Berber-Spiced Chicken Breasts


Steven Raichlen is ambivalent when it comes to chicken breasts: "You could describe them two ways," he says. "They're the canvases upon which a grill expert paints his colors. Or, to put a less charitable spin on it, they're the meat grill experts love to hate because they're so intrinsically bland." Here, Raichlen rubs the chicken breasts with a blend of North African spices that, when cooked on the grill, forms a crispy crust that is full of what Raichlen calls "gutsy in-your-face flavors." 

Berber-Spiced Chicken Breasts
Photo: © James Baigrie
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs


  • 3 garlic cloves, quartered

  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped

  • One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

  • 3 tablespoons sweet paprika

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Four chicken breast halves on the bone with skin (2 pounds)

  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the chicken and lemon wedges and process to a paste. Spread the paste all over the chicken and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.

  2. Light a charcoal grill. When the coals are hot, move them to one side of the grill to create a high-heat zone. Oil the grate and place the chicken on it, skin side up, opposite the coals. Cover and grill the chicken until browned and just cooked through, about 30 minutes. Turn the breasts over and grill over high heat until the skin is crisp and lightly charred, about 2 minutes longer. Let the breasts rest for 5 minutes, then serve with lemon wedges.

Suggested Pairing

Mediterranean reds often have a spicy note that pairs well with the North African spices on this chicken. North African wines are ideal, but hard to find; instead, look for reds from the Jumilla region in Spain.

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