These Harissa Chicken Bowls are inspired by the fan-favorite, fast food restaurant. Make your own CAVA-style harissa chicken bowl at home with this crazy-good recipe. It’s loaded with harissa honey chicken with toppings like greens, rice, tomato/cucumber salad, tzatziki, hummus, and a homemade harissa vinaigrette. There’s so much flavor-filled goodness here and it’s super customizable, too!

harissan chicken bowl with toppings in yellow bowl

Friends, we gotta chat. How many of you have had CAVA?! Their Mediterranean-inspired restaurants are pretty much all over the United States, so it’s likely. And if you haven’t given them a try just yet, do so expeditiously! Ain’t no shame in my game when I tell you that I am a complete fanatic over their food. They just built one not too far from me and lawdddddhamercy, I’m in that joint like clockwork, ha! That’s the inspiration behind this homemade copycat recipe.

Harissa Chicken Bowls (CAVA-style!) 😋

This post pays homage to CAVA’s Harissa chicken bowl. It’s locked + loaded with juicy harissa honey chicken and paired with main filling elements like basmati rice and greens. Extra vibrant toppings like cucumbers/tomatoes, hummus, tzatziki, pickled red onions, and crumbled feta only make these bowls even more delicious. The harissa spice is the star of the show with harissa marinated chicken and a zippy harissa vinaigrette. SOOO much flavorrr!

⇢ I just love me a bowl-inspired meal, like, these miso ginger salmon rice bowls are frequently in rotation over here…whew, such a favorite 🥣.

black hand pouring harissa vinaigrette over harissa chicken bowl with toppings

CAVA Harissa Chicken Bowls: Recipe Highlights

Real quick, let’s tap into the main highlights of this bomb recipe:

  • FLAVOR-FILLED: We’ll start with the harissa vinaigrette that compliments the finished bowls like a boss. It’s where spiciness meets sweetness combined with other flavors for a saucy bit to pour over everything. Next, there’s juicy chicken marinated in a well-seasoned, mega flavorful blend that penetrates the chicken. Between the harissa chicken, vinaigrette, and bowl pairings/toppings, there’s a variety of flavors that singgg!
  • FEEL-GOOD DELICIOUSNESS: I love the light, fresh, and feel-good harmony in this recipe. These bowls don’t possess that ick feeling we sometimes get after eating a heavier meal. Nah, not here.
  • EASY TO MAKE: I know your days are busy, we all juggle so many things. But it’s still nice having a homemade meal, yes? Right. Bring this recipe together in under 45 minutes and then do a little two step, ayeee 🕺🏾.
  • CUSTOMIZABLE: Bowl-inspired dishes are all about ease. Prep the harissa vinaigrette, marinate the chicken, cook the chicken, and then assemble. These harissa chicken bowls are delish as written, but also very much flexible. You can put your bowls together with what’s included in the recipe card (below) or deviate and use whatever toppings/pairings your heart desires!
ingredients for harissa chicken bowls laid out on gold baking sheet

Ingredient Spotlight: Harissa!

What is harissa? Great question! Harissa is a hot chili pepper sauce/paste that originated from North Africa. The Maghreb (Arabic meaning: “the west”) is a region in North Africa that borders the Mediterranean Sea; included in this western region is Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. Harissa is sometimes referred to as “The national condiment of Tunisia.” It’s considered a staple in this region where it’s used to add flavor and bring intensity to a variety of foods like lamb, beef, poultry, goat, and fish dishes (or as a dip or marinade).

The main ingredients in harissa are fresh red peppers, garlic, salt, oil, coriander, and caraway seeds. Some harissa varieties may also include white vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, paprika/cumin, and lemon as well. You’ll usually find harissa packed in paste-form, but there are some harissa dry spices out there, too.

What does harissa taste like? Because it’s chili pepper-forward, harissa has a spicy kick that’s also complemented with a smoky, earthy, and rich taste on the palate. The overall intensity of harissa varies from product to product, and some store-bought options might be labeled “mild” for heat sensitivity needs. You might say that harissa delivers a similar heat factor to that of sriracha.

Where To Find Harissa? 🔎

You’re likely to find harissa in the international aisle of your local grocery store. I actually love grabbing mine from Trader Joe’s (their version shown below)! It’s also easily available online if you can’t source it locally in stores.

jar of harissa paste next to small white spoon

How To Make These Harissa Chicken Bowls:

(Note: please see the recipe card directly below for the complete written instructions.)

  1. Prep vinaigrette. In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the harissa paste, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt- to taste, and water. Stir (or shake) the vinaigrette well to fully combine. Cover and transfer into the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. Prep the chicken. Place the chicken into a large bowl or gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add the harissa paste, honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil, worcestershire sauce, and salt- to taste. Use your hands (fitted with gloves, if desired) to massage all of the marinade mixture into the chicken.
  3. Marinate the chicken. Cover the bowl with a lid/plastic wrap or seal plastic bag and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes or, more preferably, overnight (for the best results!).

Cook Chicken & Build The Bowls:

  1. Sear the chicken. After the chicken has marinated, it’s ready to cook. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, working in batches, add the marinated chicken thighs into the skillet- shaking off any excess marinade and discard. Let the chicken sear, undisturbed, until a deep golden sear appears, about 5-6 minutes. Then flip the chicken to continue searing on the other side, about 4-5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and registers at least 165°F when checked with an internal thermometer. Set cooked chicken aside onto a cutting board and repeat process as needed.
  2. Chop chicken. Cut the cooked chicken into rough chunks.
  3. Build the harissa chicken bowls & serve: Add the chopped harissa chicken, rice, and greens into shallow bowls. Then top and finish off bowls with your desired toppings: tomatoes/cucumbers, pickled red onions, crumbled feta, fire-roasted corn, avocado, and a scoop of hummus and tzatziki, as you prefer. Then drizzle a desired amount of the reserved harissa vinaigrette over everything. Serve immediately as-is or with warm pita bread (as pictured) or pita chips, it’s extra delicious. Enjoy!
harissa chicken bowls with toppings in yellow and purple bowl

Ingredients Needed For These CAVA-Inspired Harissa Chicken Bowls:

(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card directly below.)

  • For the harissa vinaigrette: Harissa paste, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt, and water- to thin. This vinaigrette is so simple yet bursting with big flavor and depth, every bowl needs a saucy companion, yum!
  • Chicken: I use boneless/skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. Dark meat poultry delivers more flavor and tends to yield super juicy chicken.
  • Harissa paste: The star of the show for this harissa-forward recipe! 🫶🏾
  • Pure honey: Some sweetness to balance the heat that harissa brings.
  • Olive oil: We’ll use this to aid in binding the marinade + cooking the chicken.
  • Worcestershire sauce: It has a unique combo of flavors from various ingredients. Also, it kinda acts like an umami flavor bomb.
  • Salt: Gotta have salt to season and bring out the delish flavors!

Let’s Talk About Bowl Toppings!

The base: Just like CAVA, I use basmati rice and love the aromatic note. However, you can use whatever rice you prefer! Next, you’ll need any salad mix of greens for a nice crunch. I usually grab those ready-to-go bags of greens in the produce section. It can be one type of greens or a mix/blend of them.

The toppings: You can make a little tomato/cucumber salad which is just the chopped veg tossed with a touch of olive oil + salt/pepp. And then, pickled red onions, crumbled feta cheese, hummus, and tzatziki round out these harissa chicken bowls. ⇢ Please keep in mind that those items can all be store-bought or homemade, whatever you prefer! Psst, don’t forget the pita bread/chips!

Feel free to pivot and make these bowls your own with whatever you’d like! 😎

closeup of harissa chicken bowl with toppings in yellow bowl

These CAVA-Inspired Harissa Chicken Bowls need to be in your rotation; they’re flavorful, fun, and so customizable! Be sure to tag @butterbeready in your BBR recipe creations, I sure love to see it when you do. Until next time! 🤟🏾

You’ll love these other recipes, too:

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harissan chicken bowl with toppings in yellow bowl

Harissa Chicken Bowls (CAVA Copycat!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 6 reviews
  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean-Inspired

Description

These Harissa Chicken Bowls are inspired by the fan-favorite, fast food restaurant. Make your own CAVA-style harissa chicken bowl at home with this crazy-good recipe. It’s loaded with harissa honey chicken with toppings like greens, rice, tomato/cucumber salad, tzatziki, hummus, and a homemade harissa vinaigrette. There’s so much flavor-filled goodness here and it’s super customizable, too!


Ingredients

Scale

For the harissa vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup good-quality olive oil
  • 2 (heaping) tablespoons harissa paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure honey
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup water, to thin

For the harissa chicken:

  • 1 ½ lbs boneless/skinless chicken thighs, about 56 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 2 tablespoons pure honey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt, to taste

For the bowl toppings:

  • Basmati rice (or rice of choice), salad mix of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled red onions, crumbled feta, tzatziki, hummus, fire-roasted corn, avocado, & warm pita bread or pita chips, as desired

Instructions

For the harissa vinaigrette:

  1. Prep vinaigrette. In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the olive oil, harissa paste, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt- to taste, and water. Stir (or shake) the vinaigrette well to fully combine. Cover and transfer into the refrigerator for flavors to meld for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

For the harissa chicken:

  1. Prep the chicken. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Then place the chicken into a large bowl or gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add the harissa paste, honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil, worcestershire sauce, and salt- to taste. Use your hands (fitted with disposable gloves, if desired) to massage all of the marinade mixture into the chicken, ensuring the chicken is nicely coated.
  2. Marinate the chicken. Cover the bowl with a lid/plastic wrap or seal plastic bag and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes or, more preferably, overnight (for the best results!). If marinating overnight, just be sure to go back and stir/massage the chicken at least once for even flavor marination.
  3. Sear the chicken. After the chicken has marinated, it’s ready to cook. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, working in batches, add the marinated chicken thighs into the skillet- shaking off any excess marinade and discard. Let the chicken sear, undisturbed, until a deep golden sear appears, about 5-6 minutes. Then flip the chicken to continue searing on the other side, about 4-5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and registers at least 165°F when checked with an internal thermometer. Set cooked chicken aside onto a cutting board and repeat process as needed.
  4. Chop chicken. Use a sharp knife to cut the cooked chicken into rough chunks.
  5. Build the harissa chicken bowls & serve: Add the chopped harissa chicken, rice, and greens into shallow bowls. Then top and finish off bowls with your desired toppings: tomatoes/cucumbers, pickled red onions, crumbled feta, fire-roasted corn, avocado, and a scoop of hummus and tzatziki, as you prefer. Then drizzle a desired amount of the reserved harissa vinaigrette over everything. Serve immediately as-is or with warm pita bread (as pictured) or pita chips, it’s extra delicious. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Please read the blog post in its entirety for more tips + tricks.