Yogurt Marinated Chicken with Harissa and Garlic

One of my favorite ways to make juicy, flavorful chicken is to marinate it in creamy Greek yogurt, harissa paste, garlic, lemon and spices. The acidity in the yogurt tenderizes the chicken and helps it stay super moist. Yogurt marinated chicken is perfect for summertime dinners and backyard BBQs. Serve with hearty salads, zesty sauces and pita bread!

a white plate on a blue background with chicken and green sauce.

Weekend getaways, fresh summer produce and laid-back dinners cooked on the grill is what summertime is all about!

This Yogurt Marinated Chicken is the perfect recipe for summer. It’s easy, super versatile and a total crowd pleaser! All of the magic comes from the spiced yogurt marinade which not only flavors the chicken but tenderizes it too.

With Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredients like harissa, turmeric and cumin Yogurt Marinated Chicken can be served with a wide variety of sides, salads and sauces. I love to pair this chicken with spicy Zhoug sauce–a recent obsession–as well as cool and creamy cucumber tzatziki. As for sides and salads; Tomato Salad with Buttermilk Basil Dressing is perfect as well as Greek Orzo Salad, rice pilaf, grilled pita bread or hearty Farro Salad with Fennel, Feta and Olives.

You can also incorporate this flavorful chicken into your weekly meal prep and enjoy it on top of salads or wrapped up with warm pita bread for simple, satisfying lunches and dinners throughout the week.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Here’s everything you need to make this recipe: boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast, Greek yogurt, harissa paste, garlic, lemon, cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

A bowl of raw chicken thighs, lemon, a bulb of garlic, a bowl of greek yogurt and spices in small bowls.

Recipe Step by Step:

Step 1. Marinate the Chicken

The yogurt marinade is very easy to make. Simply whisk together the yogurt, spices, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. Thats it! If you only have 3 hours to marinate, that’ll do, but if you can swing it, overnight is well worth the wait.

A stainless steel bowl with yogurt, spices and harissa. right: chicken thighs coated in yogurt marinade in a mixing bowl.

Step 2. Prep the Skewers

Remove the chicken from marinade, scraping off any excess then thread the chicken onto long skewers. Note: you don’t have to use skewers. You can throw the chicken directly onto the grill if you prefer.

3 Tips for Skewer Success:
-Be sure the grill is clean, hot, and well oiled so the food will release easily.
-Bamboo skewers should be soaked in water for 30 minutes before adding the food so they don’t burn in the intense heat. 
-Cut all of the chicken about the same size so it cooks evenly. 

left: a parchment-lined baking tray with raw, yogurt marinated chicken kebabs. right: cooked chicken kebabs on a baking tray.

Step 3. Grill and Serve

Grill the skewers over medium-high heat. You can use a gas, charcoal or stove-top grill pan.

a close up image of charred chicken kebabs.

FAQs and Expert Tips

What should I serve with yogurt marinated chicken?

You can really serve this chicken with so many things. The flavors and spices in the marinade suggest Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired side dishes like; Greek Orzo Salad, Farro Salad with Fennel, Feta and Olives, or Smooth and Creamy Homemade Hummus. I also like to serve sauces like Tzatziki and Zhoug on the side for dipping.

Should yogurt marinade be rinsed off before cooking?

Nope! You’ll want to blot away any excess marinade before cooking but do not rinse it.

Check Out More Delicious Recipes:

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a white plate on a blue background with chicken and green sauce.

Yogurt Marinated Chicken with Harissa and Garlic

One of my favorite ways to make juicy, flavorful chicken is to marinate it in creamy Greek yogurt, harissa paste, garlic, lemon and spices. The acidity in the yogurt tenderizes the chicken and helps it stay super moist. Yogurt marinated chicken is perfect for summertime dinners and backyard BBQs. Serve with hearty salads, zesty sauces and pita bread!
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Marinating Time: 3 hours
Servings: 4
Calories: 438kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breast
  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup harissa paste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon zest and juice
  • 3 cloves garlic grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, olive oil, harissa paste, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, spices, salt and pepper. If you plan to use skewers/kebabs, cut the chicken into large bite-sized pieces about 2-inches, then place them in the bowl with the yogurt. If you're not using skeweres you can leave the chicken whole. Toss the chicken until it's evenly coated in the marinade then cover and refridgerate for at least 3 hours or up to 25 hours.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade, scraping off any excess then thread the chicken onto long skewers, be careful not to overcrowd them. You'll need between 8-10 skewers. Note: you don't have to use skewers. You can throw the chicken directly onto the grill if you prefer.
  • Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly brush the grill's surface with a high-heat neutral oil. Grill the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, turning occasionally, about 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer the kabobs to a platter season lightly with salt and serve.

Notes

 
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:
  • Chicken: Pretty much any cut of chicken would be just fine for this recipe. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time as needed.
  • Harissa: Harissa is a smokey Tunisian hot pepper paste. If you can’t find it in store it’s available in many places online or you can try making it from scratch.
  • Spices: I use smoked paprika, turmeric and cumin. You can play around with this combo a bit or substitute other spices if you’re out of one. Ground coriander would be a great addition as would a bit of cinnamon or chili powder. Even a general curry powder blend would work as it contains many of the same spices.
 
3 Tips for Skewer Success:
  • Be sure the grill is clean, hot, and well oiled so the food will release easily.
  • Bamboo skewers should be soaked in water for 30 minutes before adding the food so they don’t burn in the intense heat.
  • Cut all of the chicken about the same size so it cooks evenly. 
 
Storing and Re-heating Leftovers:
  • Store leftover chicken covered, in the refrigerator for up to five days. Reheat in the microwave or in a preheated 350F oven for 5-10 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 438kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 217mg | Sodium: 2187mg | Potassium: 748mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 680IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 74mg | Iron: 3mg
Did you make this recipe?Share a picture on Instagram and tag me: @Craving_California and use the hashtag: #CravingCalifornia!
A white oval platter filled with 6 chicken skewers.

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