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Harissa Chicken Meatballs

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These juicy, Harissa Chicken Meatballs are a fun twist on traditional meatballs. They’re also low- carb, grain-free, and gluten-free made with cauliflower rice instead of breadcrumbs.

Harissa Chicken Meatballs with couscous.
Harissa Chicken Meatballs

The red peppers from the smoked paprika and harissa bring depth to these middle eastern inspired Harissa Chicken Meatballs. Ground chicken mixes with onion, garlic, paprika, parsley, salt, egg, and frozen cauliflower rice and then simmers in mild harissa sauce. Jarred harissa is a favorite ingredient of mine and one you’ll always find in my pantry. For more ways to use harissa, try my Harissa Shrimp and Chickpeas, Shredded Harissa Chicken, and Grilled Harissa Lamb Chops.

Chicken Meatballs in sauce.

How do you make ground chicken meatballs moist?

To make juicy chicken meatballs, don’t over-mix the ground chicken mixture. Over-mixing will result in tough, dry meatballs. Also, in this recipe, I swap the breadcrumbs for cauliflower rice for extra moisture.

Serving Suggestion for the Meatballs:

Serve the harissa meatballs over spiralized butternut squash noodles, spaghetti squash, or couscous. If you want to keep the meal low-carb, cauliflower rice would be tasty too. You could also eat the meatballs in a pita sprinkled with crumbled feta.

Variations and Tips:

  • Lightly coat your hands with cooking spray when forming the meatballs to prevent sticking.
  • Sub ground turkey for ground chicken.
  • If you want to bulk up this dish a bit more, add a finely chopped carrot and a can of chickpeas to the sauce.
  • Refrigerate up to 4 days. Freeze up to 6 months.

What is Harissa?

Harissa is a traditional accompaniment with Moroccan and North African food. It’s as popular to them as ketchup and mustard is to us here in the states. You can serve it with everything from eggs, burgers, couscous, soups and more. For convenience, I love Mina Harissa (affil link).

How to make Harissa:

If you can’t find jarred Harissa, you can easily make it yourself. This is my favorite method, it’s so good you’ll want to drink it! Double the recipe for these meatballs.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 12 ounce jar roasted peppers in water, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to your taste

Sauté the garlic in oil until golden and fragrant then combine with the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve room temperature. See below for the chicken recipe!

Chicken Meatballs raw ingredients.Chicken Meatballs pan fried.Chicken Meatballs in sauce.Chicken Meatballs with couscous.

More Meatball Recipes You’ll Love:

Harissa Chicken Meatballs

4.50 from 16 votes
These Harissa Chicken Meatballs are a fun twist on meatballs. Plus, they’re low- carb, grain-free, and gluten-free since I use cauliflower rice instead of breadcrumbs.
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Harissa Chicken Meatballs with couscous.
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Total: 45 mins
Yield: 4 servings
Serving Size: 4 meatballs with 1/2 cup sauce


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup frozen riced cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped parsley
  • 3 large peeled garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • Olive-oil cooking spray
  • 2 jars, 10 oz each prepared mild harissa sauce (I love Mina Harissa)


  • Place chicken in a large mixing bowl, break- up slightly. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and smoked paprika.
  • Add frozen cauliflower, parsley, onion, garlic, and egg and mix just until ingredients are combined.  Avoid over-mixing. Divide chicken mixture into 16 portions ( about 1 1/4 ounce each); gently shape into balls.
  • Heat a heavy-duty non-stick large skillet (with tall sides) over medium-high heat.
  • Spray with olive oil cooking spray, add meatballs and cook, turning occasionally to brown on all sides, about 6 minutes.
  • Pour in harissa and allow mixture to reach a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.

Last Step:

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Refrigerate up to 4 days. Freeze up to 6 months.


Serving: 4 meatballs with 1/2 cup sauce, Calories: 290 kcal, Carbohydrates: 12.5 g, Protein: 22 g, Fat: 20.5 g, Saturated Fat: 3 g, Cholesterol: 142.5 mg, Sodium: 1520 mg, Fiber: 11 g, Sugar: 11 g



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43 comments on “Harissa Chicken Meatballs”

  1. This was really tasty. I highly recommend getting the mild harissa, even if you are a spicy food person. I mixed one mild with one hot, and it was bordering on inedible.

  2. Avatar photo
    Adriana Skains

    Delicious….. I made the mistake of buying the spicy sauce….. it was so hot we almost couldn’t eat it and I love spicy food. I’ll get mild next time and add red pepper flakes 

  3. Any suggestions on how to make this lower fat? 20 grams of fat per serving seems awfully high. Cant wait to try it!

  4. This was delicious. I followed the suggestion to add chickpeas and shredded carrots to the sauce. I also added onions. Served over cauliflower rice. I love spicy food, so I got the spicy harissa, and this was a great slow burn. So much flavor and might be my favorite skinnytaste recipe. Highly recommend! 

  5. Avatar photo
    Susie @ Our Summer Table

    Made with only minor modifications. I cooked the meatballs in the oven at 400 for 25 minutes and then finished with the sauce. Added two diced carrots and chickpeas and thinned a tad with broth near the end of simmering. Would make again and definitely will use this method to keep bread crumbs out of the meatballs for lower carbs. Thank you!

  6. Made these tonight. The sauce was a little too thick so I just added broth to thin out the consistency. Added the feta and my did this have kick! Hubs wants to use leftovers in a sub sandwich. Will make again but likely use a little less harissa. Couldn’t find mild so used Trader Joe’s and it was spicy but delicious. Thanks again Gina

    1. I used Trader Joes as well last night and am usually the person who orders the spiciest food available. It was a bit too hot for me. Looking at the recipe Gina provided vs the paste from Trader Joe’s I think the jarred Trader Joe’s is more concentrated and had a lot more red pepper flake involved. I think in a pinch the Trader Joe’s paste is still a good use but sparingly – I cut it with crushed tomatoes.

  7. Avatar photo
    Lisa Tatonetti

    I was really excited about this recipe and it let me down. Way too wet, both the meatball mix, which was impossible to shape because so liquid and the sauce. Could maybe 1/3 to a 1/2 less Harissa? Basically, the meatballs were drowning in it. First Skinny taste recipe to give a thumbs down.

  8. Avatar photo
    Jessica Feinstein

    This is 9 green points not 8… FYI

    Meatballs fell apart really easily when cooking but  easily to pull together and But smells delicious 

    1. Using the Mina Harissa and 98% lean ground chicken, it comes out to 6 green points for me. Always use the recipe builder! 

  9. My whole family loved this recipe! I didn’t have store-bought harissa in our cupboard like I usually do, so I needed to make the homemade sauce, and didn’t have jarred peppers, so I subbed diced tomatoes for the peppers, and it was still outstanding! I also cooked the meatballs in the oven then just let them simmer in the sauce once it had been cooking for a while. 10/10!

  10. Easy recipe to follow and a homemade dinner fast. I served it over quinoa but I will warn you about the homemade harissa if you choose to make it. I used regular table salt and it was very salty. Back off to at least half if not a quarter, then taste. Double the sauce for sure if making the homemade recipe and back off on the spice (red pepper flakes) if you do not want a spicy sauce. The meatballs are mushy but do not fear, they firm up once one side is browned. Other than that, I will for sure make these again. It was filling.

  11. Delicious and easy.  Perfect sauce to spice up cauliflower rice.  Just FYI, 2 bottles of Mina Harissa ran me $15, so so be aware of that.  Would absolutely make again.

  12. This is the first recipe of yours that I have made. Apparently I’m late to the party. These were fantastic! My picky husband loved them too. I put the leftovers in a low carb tortilla with some cucumber/dill sauce for lunch. Really wonderful and easy recipe. Thank you!

  13. The meatballs were great, but I made the homemade Harissa and it was SO salty! Will reduce the salt next time… by a lot! 

  14. Great flavor! I made my own fire roasted peppers for the homemade harissa sauce when I couldn’t find a mild spice version in my area. I served the sauce and meatballs over a mix of jasmine rice and cauliflower rice.

  15. I used the jarred Harissa sauce, which was excellent (same brand as noted in the recipe.) The meatballs were really mushy (my fault I think?)  and had to add panko (1/2C) to get some actual consistency/bulk to form an actual ball. I love the concept and they were very good! I bought ground chicken instead of grinding my own and used frozen (thawed) cauli-rice. Next time I will grind my own chicken and use fresh cauliflower rice. So be aware the consistency of the meat ball depends on what you use! 

    1. I had the same issues with my meatballs and added panko as well :). They are simmering now so hopefully they come out okay! I couldn’t find the Harrisa near me so I substituted with Sambal Oelek.

  16. Liked the meatball, and use of cauliflower rice, great idea. I am sensitive to spicy, but trying to increase my tolerance, so a bit too spicy for me even with mild Mina Harissa, but husband likes it. I only had one jar of sauce to put on them. I did bake the meatballs then simmered in sauce. Had some roasted green beans and mushrooms on side–along with Liviva noodles for mine, (really low caloire) and some angel hair for husband. So for me maybe a brush on topping of sauce only–mixed with something like the Harissa mini meatloaf recipe–but for husband was just fine as is.

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    Carolynne Arnold

    I made this last night. The meatballs were mind blowingly good!!! Whole meal was deeeeelicious!!!

  18. Avatar photo
    Susan G Daffer

    I made the Harissa sauce and it called for 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. That was WAY too much salt. Would have been great with jus 1/2 tsp of salt.

  19. Made these and they are the best meatballs ever! My husband even loved them and he doesn’t like anything that isn’t made with beef.

  20. Would it be okay to bake the meatballs in the oven and then finish on the stove by simmering in the sauce?