This grilled harissa chicken salad is spicy, it’s healthy it’s fresh and it’s definitely summer in a bowl! If you’re like me and think you don’t like pineapple in savory dishes, I urge you to try this one! It really is amazing and the sweetness goes so well together with the spicy chicken, creamy avocado and lime cilantro sauce.
Loaded salads are my jam, and if you want to venture into Mexican, I’ve got this Mexican Inspired Mango Chicken Salad with Avocado Dressing, more Middle Eastern with this Lemon Chicken Salad with Pomegranate or Halloumi and Garlic Veggies & Quinoa Salad. No particular cuisine, but delicious nonetheless is this Green Spring Salad with Lemon Chicken.
This recipe is adapted from JoyfulHealthyEats, but I’m making my own harissa, and roasted bell peppers are really easy to do yourself, so I’ve included that as well. May take a little longer, but homemade harissa guyssssss.
What is harissa?
Harissa is a roasted pepper and/or chilli paste from Northern Africa. The spicy chilli paste can be used in so many different ways, such as in marinades as in this recipe, or as a condiment for grilled meat, with rice or in soups. I have even put it in a bolognese – don’t kill me, Italians! Depending on what kind of peppers you use, this can go from extremely spicy to pretty mild.
I’m all about making things from scratch. You get much more control over what you put in it, and more often than not it tastes a lot better. Especially condiments and spices, such as homemade mayo, sun-dried tomato pesto, Italian seasoning and Za’atar seasoning.
How to make harissa chili paste from scratch
Making your own harissa can be a bit tedious, but you could also see the de-seeding of the chilis as therapeutic. Right?
Soak the dried chiles in a bowl of boiling water and cover, let sit for 30 minutes to rehydrate. I use roughly 80% bird’s eye chiles (super spicy) and 20% Guajillo chiles (a sweet, mild chili). This yields a pretty, ok super spicy, harissa paste.
For a milder harissa paste, swap bird’s eye chiles with either: jalapeño, serrano, poblano or anaheim peppers. If you want it super mild, go for bell pepper!
For an even spicier harissa paste: do not remove the seeds, and go for ALL bird’s eye chiles. I love LOVE spicy food, but this is even too spicy for me. I never de-seed chilis, except for in this recipe, so trust me!
Roast all the delicious Moroccan spices and grind them in a spice grinder or in a mortar. Drain the chiles and begin de-seeding them – pro tip: use gloves for this step! I do not de-seed the guajillos, but about 90% of the bird’s eye chiles. Place them in a spice grinder or food processor.
When you’ve done this, you can place all the other ingredients in the food processor and let the magic begin. The desired result would be a smooth and thick paste, along with the chiles and spices. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If you want to store it for later, place it in a jar and top with a layer of olive oil on top and use within a month.
How to roast bell peppers at home
While the chiles are soaking, place two red peppers, sliced in half, on a lined baking sheet. Place in an oven pre-heated to 450F (230C) and roast for 30 minutes. When these are done, cool them down in a covered bowl before you remove the skin. Slice or julienne the peppers and then they’re done and ready for assembling.
OK, harissa done, roasted red peppers done! Let’s move on to the actual recipe.
Grilled Harissa Chicken & Cilantro Dressing
Marinate the chicken in all of the marinade ingredients. Let sit for 10-20 minutes in the fridge. Don’t forget to heat up the grill. I often use a grill skillet inside when the weather is bad! If you don’t have either of these, you can of course pan fry it (7 minutes on each side on high heat).
Then it’s time for the delicious creamy and tangy cilantro dressing. Just mix all the sauce ingredients in a blender, taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. If you don’t like cilantro (I’ve talked about this before), feel free to use parsley instead.
Assemble this Grilled Harissa Chicken Salad!
Grill the chicken and 8 rings of pineapple (yes, you need it all). Slice up two avocados, spinach, arugula, and crumble some feta cheese and then you’re ready to assemble this beast of a healthy dish.
It may or may not look something like this:
Did you like this Harissa Chicken Salad? More healthy dinner recipes:
- Lemon Chicken Winter Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
- Healthy Crispy Baked Falafel with Za’atar Roasted Vegetables
- Halloumi Quinoa Salad with Garlic Vegetables
- Ginger Coconut Lentil Curry
- Moroccan Butternut and Chevre Soup
- Chicken Shawarma + Tabbouleh
- Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce (Vegan)
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This recipe was originally published on Aug 21st 2017, but updated on Apr 7th 2020 for better photos and content.
Grilled Harissa Chicken Salad with Cilantro Sauce
- 2 large chicken breast marinade can be used for up to 3-4 breast
- 2 tbsp harissa see recipe below
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 lime juice only
- 1 lemon juice only
- 1/4 tsp salt & pepper each, or to taste
Harissa Chili Paste (makes 1/2 cup)
- 2 oz dried chiles 50g, see notes*
- 1 tsp fennel seeds or 3/4 tsp ground fennel
- 1 tsp cumin seeds or 3/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp coriander seeds or 3/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp salt or to taste, start with 1/2 tsp
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon optional
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil plus more for storing
- 1 lime juice only, optional
- 1 lemon juice only, optional
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup fresh cilantro 2 large handfuls, or parsley
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 lime juice only
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes optional
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 4 tbsp greek yoghurt
- 1/4 cup olive oil 60ml, or to desired consistency
- 6 cups fresh greens 4 cups (120g) spinach, 2 cups arugula (40g)
- 4 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
- 2 avocados sliced
- 1 pineapple Cut in 8 rings of 1/2-2/3 inch thick (1.5-2cm)
- 2 roasted bell peppers instructions in recipe
Roasted Bell Peppers
- Preheat oven to 450F (230C).
- Place two red peppers, sliced in half, on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a little charred skin. When these are done, cool them down in a covered bowl before you remove the skin. Slice/julienne them up and they are done!
Harissa Chili Paste
- Soak the dried chiles in a bowl of boiling water and cover, let sit for 30 minutes. Read notes to find your favorite kind of chili to use.
- In a dry non-stick pan, add fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds, dry roast for a couple of minutes on medium heat, until fragrant. Grind in a mortar or spice grinder. Skip this step if using ground spices.
- Drain the chiles and begin de-seeding them, use gloves for this step! I do not de-seed the guajillos, but about 90% of the bird's eye chiles. Since this is a lot of chili, I highly recommend de-seeding.
- Add all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until a smooth and thick paste. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If you want to store it for later, place it in a jar and add a layer of olive oil on top and use within a month.
Grilled Harissa Chicken Salad
- Mix all the marinade ingredients together, and marinate chicken for at least 10-20 minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, heat up the grill or find your grill skillet.
- For the cilantro (or parsley) dressing, just mix all the sauce ingredients in a blender, taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Add more olive oil or a splash of water if it's too thick.
- Grill chicken breast until the thickest part is 165F (74C), about 5-7 minutes on each side, coved with the grill lid. If you pan-fry; on high heat fry for about 7 minutes each side for larger breast.
- Grill sliced pinapple rings until charred and a little soft. About 2 minutes on each side.
- Slice up avocados, spinach, arugula, and crumble some feta cheese and then you're ready to assemble this beast of a healthy dish.