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.
Harissa chicken is a winner weeknight dinner!
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 the chicken on the same tray, slather them with the harissa preserved lemon mixture and put it in the oven.
The only trick is to cut your veggies up to cook in the time it takes for the chicken to bake. Worst case, you check part way into the cooking time, and take the veggies out early if they cook up more quickly than the chicken (or vice versa). But below and in the recipe are some great tips for getting the timing just right.
But let’s talk about the harissa and preserved lemons. Because I insist you buy or make these two condiments if you haven’t already. They will transform your dinner game.
What is harissa?
Most regions of the world have a spicy sauce to claim as their own signature dish. Harissa’s origin is North Africa. But you’ll find it used widely in the Middle East, but especially in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. I saw it often on the table in restaurants when I visited Israel. You’ll also see it on your grocery store shelves and popping up on restaurant menus, sometimes unexpectedly.
In addition to fresh and dried peppers, most harissa recipes include cumin and 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.
What are preserved lemons?
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.har
How spicy is harissa chicken?
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. The Mina brand is not. If you make the harissa yourself, you can remove the seeds from the peppers and really dial back the spice level (or not).
So many choices, only one sheet pan!
There are many easy ways to make this recipe work with the supplies you have on hand.
In this version you can see I used cauliflower, brussels sprouts, carrots and potatoes. In a previous rendition, I 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.
The other consideration is what kind of chicken you are using. Skinless, boneless thighs cook up at a very similar rate many vegetables. If you are using bone-in chicken pieces, as I did on the zucchini tray – then you might need to take your veggies out before the chicken is done.
Or add the veggies to the tray after the chicken starts cooking. Slightly more coordination than everything going in and out of the oven at the exact same time. But not a big deal. And that’s why I pile my veggies and chicken together and don’t mix them up. Makes it super easy to remove something earlier if you need to do that.
Still only one pan to clean up – so yay!
I would recommend that you use the same cut of chicken rather than mixing up various types of pieces so the chicken cooks evenly and at the same rate. And I prefer the boneless skinless chicken thighs. But boneless skinless breasts will work and I’ve done this successfully with bone-in thighs and bone-in legs. Oh and skin-on boneless chicken can also work!
How to make harissa chicken with preserved lemons
The steps for making this flavorful meal are minimal and quick.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 regular bake (375 convect roast).
Step 2: Mix up the sauce ingredients which include chopped preserved lemons, harissa, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and some pepper.
Step 3: 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 4: Use a brush or your hands to spread the harissa sauce all over the chicken and vegetables.
Step 5: 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.
Optional Step 6: 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!
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 optional yogurt sauce. But a fresh chopped salad would be a nice complement. Or try this citrus salad as a light fresh starter.
Supplies for making harissa chicken
Sheet pans, of course, are a must. And I use 1/2 sheet pans almost every day, sometimes several times a day. If you don’t want to make your own harissa or preserved lemons, by all means buy some! And I love these basting brushes for spreading on the harissa mixture but your hands work well too!
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
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/3 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