Harissa is a famous and versatile North African red chili paste that will add incredible flavor, color, and kick to your food! It’s easy to make and keeps for several weeks in the fridge!
Harissa is a fiery North African chili paste that is popular in Tunisian and Algerian cuisine but is perhaps most commonly associated with Moroccan food.
This harissa recipe is easy to make. It’s made up of dried chiles, olive oil, garlic and spices. The dried chilies are reconstituted in boiling water, the whole spices are toasted and ground, and everything is pulsed in a food processor or blender (or use a mortar and pestle) until a chunky paste is formed.
Once you’ve made your own you’ll never use store-bought again. The flavor of homemade harissa is much bolder and vibrant than any commercially made product. Whip up a batch in minutes, keep it in your fridge and use it whenever you want to add flavor, color and kick to your food!
How To Use Harissa
The sky’s the limit for this versatile sauce but here are a few ideas to get your started:
- Burgers – mix it into the burger meat or swirl it into your mayonnaise or ketchup.
- Fry Sauce – stir it into your mayonnaise for a kickin’ dipping sauce!
- Marinade or Rub – it’s perfect for meat, poultry and fish.
- Fish Tacos
- Sauces & Stews – a little goes a long way to adding a terrific depth of flavor with a touch of heat.
- Roasted Vegetables – toss your veggies with some harissa before roasting them in the oven.
- Yogurt Sauce/Dressing – a spicy and refreshing sauce for grilled meats and for salads.
- Salad Dressing – a touch of this is great in your vinaigrettes too.
- Hummus – stir a little harissa in for additional flavor and some kick!
- Pasta – add some to your tomato sauce.
- Pizza – add some to the pizza sauce.
- Eggs – if you’re a fan of adding Tabasco sauce to your eggs, just wait until you try this!
How To Make Harissa
Let’s get started!
You can use a variety of red chili peppers, it’s your choice. New Mexico and Guajillo chilies work well. I use and recommend this brand or freshness and flavor.
Note: If you don’t want the harissa to be scorchingly hot, cut open the dried chilies and remove the seeds and membranes. (It’s always advised to use gloves for this.) Put the dried chilies in a bowl.
Pour boiling water over the dried chilies and let them sit for 20 minutes.
While the chilies are soaking heat a small skillet over medium heat and toast the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds, frequently stirring them, until very fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to scorch them or they will be bitter. Let the spices cool completely and then transfer them to a spice or coffee grinder and grind them to a fine powder. I’ve been using my KRUPS coffee/spice grinder for over 10 years and it’s still going strong.
Drain and squeeze the chiles to release as much liquid as you can. Add them to a food processor along with the ground spices, olive oil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Process to a smooth paste. Add more olive oil if it’s too dry.
Transfer the paste to a glass jar and pour some extra olive oil on top, about 1/4 inch in depth. After each use, top it off with olive oil. Store in the fridge where it will keep for about 3 weeks.
Try this homemade harissa in our delicious:
Moroccan Chicken, Apricot and Almond Tagine
Spicy Moroccan Veggie Burgers
Harissa (North African Chili Paste)
- 16 dried red chilies (New Mexico and guajillo chilies work well, remove seeds, membranes and stems. If you want a really hot paste, leave the membranes)
- 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Put the dried chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for 20 minutes. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and dry roast the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds, frequently stirring them, until very fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Let them cool completely and then transfer them to a spice or coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle) and grind them to a fine powder.
- Next, drain and squeeze the chiles to release as much liquid as you can. Add them to a food processor along with the ground spices, olive oil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Process to a smooth paste. Add more olive oil if it’s too dry. Transfer the paste to a glass jar and pour some extra olive oil on top, about 1/4 inch in depth. After each use, top it off with olive oil. Keep refrigerated. Will keep for about 3 weeks.Makes about 1 cup.
Filomena Sayão says
How to use fresh chillies instead of dried? thanks filomena, Brazil
If we wanted to tone down the heat, would ancho peppers work? Maybe a combo of ancho and guajilo. Thanks for your input. I love your articles.
Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet says
Hi Robin, yes you can either or a combo of those. Thank you and happy cooking! :)
I followed this recipe exactly (not something I usually do) and it is just perfect. Thank you!