Harissa Marinated Cornish Game Hens

Prep Time
Cook Time
Ready In

"Harissa is the marinade of choice in Morocco. It's got great flavor profile that makes for tasty grilling. In addition to using cornish game hens, I've used a cut up chicken pieces from a whole chicken. NOTE: The total marinating time is not included in the overall prep. time. (Morrocan Harissa recipe below and on this link: https://www.recipezazz.com/recipe/moroccan-style-harissa-sauce-32879)"

Original recipe yields 4 servings


  • Serving Size: 1 (669.2 g)
  • Calories 950.7
  • Total Fat - 73.7 g
  • Saturated Fat - 10.3 g
  • Cholesterol - 544.3 mg
  • Sodium - 2047.4 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate - 32.7 g
  • Dietary Fiber - 8.6 g
  • Sugars - 4.1 g
  • Protein - 47.4 g
  • Calcium - 136.6 mg
  • Iron - 13.6 mg
  • Vitamin C - 108.4 mg
  • Thiamin - 0.4 mg

Step 1

Prepare the Harissa Sauce ahead as follows:

Moroccan Style Harissa Sauce

Step 2

Place the chiles into a medium bowl, cover with boiling water and let sit until softened, about 20 minutes.

Step 3

Heat the caraway, coriander, and cumin in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast the spices, swirling the skillet constantly, until very fragrant, for just a couple of minutes, then transfer spices to a grinder. Grind to a fine powder.

Step 4

Drain the chiles and transfer to a food processor with the ground spices, salt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar.

Step 5

Puree, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Butterfly the Bird

Step 6

Place the game hen or small chicken on a cutting board breast-side down. Working from the cavity opening up to the neck, cut down each side of the backbone with kitchen scissors and discard the backbone.

Step 7

Open the hen/chicken, skin side up, and press down with the heel of your hand on top of each beast and on the legs to flatten. Place the hen/chicken splayed open in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish and set aside.


Step 8

Pour harissa sauce over the chicken, reserving about 2 ounces for brushing the chicken while grilling. Chicken can also be placed into a plastic ziplock bag with marinade which is a great way to have the marinade evenly circulate the chicken.

Step 9

Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight (preferably overnight to help penetrate those flavors to a greater degree).


Step 10

(Refer to Note below for an optional tip).

Step 11

Heat the grill to medium-high. Place the chicken on the grill, skin side up, cover and cook about 20 minutes, brushing the chicken every few minutes with the reserved sauce. There will be a lot of sauce, so to the remainder, I've boiled it down to spoon over chicken.

Step 12

Flip the chicken and cook until the skin is marked with char and the meat is cooked through, about 10 or so more minutes. Give the chicken a quarter turn after about 5 minutes to create those attractive patchwork grill marks.

Step 13

The chicken is done if juices run clear when the thigh is pierced (until it reaches 165-degrees-F internal temp.). Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for a few minutes.

Step 14

Serve with hummus, tabouli and/or grill pita bread or any side of choice.

Sauce Point to Know: there will be enough harissa sauce, therefore I don't discard it. I've boiled it and spooned it over the cooked chicken or served it on the side. If baking ahead as discussed in the NOTE below, I've mixed enough harissa to the natural juices that pool at the bottom of your baking pan until it reaches your desired taste.

NOTE: cut-up chicken pieces can also be used. To speed up the process, I've placed the marinated chicken pieces in the oven for about 20 minutes or so (at 350-F), skin-side-up, and then continued on the outdoor grill as noted. This method is especially useful for weeknight cooking and to make sure that the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees-F internal temperature). Don't throw out the juices that exude from the baked chicken (refer to "Sauce Point to Know").

Tips & Variations

No special items needed.