Make homemade harissa! It’s one of the world’s most delicious condiments, a deeply flavorful blend of chiles, spices and olive oil.
If you’re looking for an easy way to add big, bold flavor to anything you eat, say hello to homemade harissa.
Harissa is an essential pantry staple in my kitchen, right next to lemons, olive oil and this addictive fresh green sauce.
Where to buy harissa
You can buy harissa paste in jars or tubes in many grocery stores, often in the condiment aisle in stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
But aside from my one or two of my favorite brands (which is not always easy to find), I’m often disappointed with the flavor and quality.
The good thing is that it’s really not difficult to make harissa at home.
All you really need is a small food processor to blend the mixture.
Once made, harissa keeps well in the fridge for weeks.
What is harissa?
Harissa is a condiment from North Africa, specifically the Mediterranean regions of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
Basically, harissa is a blended paste of red peppers, dried chilies, garlic, spices and olive oil.
How to make harissa
While there’s no one single way to make harissa as recipes vary from place to place and cook to cook, what they usually have in common is the complexity of chile peppers.
I absolutely love chiles, but I’m not a fan of unbearably fiery-hot sauces because they dull the flavor of everything else in my mouth.
The key to making the most flavorful harissa without burning heat is the judicious use of different types of chiles.
Compared to its cousins in the hot-sauce world like sriracha, gochujang and Chinese chili-garlic sauce, harissa actually isn’t that hot.
Harissa includes a combination of dried chiles in the medium range of the Scoville heat scale, and sometimes even roasted mild, sweet red bell peppers.
Dried chile peppers to use in homemade harissa:
- Ancho: Dried version of the fresh poblano pepper. It’s the sweetest of all dried chiles, with mild heat and fruity overtones.
- De Arbol: Small pepper related to cayenne pepper, with a medium-hot spiciness.
- Guajillo: Shiny-skinned dried chile with a vibrant brick-red color and a sweet, mild heat level.
In addition to dried chilies, this recipe also calls for sun-dried tomatoes.
They add even more concentrated flavor to the paste and balance out its pungency.
Cooking with harissa
Incorporating harissa into your everyday cooking will elevate even the simplest vegetables or lean protein into something special.
When the harissa is chilled it will thicken in texture.
To use, just leave it out at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, or stir a few tablespoons of harissa with a little water to make a sauce.
Easy Recipes Using Harissa
- Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad
- Moroccan Sheet Pan Chicken Tray Bake
- Harissa Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
You can add straight-from-the-fridge harissa into a bowl of warm farro, short grain rice or other hearty grain — it will melt deliciously and season the dish.
You can also season meat, fish or vegetables with before roasting, and spoon it over eggs to make a savory breakfast with tons of flavor!
How to Make Homemade Harissa Paste
Makes about 1 cup
- 2 guajillo chiles
- 1 ancho chile
- 5-6 chiles de arbol
- 5 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1/2 teaspoons coriander seed
- 1 tablespoon (15 mk) sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Break the chiles open. Remove the stems and shake out most of the seeds and discard. Put the chiles in a bowl along with the sun-dried tomatoes and cover with boiling water. Let it all soak until soft and pliable, up to 30 minutes depending on dryness.
- Toast the spices in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until they just become fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Put the chiles in a small food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Process to form a relatively smooth paste. Taste and season with additional salt, vinegar or lemon juice if you like.
- Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks.