How to make authentic Harissa Paste – a flavorful North African condiment that will add depth, complexity and smoky heat to tagines, meats, stews, and roasted vegetable dishes. Here are two different ways! Video.
 Authentic Harissa Paste Recipe - a north African condiment that will add depth and smokey spice to meats, stews and roasted vegetable dishes. |
Meet my new favorite flavor bomb- Harissa Paste! I’ve been using it on practically everything lately – and love its spicy smoky kick.
Here’s an authentic version of Harissa Paste,  with an additional Quick 5 minute “cheater version” in the recipe notes. Either way, you will love it!
Swirl it into soups and stews, add to tagines and roasted veggies, whisk it into vinaigrette’s, whip it into mayo for a zesty aioli, mix it with a little yogurt for a creamy condiment,  spoon over a piece of grilled fish, or marinate meat and chicken with it. You get the idea!

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.

How to make Authentic Harissa Paste- a North African condiment that will add depth and smokey spice to meats, stews and roasted vegetable dishes. |

Grind your spices and place in a food processor. Add garlic, salt, chili peppers, olive oil and lemon juice. Then add the rehydrated red peppers.

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.

How to make Authentic Harissa Paste- a north African condiment that will add depth and smokey spice to meats, stews and roasted vegetable dishes. |

This recipe makes a cup and a half.

Authentic Harissa Paste Recipe- a north African condiment that will add depth and smokey spice to meats, stews and roasted vegetable dishes. |
TIP: Harissa Paste can be stored in the fridge for months, by covering the top of it with a thin layer of olive oil after each use.

More Harissa Recipes you may like:

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How to Make Harissa Paste – 2 Ways!

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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.


Units Scale

Authentic Harissa Paste 

Quick Harissa Paste (see notes) 


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!


  • Serving Size: 2 teaspoons
  • Calories: 27
  • Sugar: 2.3 g
  • Sodium: 5.6 mg
  • Fat: 1.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.5 g
  • Fiber: 1.8 g
  • Protein: 0.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg






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  1. I can’t find caraway, but a Google search said that it can be substituted with fennel. Do you think that would work? (by the way – I LOVE everything I’ve ever tried on this website. I’m always telling people about it!)

  2. i made the full version, it is very good. the only change i made was to run the paste through a blender, i like it very smooth and creamy. i had preserved limes (lemons are not easily available where i live) and added a whole one, great idea. thank you!

  3. This is my first time making harissa paste, and I now consider it a staple. Beautiful depth and flavor! I used it on my lamb roast, and it was exquisite.

    Question: is it ok to freeze rather than refrigerate?

  4. sylvia! you’ve totally done it again with this amazing harissa!
    i’m starting to forget how i used to make food before i met you 😉

  5. Yum. I noticed that gochugaru flakes work the best due to their subtle smokiness. I also add dried rose hips/petals – try, it works magically. Cheers!

  6. Delicious. My family is Libyan. We just use peppers lemon garlic and salt. I made your recipe this evening and I enjoy it a lot! I’ll be adding this to my Shakshuka tomorrow.

  7. My mother and father are Tunisian. I grew up with the stuff. Our recipe is much simpler. The peppers, garlic, some lemon, and salt. The peppers you are using are perfect. My mother used to tell me the it was dried red peppers from Italy is what we used.


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