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How to Make Homemade Harissa Paste

5 from 3 votes

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Make homemade harissa! It’s one of the world’s most delicious condiments, a deeply flavorful blend of chiles, spices and olive oil. 

A jar of homemade red harissa paste in a glass jar with a spoon

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.

Ingredients for making homemade harissa paste

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.

How to store harissa

You can keep your homemade harissa in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Drizzle a bit of oil over the top and cover securely with a lid.

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 to make with harissa

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!

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How to make homemade harissa

How to Make Homemade Harissa Paste

Karen Tedesco
Make homemade harissa with this easy recipe. You’ll love this rich, red and spicy sauce on just about anything! 
Print Pin
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Additional Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Sauces
Cuisine north african
Servings 16 servings

Ingredients

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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

If you’re sensitive to chiles or don’t work with them often, you might want to wear gloves when handling them for this recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 41kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 222mg | Potassium: 76mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 742IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe? Mention @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Instagram!!

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This looks so much easier than I expected it to be! Can’t wait to make my own harissa at home the next time I head to the grocery store. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. for some reason it never occurred to me to make homemade harissa but this is definitely on my list!

  3. I have never tried harissa before, but it sounds like a real winner, easy to make and can be used n so many ways! thanks for the recipe 🙂