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Harissa spatchcock chicken (butterflied chicken) is juicy and tender, has the crispiest skin, and is packed with flavor from red pepper harissa paste. |

Harissa Spatchcock Chicken

  • Author: Sam Hu | Ahead of Thyme
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 whole chicken
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Harissa spatchcock chicken (butterflied chicken) is juicy and tender, has the crispiest skin, and is packed with flavor from red pepper harissa paste. 


  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 lbs.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup harissa pastehomemade or store-bought
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper (or to taste)


Spatchcock the Chicken

  1. Use a paper towel to pat dry the whole chicken completely dry before adding seasoning. This helps create extra crispy skin when roasting.
  2. Place chicken breast-side down on a clean and dry chopping board (wearing disposable gloves helps with easy handling).
  3. Cut along the backbone in the middle with kitchen scissors and remove the backbone, which is about 1-inch wide.
  4. Make a small cut with a knife along the white cartilage that connects the breastbone and remove the breastbone by pulling it out through the cut.
  5. Turn the chicken over with the breast-side up and flatten it out . Tuck the wings under the chicken breasts.
  6. Pat dry the spatchcock chicken again to remove any excess liquid.

Season the Chicken

  1. In a small bowl, mix well to combine olive oil, harissa paste, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, until smooth. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture and set aside.
  2. Generously smear rest of the harissa seasoning mixture over the whole chicken inside and out and let it rest on a clean plate for at least 15 minutes. Make sure the seasoning covers the entire whole chicken including the inside cavity.

Cook the Harissa Chicken

  1. Method 1 - Grill the chicken: Preheat the grill over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. Place the chicken on the grill and grill for 15-20 minutes on each side until nicely charred and cooked through (and until the internal temperature reaches 165F as read on a meat thermometer). Baste the chicken on both sides evenly with the remaining harissa paste during grilling.
  2. Method 2 - Roast in the oven:
    • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Heat an ovenproof grill pan or cast-iron pan on the stove for 5 minutes over medium-high heat (or preheat the pan in the oven for 5 minutes). Once the skillet is sizzling hot, sear the chicken by placing chicken breast side down in the hot skillet for 3-5 minutes, until skin gets a little crispy.
    • Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes until the skin on the breasts turns golden brown. You can add an oven-safe weight over the chicken such as a Dutch oven lid to promote browning.
    • Remove the skillet from the oven and turn the chicken over with the breast side up. Brush the remaining harissa mixture over the chicken breasts.
    • Transfer the skillet back into the oven and continue to bake the chicken for another 10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165F as read on a meat thermometer.
    • Remove the chicken from the oven and place it on a large plate. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Serve with lemon wedges and extra harissa sauce, if desired.


How to store: Store the leftover butterflied chicken in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. While you can leave it on the bone, you can also shred it or cut it ahead of time for easy meal prep. If you make sandwiches or add leftover harissa spatchcock chicken to salads, you don’t need to reheat it.

How to reheat: It’s easy to overcook chicken when reheating and end up with a dry cut of meat. To avoid this, heat the chicken in a preheated 325F oven until warmed through. Wrap it in aluminum foil and add drippings or broth to keep it moist.

Tips for cooking a larger chicken: If you have an exceptionally large chicken, you may need to add cooking time. When grilling, I recommend covering the pan with a lid to help raise the overall temperature of the chicken. This helps it cook all the way through, even in the thickest parts.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Wait Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Moroccan

Keywords: harissa spatchcock chicken, harissa chicken, grilled spatchcock chicken with harissa, harissa marinated whole chicken