Two-Hot Sauce Grilled Chicken with amba drizzle and kale (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Two-Hot Sauce Grilled Chicken with amba drizzle and kale (Photo/Faith Kramer)

This Two-Hot Sauce Grilled Chicken combines Israeli favorites

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

The Jews of North Africa and Yemen created hot sauces that have become Israeli favorites: zhug (made from fresh chili peppers) and harissa (made from dried ones). I combine these with another Israeli favorite, chicken thighs (“pargiot” in Hebrew), for my Two-Hot Sauce Grilled Chicken. I serve this for Shabbat dinner, and it may show up on June 18 for Father’s Day.

I garnish this medium-spicy grilled chicken (adjust hot sauce amounts to taste) with a drizzle of tahini or amba, which is an Iraqi-Israeli fermented mango condiment with a tart, curry-like taste.

The zhug, harissa, amba and tahini are available online and in Middle Eastern, kosher and specialty stores. Zhug (sometimes written schug) is made with either green or red fresh chili peppers. I prefer the green for this recipe but either one is fine. Recipes for my own takes on the hot sauces are below.

Two-Hot Sauce Grilled Chicken

Serves 4

  • 1½ Tbs. green or red zhug (purchased, homemade or Jalapeño zhug, below)
  • 1½ Tbs. harissa (purchased, homemade or Almost Instant Harissa, below)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Vegetable oil for grill
  • 3 Tbs. amba or tahini
  • 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro or parsley

Mix zhug, harissa, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin and salt in bowl. Place chicken in a snug-fitting glass (or other non-reactive) baking dish. Remove ¼ cup of the marinade, reserve and store airtight in refrigerator.

Pour rest of the marinade over chicken. Turn chicken over to coat. Cover dish with plastic wrap. Marinate 1 hour at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, turning chicken occasionally. Bring to room temperature before using.

Take reserved marinade out of refrigerator. Separately, use vegetable oil to grease the grates of an outdoor grill or an indoor grill or grill pan. Heat to medium high. Place chicken thighs on grates (discard liquid from chicken dish) and grill, turning occasionally and basting with reserved marinade until chicken is seared on both sides, is firm (but not hard to the touch) and is cooked through (about 5 to 7 minutes per side). An instant-read thermometer in thickest part should read 165 degrees, and if cut, the chicken should be juicy, opaque and not pinkish.

Once off grill, let rest 5 minutes. Drizzle with amba. Top with chopped cilantro. Pass extra hot sauces if desired.

Notes: If desired, use 3 Tbs. all zhug or all harissa, instead of using both. You can substitute chicken breasts or bone-in chicken thighs (though cooking times may vary). Recipe can also be made under broiler.

Jalapeño Zhug: Remove stem (and seeds for milder sauce) and roughly chop 3 oz. of fresh green jalapeño chili peppers. Put half in blender with 2 tsp. olive oil. Process until finely ground, stopping and scraping sides of blender jar as needed. Add remaining jalapeños and 1 tsp. olive oil. Process again until smooth. Add ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. ground black pepper, ½ tsp. ground cumin and ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom. Blend until combined. Makes about ¾ cup. Store airtight in refrigerator for up to two months.

Almost Instant Harissa: Cover 2 oz. of dried chili flakes with boiling water. Let sit 5 minutes. Drain. Discard liquid. Place flakes in blender with 3 large, chopped cloves of garlic, ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. ground cumin, 1 Tbs. grated lemon zest and 2 tsp. lemon juice. Process until smooth and thick, stopping blender and scraping down sides. Add ½ cup olive oil and process until incorporated. Makes about 1 cup. Store airtight in refrigerator for up to two months.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].