony salty liquid for about a month, they take on a whole new character. The peel becomes pleasantly edible, retaining all the best lemon qualities and casting off the bitter ones. Read this preserved lemon post to learn more about how to make this savory kitchen condiment and how to use them.
By definition, harissa is a spice paste. But your harissa chicken sheet pan dinner will be as spicy as the harissa you use to make it. I’ve eaten many varieties of harissa including my own and the spice level varies widely. Trader Joe’s brand is very spicy. Or you can try Mina brand - they have a mild and spicy option. If you make the harissa yourself, you can remove the seeds from the peppers and really dial back the spice level or choose hotter peppers to dial the spice level up!
What to serve with preserved lemon chicken
If you put potatoes on the sheet pan, you really don’t need much else except for the yogurt sauce. But a fresh chopped salad would be a nice complement. Or try this citrus salad as a light fresh starter.
Other harissa and preserved lemon recipes on OMG! Yummy
- Preserved Lemon Hummus
- Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
- Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemons
- Preserved Lemon Tutorial
- Rose Harissa Tutorial
- Roasted Harissa Potatoes with Preserved Lemon Gremolata
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- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- ⅓ cup rose harissa (or regular)
- 1 preserved lemon chopped with pith, seeds removed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons regular lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 6 – 12 brussels sprouts (depends on size)
- ½ head of cauliflower
- 3 – 4 carrots
- 3 – 4 small red potatoes
Optional Yogurt Sauce
- ½ cup of Greek or regular yogurt
- 1 tablespoon preserved lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley or mint
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 regular bake (375 convect roast).
- Mix the sauce ingredients - chopped preserved lemons, harissa, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and black pepper.
- Chop your vegetables and place the chicken and vegetables on a parchment-lined sheet tray (it doesn’t have to be parchment-lined but I prefer the easier clean-up)
- Use a basting brush or your hands to spread the harissa sauce all over the chicken and vegetables.
- Place in the oven, set the timer for 15 minutes (I always check five minutes before the expected finish just in case). Then leave it for five more minutes if all is well – or remove any veggies or chicken already done.
- While it’s cooking, make the optional yogurt sauce by mixing some preserved lemon juice, fresh lemon juice, pepper and fresh parsley or mint into the yogurt. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remember if you use the preserved lemon juice, it is salty – so don’t add salt before tasting it!
- This is a very flexible recipe - change the vegetables to match what you have on hand or prefer. Just think about the size you chop them, aiming for a 20 minute roast time to match the boneless skinless chicken thighs.
- You can use bone-in chicken as well but I would recommend sticking to one kind - like all legs or all thighs so cooking time is not too varied. Also best not to mix boneless and bone-in on the same tray.
- Feeding more people or want more leftovers - double the amounts and use 2 sheet pans!
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 495Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 187mgSodium: 486mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 6gSugar: 13gProtein: 43g