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Ras el Hanout Chicken with Spicy Couscous

Spicy couscous topped with ras el hanout chicken is a family favourite dinner dish. This easy spicy couscous recipe is quick to cook, ideal for mid-week dinners. Top the spiced couscous with ras el hanout chicken breast, which is very aromatic with mild chilli heat, perfect for family dining.

A black bowl filled with spicy couscous topped with ras-el-hanout chicken and garnished fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds, with a bowl of pomegranate seeds set alongside.

This Moroccan spiced couscous dish is ideal for families who enjoy a hit of spice, without too much searing chilli heat. The spices can be easily adjusted to suit your palette, you can add as much or as little chilli as you wish. If there’s a spice you don’t like the flavour of, leave it out.

Some say couscous is bland, and on its own coucous is bland. However, couscous takes on flavours really well, the trick is to flavour the couscous. Add some spices, fresh herbs, good stock, acids like vinegar or a squeeze lemon juice, and you have an entirely different dish.

Ras el hanout chicken breast is an easy addition to the spiced couscous and takes minutes to prepare and cook. I like to add a generous handful of pomegranate seeds, the burst of juice and sweetness from the pomegranate elevates the dish.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • An aromatic dish where the chilli heat can be adjusted to suit your palette.
  • Enhance the flavours by marinating the chicken earlier in the day and storing in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.
  • Ready in less than 40 minutes making this a perfect mid week dinner dish.
  • Feed a crowd as this recipe can be easily doubled up.

Recipe ingredients

Corn salsa recipe ingredients set out in individual bowls.
  • Oil – I like to use olive oil in this recipe both to marinade and saute the chicken, and also to saute the vegetables in the couscous. You can substitute with another oil of your choosing.
  • Ras el hanout – I like to marinade the chicken in ras el hanout which is a mild blend of spices popular in North African cuisine.
  • Chicken – for this recipe I like to use chicken breast, sliced into smaller pieces.
  • Pomegranate – I use the seeds of a pomegranate to garnish the dish. Pomegranate not only adds colour and sweetness, but lovely crunch to the couscous too.
    • Fresh herbs – I also garnish the dish with fresh herbs like mint, parsley or coriander (cilantro).

Spicy couscous recipe ingredients

  • Butter – I use butter to saute the vegetables, and also fork some extra butter through the couscous at the end of the cook to add flavour and separate it out and stop clumps forming.
  • Vegetables – I saute a variety of vegetables as the base of the couscous, including banana shallots, red bell pepper, red chilli and freshly crushed cloves of garlic.
  • Dry spices – I use a combination of dry whole spices in this recipe, which I grind down in a pestle and mortar. The spices I use include cinnamon stick, cardamon pods, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and red chilli flakes (which can be adjusted to taste depending on how spicy you like your food).
  • Salt – I like to grind the spices with a teaspoon of sea salt. Not only does this season the couscous, but the rough salt helps to break down the whole spices.
  • Vinegar – I like to add red wine vinegar which adds acidity to the dish.
  • Couscous – I like to use regular couscous in this recipe.
  • Stock – I use vegetable stock to cook the coucous in, you can also use chicken stock.

How to make spicy couscous with ras el hanout chicken

  • Place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a bowl, along with the ras el hanout spice, and mix to combine. Add the chicken and stir well to coat. Set aside until you are ready to cook. (You can marinade the chicken for longer if you have time).
  • To prepare the couscous, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and half the butter in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat, add the vegetables and saute gently for 5 minutes. The vegetables should soften but not colour.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, place the dried spices for the couscous in a pestle and mortar along with the salt and grind down to a powder.
  • Add the spices to the saucepan and continue to saute gently with the vegetables for a further 2 minutes.
  • Lower the heat and add the wine vinegar to the pan, stirring to combine. Leave this to cook away for a further 5 minutes.
  • Once the vegetables and spices are ready add the couscous and stir.
  • Take the pan off the heat, pour over the vegetable stock, stir well to combine, place on the pan lid and set aside to allow the water to be absorbed.
  • Meanwhile heat up the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a non stick frying pan and once hot add the chicken and any of the remaining marinade.
  • Stir fry the chicken until golden and cooked through.
  • Just before serving fork the remaining half of the butter through the couscous to separate out the grains.
  • Serve the couscous in warm bowls with the chicken on top. Garnish with a generous helping of pomegranate seeds and freshly chopped herbs.
A black bowl filled with spicy couscous topped with ras-el-hanout chicken and garnished fresh herbs, also a black plate with a flatbread topped with Greek yogurt, green salad leaves, ras-el-hanout chicken and garnished with pomegranate seeds, with bowls of pomegranate seeds and also spicy couscous set alongside.

Recipe variations

  • This recipe uses chicken breast, but you could also make the dish using boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
  • For a plant based dinner top the spicy couscous with veggies instead, swapping the chicken for ras el hanout roasted vegetables.
  • The couscous uses spices I enjoy the flavour of, but feel free to adapt the spices to your own tastes.
  • Swap shallot of red onion in the couscous, red onions is a great swap for shallots as it has a mild flavour.
  • Add other vegetables like courgettes (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), carrot or celery into the couscous.
  • I use both fresh chilli and dried chilli flakes in the couscous, but feel free to adjust the chilli heat to taste.
  • I use red wine vinegar to add acidity to the couscous, but you could also use white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Or try swapping vinegar for another acid like freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice.
  • At the end of the cook feel free to stir through other ingredients before serving. Try adding dried fruits (sultanas, raisins, apricots), fresh herbs (like mint, parsley or coriander), or toasted nuts (try pine nuts or flakes almonds).
A flatbread topped with Greek yogurt, green salad leaves, ras-el-hanout chicken and garnished with pomegranate seeds, with a bowl of pomegranate seeds set alongside.

Serving suggestions

I like to serve the ras el hanout chicken on top of the couscous, or chop the chicken smaller and stir it through the couscous. A scattering of pomegranate seeds adds a pop of sweetness to the dish and I like to finish with some freshly chopped herbs.

Make a vegan spicy couscous by swapping the butter for a dairy free alternative. You can also top the couscous with some ras el hanout roasted vegetables in place of the chicken.

In this dish the couscous is served hot, but leftover couscous can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator. It makes a great cold spicy couscous salad for lunch the next day.

You can also serve ras el hanout chicken on it’s own without the couscous. My kids love it on a flat bread with a spoon of thick Greek yogurt, mixed salad greens and a handful of pomegranate seeds.

Useful hints and tips

  1. Marinade the chicken in the morning and store in the fridge until ready to cook. This will intensify the flavour.
  2. Adjust the spicing to suit your own palette, you can make this dish as spicy or mild as you wish.
  3. Always fork some butter through the couscous at the end of the cook as this helps to separate out the couscous so you don’t have big clumps of it sticking together.
  4. Allergy advice: egg free, soya free and nut free. For comprehensive and detailed allergy advice go to Allergy UK.
Hands holding a fork and bowl filled with spicy couscous topped with ras-el-hanout chicken and garnished fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds

FAQs

What is ras el hanout?

Ras el hanout is a North African spice blend, common in Moroccan cuisine, but you will also find it used in Algerian and Tunisian dishes. It is an aromatic spice blend, and recipes can include anything from 8-40 different spices. The spices used vary, but can include the following: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, fenugreek, mace, coriander, cumin, turmeric, allspice and black pepper, to name a few.

What is couscous?

Whilst many people think couscous is a grain, it is in fact more similar to pasta as it is made by combining semolina flour with water.

What flavours can you add to couscous?

Couscous is a versatile ingredient that takes on flavour really well. I like to add dry spices and dry or fresh herbs to couscous, along with sauteed vegetables. You can also add citrus zest and juice, and I always cook couscous in vegetable or chicken stock all of which adds an extra layers of flavour.

Can you serve couscous hot and cold?

Couscous can be enjoyed both hot and cold. Serve it warm with some grilled meats or roasted vegetables, or leave to cool and serve as a salad.

How to store leftover couscous?

Once cooked and cooled, leftover couscous can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Pin the recipe

Pinnable image with recipe title and a black bowl filled with spicy couscous topped with ras-el-hanout chicken and garnished fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds, with a bowl of pomegranate seeds set alongside.

Additional recipe suggestions

If you like this recipe then try some of these great tasting recipes:

It is a great dish to serve as part of a mezze platter. For more recipes read my Easy Mezze Platter Ideas post.

Looking for inspiration for feeding the family mid week, then take a look at my Ultimate Guide to Family Dinners post which is full of useful hints, tips and recipes.

A black bowl filled with spicy couscous topped with ras-el-hanout chicken and garnished fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds, with a bowl of pomegranate seeds set alongside.

Ras el Hanout Chicken with Spicy Couscous

Spicy couscous topped with ras el hanout chicken is a family favourite dinner dish. This easy spicy couscous recipe is quick to cook, ideal for mid-week dinners.
5 from 3 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 597kcal

Equipment

  • Medium bowl
  • medium saucepan
  • Large non stick frying pan or skillet
  • Kitchen knife
  • Cutting boards
  • weighing scales
  • Measuring jug
  • measuring spoons
  • Pestle and mortar

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 2 tbsp ras el hanout spice blend
  • 400 g chicken breast (sliced)
  • 1 pomegranate (seeds removed)
  • 2 tbsp fresh herbs to garnish (eg mint, parsley, coriander)

Spicy Couscous

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 50 g butter (split into 2 x 25g sticks)
  • 2 banana shallots (finely chopped)
  • 1 red pepper (finely diced)
  • 1 red chilli (finely diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamon pods (seeds only – remove the husk)
  • 1 heaped tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ – 1 tsp red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 240 g couscous
  • 500 ml vegetable stock

Instructions

  • Place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a bowl, along with the ras el hanout spice and mix to combine. Add the chicken and stir well to coat. Set aside until you are ready to cook. (You can marinade the chicken for longer if you have time).
  • To prepare the couscous, heat a tablespoon of the olive oil and half the butter in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat, add the vegetables and saute gently for 5 minutes. The vegetables should soften but not colour.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, place the dried spices for the couscous in a pestle and mortar along with the salt and grind down to a powder.
  • Add the spices to the saucepan and continue to saute gently with the vegetables for a further 2 minutes.
  • Lower the heat and add the wine vinegar to the pan, stirring to combine. Leave this to cook away for a further 5 minutes.
  • Once the vegetables and spices are ready add the couscous and vegetable stock. Take the pan off the heat, stir well to combine, place on the pan lid and set aside to allow the water to be absorbed.
  • Meanwhile heat up the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a non stick frying pan and once hot add the chicken and any of the remaining marinade. Stir fry the chicken until golden and cooked through.
  • Just before serving fork the remaining half of the butter through the couscous to separate out the grains.
  • Serve the couscous in warm bowls with the chicken on top. Garnish with a generous helping of pomegranate seeds and freshly chopped herbs.

Notes

This dish is lovely served hot but leftovers make a great cold spicy couscous salad for lunch the next day. Leftover couscous can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Nutrition Facts
Ras el Hanout Chicken with Spicy Couscous
Amount Per Serving
Calories 597 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 8g50%
Trans Fat 0.4g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g
Cholesterol 91mg30%
Sodium 1303mg57%
Potassium 866mg25%
Carbohydrates 70g23%
Fiber 9g38%
Sugar 14g16%
Protein 32g64%
Vitamin A 1943IU39%
Vitamin C 67mg81%
Calcium 101mg10%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

• Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only •

Course : Main Course
Cuisine : Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Morrocan
Keyword : easy spicy couscous, moroccan spiced couscous, ras el hanout chicken breast, ras el hanout chicken recipe, spiced couscous
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Recipe Rating




Cat | Curly's Cooking

Wednesday 28th of October 2020

Love ras el hanout and this chicken with the couscous sound so delicious. I could eat this any day!

Lesley

Thursday 29th of October 2020

Thank you very much Cat, this is a favourite meal in my house and perfect mid week as it's quick to cook! Lesley

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Monday 3rd of February 2020

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Eb Gargano | Easy Peasy Foodie

Saturday 10th of June 2017

This look amazing and so up my street - I am such a fan of all of these flavours. Thanks for linking up to #CookBlogShare :-D Eb x

Lesley

Saturday 10th of June 2017

Thank you Eb, a favourite dish in my house, warm spices with a fresh hit of pomegranate which I love.

Jo Allison / Jo's Kitchen Larder

Friday 9th of June 2017

My kind of dinner for sure. Love how vibrant pomegranate seeds are and I bet they also help to balance all the spices. One to pin and make! :) x

Lesley

Friday 9th of June 2017

Thank you Jo, the pomegranate seeds really balance with dish and add a burst of flavour and crunch. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Corina Blum

Friday 9th of June 2017

What a delicious lunch! I'd love this and the pomegranate makes it look so pretty too.

Michelle

Friday 9th of June 2017

Thanks Corina! I love this lunch too and the crunch of the pomegranate just makes the dish pop. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Cheers, Michelle