Watch how to Make Harissa Paste| 60-second video
What is harissa paste made of?
- Harissa is a flavorful chili pepper paste made from dried chilies, garlic, olive oil and toasted cumin seeds, caraway seeds and coriander seeds. The paste can be made from scratch or these days, purchased at most grocery stores. It is so addicting!
- Harissa recipes vary according to region, but in essence is a blend of chilies, spices, garlic and olive oil.
- The secret to making a good Authentic Harissa Paste-one that is flavorful yet not overwhelmingly hot – is to use a mix of different varieties of dried peppers.
It’s thought to have originated in Tunisia, spreading to the surrounding countries of Morocco, Libya and Algeria.
What Does Harissa Taste Like?
Harissa generally, tastes moderately spicy, smoky, and complex, with robust flavors. But depending on the region or even the household, harissa can differ greatly from area to area!In hotter Saharan regions, Harissa takes on a smokier quality which pairs well with tagines and roasted meats. In Morocco, they often add preserved lemons which gives it a delicious briny brightness.
How to make Harissa paste:
***If short on time or ingredients, see the recipe notes for QUICK 5 Minute “cheater version”!
I prefer to use mostly mild to medium chilies, and just one or two hot ones. Often I will add a smoked chili or two – like chipotles packed in adobo sauce for added depth, smokiness and layers of flavor. The more variety, the more dimensions to the paste.
Make sure to toast your spices to add layers of flavor. Traditionally, the three spices of harissa paste are cumin seeds, coriander seeds and caraway seeds.
But I encourage you to be playful. Listen to what draws you… and create your own version. Sometimes I’ll add cinnamon, smoked paprika or even a little clove, deepening on what I’m using it on. Often I’ll add fresh herbs…. like cilantro or parsley.
Bring dried chilies to a boil in a large pot of water. Turn heat off, cover, and let soak for 1 hour or even overnight.
Drain and remove the stems and seeds, rinsing under running water.
Tip: If wanting to use fresh red peppers, make sure to either roast them first or char them over a grill. You could also roast your garlic for a mellower garlic flavor.
This recipe makes a cup and a half.
More Harissa Recipes you may like:
- Green Harissa Sauce
- Eggplant Chickpea Tagine with Harissa
- Baked Sweet Potato Fries with harissa aioli !
- Sheet Pan Harissa Chicken (or Tofu) with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Harissa Roasted Leg of Lamb
- Smoky Harissa Red Pepper Dip
- Moroccan Eggs with Harissa Yogurt
Authentic Harissa Paste Recipe – a north African condiment that will add depth and smokey spice to meats, stews and roasted vegetable dishes. PLUS a 5-minute “cheater version”! See notes.
Authentic Harissa Paste
- 4 oz dried chilies – (an assortment mild, med, hot, smoked)
- 6–8 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted
- 2 tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or finely minced preserved lemon, and you can add more to taste)
- 1 ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Quick Harissa Paste (see notes)
- Cut stems off the chilies and shake out the seeds. Break apart if you like. Toast the dried chiles in a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes (turn the fan on!) so they release their flavorful oils. Place them in a medium pot of boiling water, simmer 15 minutes, turn heat off, cover, let sit 30 minutes.
- Toast spices and grind them.When the chilies are soft and rehydrated, drain. Place all the ingredients in a food processor – chilies, spices, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, and pulse until desired consistency. If you like a “looser” style add more oil.
- To store, place in sealable jar and drizzle olive oil over top after each use, to preserve. It will last 1-2 months in the fridge. As long as it’s covered with a layer of oil , it should keep well.
The preserved lemon, is especially authentic in Moroccan cooking- and delicious if you want to add it.
To make the Quick Harissa Paste, simply mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Not authentic, but a tasty quick option!
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