moroccan lamb chili spiced with harissa

Moroccan Lamb Chili

Spicy harissa replaces traditional chili powder with sweet potatoes and chick peas in this lamb chili. Finished with herbs and lemon, you’ll be in North Africa in no time.

Moroccan Lamb chili with sweet potato and chick peas in harissa sauce
Fresh herbs and lemon add brightness to this rich tomato and harissa sauce.

It sounds un-American, but I tire of traditional ground beef chili. Maybe it’s the long winter getting the better of me, but I see the same old tired chili everywhere. This recipe is a reimagined version of something I came up with years ago when I found a Moroccan spice blend at The Spice House in Evanston, Illinois. Using that blend, I used to make a turkey and black bean chili with sweet potatoes. It was delicious and always provided a nice diversion from the traditional chili recipe. However, I’m fresh out of Moroccan Spice Blend. 90 minutes to buy spices? Maybe if it wasn’t February.

It was time to get creative. This version uses harissa, a North African chili spice blend, sweet potato, chick peas, and lamb. It reminds me of one of my earliest memories of getting Middle Eastern food in Milwaukee with my Aunt Jean, Uncle Frank, and Cousin Alicia. They would take us to Shaherazad, this wonderful family run restaurant on the east side of the city. That might have been the first place I had hummus. I’m genuinely not sure what I ordered all those years ago, but it was a chicken dish that maybe have been a tangine. I remember lemon and herbs in a rich tomato sauce. Those were the flavors I wanted to recreate in this dish. You’ll finish this chili with fresh lemon juice, mint, and parsley.

Moroccan Lamb chili
A nearly finished pot of Moroccan Lamb Chili, just awaiting the finishing touches of herbs and lemon.

Rich, spicy lamb meets the herbs and lemony brightness of Morocco in this unorthodox chili. Sweetness from the potatoes, and some chick peas to round it out make for a hearty dinner.

Tips, Tricks, and Take-aways:

  • Easily adaptable for your diet! Eating paleo? Omit the chick peas. Eating keto? Omit the chick peas and sweet potatoes; serve instead over my Moroccan Cauliflower Cous Cous
  • Make sure your veggies are all the same size. This will ensure even cooking and a consistent look when serving.
  • Adjust the harissa to your taste. I like spicy, but this recipe is written to be friendly to most pallets.
moroccan lamb chili spiced with harissa
Yield: 6

Moroccan Lamb Chilli

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Spicy harissa, sweet potato, and herbs transform lamb chilli into an exotic adventure to Morocco. 


  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 orange pepper, diced
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee (if dairy free)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1 cup sweet potato, diced
  • 14.5 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 tbsp harissa spice
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 lemon peel strips
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup chick peas
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juice


  1. Heat butter or ghee in dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat. Add onion, peppers, and saute until transparent. About 5 minutes.
  2. Add cumin, coriander, paprika, and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground lamb. Salt and pepper. Cook until lamb is no longer pink.
  3. Add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, harissa, lemon peel, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Cook covered for 30 minutes.
  4. Liquid should have thickened up. Add chick peas. Cook another 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Add herbs and lemon juice.
  6. Serve immediately. 
  7. Store left-overs in air tight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Paleo? Omit chick peas. Keto? Omit chick peas and sweet potatoes. Serve over Moroccan Cauliflower Rice instead. Chili gets better as flavors have a chance to meld. I often make this early in the day and then reheat for dinner.

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