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harissa spiced chicken

Harissa Spiced Moroccan Slow Cooker Chicken

harissa chicken

Moroccan Spiced Harissa Chicken: Slow Cooker Style

This was my Recipe Redux Challenge for this month:

Start Smoking in the New Year!

The New Year is heating up with smoke and spiciness. From boldly flavored smoked salts to actual smoking techniques, subtly smoked food is on-trend. The same can be said for spice as we savor heat from harissa, sriracha and smoked paprika. Show us the healthy dish you’re heating up with smoke and/or spiciness.

With my fellow Recipe Reduxers we started the New Year in smoking hot heat, this month’s theme.

Some cool facts about Moroccan cuisine and the smoke I used called Harissa

harissa chicken

  • Harissa is one of the main spices/heat used in North African cuisine. The main ingredients in harissa paste includes hot chili peppers, garlic paste, coriander seed and some oil for preservation. Harissa is being incorporated into Moroccan cuisine but this spice is typically connected to Tunisia, Libya and Algerian cooking. Harissa paste is easy and inexpensive to find in France, but you can also make your own. Harissa adds the heat, the smoke to this dish and to any dish you add it to. It is versatile and a little goes a long way. This dish tasted authentic (and hot!). You can cool the spice down by cutting the amount of harissa in half. Read here for more information on harissa and how to make your own homemade version.
  • I used a slow cooker to make this recipe. In Moroccan cuisine, a common piece of cookware or name of a dish is called Tagine, which is a large conical shaped bowl, fit with a lid that allows the tagine stew to cook. The heat brings the vapors of flavor up to the top of the bowl and then trickle down back into the dish. This recipe was made in a slow cooker, because I don’t have a tagine (but if I had room in my kitchen a tagine is something I would purchase!).

Moroccan tagines: a slow cooker brings out the best in Moroccan cuisine

A slow cooker is one of the best ways to bring out the flavors in a Moroccan dish because the cooking process keeps the taste in the dish rather than escaping in vapor over open heat. My experience with eating Moroccan food (France has a good selection of good Moroccan restaurants), is that the food is full-packed with flavor. It is powerful. Strong, hot and different. Flavors in foods are carried through the fat that is in the dish. Moroccan food, in my experience, can sometimes be heavy because if a rich or fatty meat is used in the tagine, the fat ‘melts off’ the meat and the less healthy animal fat stays in the tagine dish/bowl and then you eat it. Roasting meat in other ways, such as on a barbeque or on a roasting pan in the oven can eliminate some of the fat. Using a tagine keeps fat in the meal. This is why I wanted to use a lean meat in this recipe, to keep the dish lighter and healthier.

This harissa chicken is a balance of light, healthy, flavorful and easy

I used lean chicken meat in this slow cooker recipe because it kept the dish lighter, yet still packed with flavor. If you use chicken pieces with the skin on to cook in a tagine or slow cooker, you may find that the fat melts off from the chicken and ends in your dish. The result is a heavier, richer dish.

This version is lighter and healthier.

As I mentioned, fat carries flavor. Because chicken breasts are lean and almost ‘fat free’ I needed to add a bit of fat to the slow cooker to keep the aromatic flavors inside the dish rather than steaming out in the air. I used salted butter, a substitute for smen. Smen is a fermented salty butter that adds that unique flavor that you may recognize in authentic Moroccan food. I could have made my own smen, but it takes a month to ferment, so that wasn’t possible!

If you are a foodie, check out what smen is here, and how to make your own smen from this recipe.

Harissa Chicken, a (surprisingly) kids friendly dish

This recipe was inspired by a conversation I had a few days ago with one of my ‘Besties.’ We were having dinner to celebrate her big birthday (the big 5-0!) and she told me how her 10 year-old son raved about the Moroccan chicken she made in the crock pot. Big surprise, she said! Her son said it was the best food he had ever eaten.

(Wow, I thought).

So, I made my version and put it on the table last night. My kids loved it too. (Kind of shocked that all the kids liked it, they never all like my food creations).

It was a bit too spicy for them though. After several bites one of my kids wanted to drink milk to cool her mouth (she never does this). If I would make again for the kids I would cut down the harissa to one teaspoon (instead of two), because the heat was just at the limit for me too.

However, if you want smoke and fire, go for the full dose!

Here is the Harissa Chicken recipe. Let me know if you have any questions.

Harissa Spiced Moroccan Slow Cooker Chicken

Serves 6
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 3 hours
Total time 3 hours, 30 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot
Region Moroccan
Harissa spiced chicken tastes like an authentic Moroccan dish with all the spicy flavor. This easy to make version is lighter and healthier because it uses lean chicken and lots of vegetables.


  • 1lb Chicken Breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons Harissa paste
  • 1 tablespoon Ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons Ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3 Carrots, chopped
  • 1 Bell pepper, chopped (yellow or red pepper)
  • 4 Tomatoes, quartered (if using large tomatoes, cut into eighths)
  • 12oz Chicken broth (I used 1 chicken bouillon cube, reconstituted)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup Raisins
  • 1 cup Pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons Salted butter (Used salted butter in place of Smen (a Morrocan salted butter))
  • 1/2 Lemon, use for juice and rind for zest
  • 1 Sea salt


Note: this recipe uses harissa, which is spicy. If you want to cool the dish down, use half the dose of harissa called for in this recipe, (use 1 teaspoon instead of 2 teaspoons).


Step 1
In a large mixing bowl, mix dried spices together (cumin, cinnamon, ginger, sea salt).
Step 2
Add chicken pieces to the dried spice mix and mix the chicken with the spices, covering all the pieces of chicken well.
Step 3
Add the harissa, garlic, onion, lemon juice and zest to the chicken mix. Mix well to be sure the chicken pieces are well covered.
Step 4
Set up the slow cooker. Turn the temperature on HIGH.
Step 5
Put the salted butter in the bottom of the slow cooker. It should start to melt. While it is melting, (do not let it burn) prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Step 6
In a separate mixing bowl, add the other vegetables and mix well (chopped carrots, bell pepper, tomatoes).
Step 7
When the butter is almost melted in the slow cooker, put the chicken mix in, on top of the butter.
Step 8
Add the vegetable mix to the top of the chicken in the slow cooker.
Step 9
Add the chicken broth to the slow cooker and mix all ingredients well. Cover the slow cooker and let the Morrocan chicken dish cook on HIGH for two and a half hours. You will add the olives, raisins and cilantro for the last half hour of cooking. Dish cooks for a total of three hours.
Step 10
Add the olives, raisins and cilantro a half hour before the dish is finished cooking. (You can let the dish sit in the slow cooker on WARM until ready to serve).
Step 11
Serve with rice or couscous, adding the sauce from the chicken dish onto the rice or couscous.


I hope you enjoy this spicy and bright Moroccan chicken harissa recipe.  Have you reached the end and want to see more recipes like this? You can subscribe below to BrightonYourHealth monthly newsletter and article updates.  Click on the button. Your email will always remain private.

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Warmly, Mary

Enjoy my fellow dietitian recipe Reduxers submissions for this month’s Start Smoking in the New Year theme. January is a great month to add some spice and steam in the kitchen.

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7 Responses to Harissa Spiced Moroccan Slow Cooker Chicken

  1. Alex January 16, 2016 at 21:15 #

    Hello! I’m starting to make this dish, and wondered how much salt you put in the dry ingredients in step one? The measurement is missing in the ingredients.

  2. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine January 27, 2015 at 16:53 #

    This is the kind of slow cooker chicken recipe I love!

  3. Deanna Segrave-Daly January 27, 2015 at 13:50 #

    Oh yum! The spices in this must smell heavenly when cooking – I rarely use my slow cooker but will dust it off for this one 🙂

  4. Sonya January 24, 2015 at 22:36 #

    I love to learn something new – hadn’t heard of smen before, very cool! Also, I enjoyed reading about how your friends’ children and your kids all loved this food. You never know – lol. The meal sounds delicious!

  5. Bala January 24, 2015 at 00:32 #


    It’s a pleasure to participate in your blog because of all the positive energy!

  6. Bala January 23, 2015 at 17:13 #


    This dish looks delicious!

    I’ve never used smen, and am curious to cook with it.

    I think that a good cut of red-meat, lamb for instance , is particularly well-suited to the tagine-based or slow-cooking method.

    • mbrighton January 23, 2015 at 23:27 #

      Hi Bala! Been thinking of you. How is the little one doing? Hope all well :)! This did tasted good, and very light, but I agree with you, a more rich meat like lamb or red meat would also take sooo sooo good in this recipe! Thanks for your support and comment.

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