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Celebrity Chefs Recipes: Ryan Farr's Harissa Wings

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Photos: Vic Chin, Video: Vic Chin and Peter Ruocco, Words & Recipe: Ryan Farr

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I started making our Alabama White BBQ Sauce, with a little kick from pickled jalapeno juice, to pair with the smoked chicken we served at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on Smoker Thursdays. At the time, we called it Coriander Aioli. White BBQ Sauce is very common throughout Alabama and the South East. It’s a mayo-based BBQ sauce.

While it’s great on all kinds of meat, it shines on smoked chicken and especially on our Harissa Wings. Before we opened 4505 Burgers & BBQ in San Francisco, we spent a lot of time traveling and eating great BBQ and making friends in a lot of different regions. We quickly learned the white sauce we’d always served with fried and smoked chicken was an integral part of Alabama BBQ culture.

Harissa is a North African spice blend that people generally associate with a paste. This recipe makes a dry seasoning powder with enough kick to it to pair nicely with the Alabama White BBQ Sauce.

This is the same harissa that I make for the merguez sausage we sell at the Ferry Building and in our Butcher Shop. Because store-bought harissa paste is so expensive, I decided I would just make it. It definitely took me a few tries, but I was able to perfect the blend (with much thanks to the Rainbow Grocery bulk bins).

Ryan Farr’s Harissa Wings with Alabama White BBQ Sauce

Serves 6-8

Dry rubbed Harissa Wings paired with lemon and Alabama White BBQ Sauce
Dry rubbed Harissa Wings paired with lemon and Alabama White BBQ Sauce (Vic Chin/KQED)


  • 2 pounds chicken wings, flats and drums, tips reserved for stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup Harissa Powder, recipe follows
  • ½ cup picked fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges, for serving
  • 2 cups Alabama White BBQ Sauce, for serving, recipe follows


  1. Preheat oven to 400℉. Set a wire rack inside each of two large baking sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken pieces and olive oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle the harissa powder over the chicken and toss again. Arrange the chicken pieces on the wire racks, in a single layer, making sure that they are not touching each other. Bake until cooked through and crispy, about 20 minutes.
  3. Arrange the chicken on a platter and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a bowl of Alabama White BBQ sauce.

Harissa Powder

Makes approximately 2 ½ cups

  • ½ cup sea salt
  • ½ cup ancho chile powder
  • ⅓ cup granulated garlic
  • ⅓ cup paprika
  • ⅓ cup cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin seed
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground caraway seed
  • 1 ½ teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon dried spearmint


  1. In a large bowl, combine the salt, ancho chile, granulated garlic, paprika, cayenne, sugar, coriander, cumin, pepper, chili flake, chipotle chili, caraway, fennel, and spearmint. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Alabama White BBQ Sauce

Makes approximately 2 cups

  • 2 cups Hellmann’s or Best Foods mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeno liquid from the jar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, pickle juice, salt, pepper, and coriander; mix well.
  2. Serve with Harissa Wings or other BBQ meats. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Chef Ryan Farr holds a plate of his Harissa Wings with a side of Alabama White BBQ Sauce.
Chef Ryan Farr holds a plate of his Harissa Wings with a side of Alabama White BBQ Sauce. (Vic Chin/KQED)


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