Harissa is a smoky and spicy chile paste that gives these chicken skewers a kick, which is cooled down with a flavorful creamy herb yogurt dipping sauce.
As someone who loves being in the kitchen and making things from scratch, I rarely use store-bought sauces and aside from my pregnancy-induced cravings for macaroni and cheese from the box, I don’t cook many pre-packaged foods. I have a feeling this might change a bit when our little one comes and we don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen, so I’ve started trying different products to find which ones I like.
When I started seeing recipes using harissa, a spicy sauce typically used in Moroccan dishes, I figured I would try a pre-made version to see what it was all about. It was pretty good, but I wasn’t blown away by it like I thought I would be. I mean, people were talking about it like it’s the new Sriracha!
While I completely understand the appeal of pre-made sauces, this was one case where homemade was so much better. Compared to the store-bought version that I tried, my homemade harissa was spicier, smokier, and overall more flavorful. Best yet, this homemade version doesn’t take hours to make. All it involves is a simple broil of the peppers in the oven and toasting of the spices, and everything is ready to go for a whirl in the food processor.
If you aren’t a huge fan of spicy foods, you can tone down the spice a couple of ways. First off, you can take all of the seeds and membranes out of the peppers before you broil them. Second, you can use different peppers. Bell peppers aren’t spicy at all, so you could use a couple of those instead of the cayenne/chile peppers. You could also leave out the chipotle peppers, but I love the smoky flavor those add.
Even if the harissa is a little spicy, that’s what the yogurt sauce is for! The creamy dipping sauce cools off your mouth leaving you ready for the next bite.
This recipe is perfect for those gorgeous spring evenings when you can’t wait to get off work, change into a t-shirt and shorts, and simply be outside. Whether you want to sit on the patio and sip a beverage, go for a run, or do work in the yard, this recipe is quick if you make the harissa ahead of time, and from there you just let the grill do the work.
- Homemade Harissa
- *you will have more harissa than you need for this recipe
- 1 red bell pepper
- 6-7 cayenne/chile/Anaheim peppers you can use whatever assortment of red peppers you like
- 2 chipotles en adobo sauce
- 1 teaspoon caraway seed
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Herb Yogurt Dipping Sauce
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- First, make the harissa.
- Turn on broiler.
- Place bell pepper and cayenne peppers on baking sheet. Place under broiler and let broil until skins turn black.
- Turn peppers, and repeat, until all sides are charred.
- Heat pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the cumin seed, caraway seed, and coriander seeds, and toast until fragrant. This took me about 3-4 minutes.
- Place spices in spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind the spices.
- Take stems off peppers, and remove seeds if you prefer, and place peppers in food processor. I left my seeds in.
- Add spices, garlic, and salt and turn food processor on low to puree the mixture.
- Add olive oil and continue to puree until smooth.
- To make the yogurt sauce:
- Combine yogurt, parsley, cilantro, chives, garlic powder, and salt. Stir well to combine.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cut chicken breasts into bite sized pieces.
- Toss with 1/2 cup of the harissa. Refrigerate 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
- Once you’re ready to cook, thread the chicken onto skewers. Depending on the size of your skewers, you will need 3-5 skewers. You don’t want to crowd the chicken.
- Heat grill to medium-high heat.
- Place chicken skewers on grill.
- Cook until chicken is cooked through, turning a few times, about 10-12 minutes total.
- Serve with herb yogurt dipping sauce.