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Shared by Adeena Bleich and Sharon Fargo

Harissa (Overnight Chicken With Wheat Berries)

Yield: 6 servingsTime: 8 h or overnight

Harissa (Overnight Chicken With Wheat Berries)

Yield: 6 servingsTime: 8 h or overnight

Family Journey

Qamishli, SyriaNesher, Israel
Los Angeles

In Medieval Spain, Jews ate a pounded porridge of wheat and chopped meat called harissa on Shabbat that was of Persian Sassanian origin, writes culinary scholar Claudia Roden in “The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey From Samarkand to New York.” Dishes by the same name, historically, were served in Iraqi, Persian, Syrian, and Sephardic homes, but recipes vary, she adds, with some using wheat and others rice. Mutton is commonly called for, but chicken is used in some traditions. In Sharon’s family, a dish by the same name is made with a whole chicken and the wheat isn’t mashed, instead it holds on to its nutty quality and structure. Be sure to start preparing the dish the day before you plan to eat it as it cooks through the night. 

This recipe was shared by Adeena Bleich and Sharon Fargo. Read more about their family in "The Lentils That Sustained a Family as They Fled Syria" and try their recipe for shorbat adas (Syrian red lentil soup). 


  • 1 ½  cups wheat berries 
  • 1 whole chicken 
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 4-5 hard boiled eggs, unpeeled
  • Enough boiling water to cover the chicken (about 4-5 cups)
Overnight Main CoursesShabbatMeat Middle East


  • Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 250°.

  • Step 2

    Place the chicken into the center of a large dutch oven. Season all the surfaces of the chicken with 2 teaspoons of salt. Pour the wheat berries around the chicken in the pot. Sprinkle the wheat berries with the remaining salt. 

  • Step 3

    Place 2 eggs on each side of the chicken (on top of the wheat berries). Pour the oil over the chicken, wheat berries and eggs and then pour the boiling water into the pot. 

  • Step 4

    Place a lid on the pot and transfer into the oven. Cook for 8 hours or overnight until the chicken is browned and cooked and the wheat berries are cooked and melted into the juices of the pot.

  • Step 5

    Serve hot.