How to Make Harissa

Two Methods:Making Basic HarissaMaking Spicy Harissa

Harissa is a hot chili pepper paste that originated in northern Africa, and it’s particularly popular in Tunisia. It’s used to flavor a wide variety of dishes, including meats, soups, stews, fish, and vegetable dishes with chick peas and couscous. There are a lot of regional variations on harissa, but the main components typically remain the same, including red peppers, hot chilies, and spices.


Basic Harissa

  • 1 red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) caraway seeds
  • 1½ tablespoons (22.5 ml) olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 hot red chilies, fresh, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons (9 g) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) salt

Spicy Harissa

  • 8 dried guajillo chilies
  • 8 dried New Mexico chiles
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) caraway seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 g) coriander seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 g) cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) dried mint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon (7.5 g) kosher salt
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Method 1
Making Basic Harissa

  1. 1
    Roast the red pepper. Place an oven rack on the highest level and preheat the oven to high broil. Place the red pepper on a small baking tray and cook it under the broiler for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn the pepper every five minutes to ensure it cooks evenly. The pepper is ready when it’s soft, cooked through, and blackened on the outside.[1]
    • You can also roast the pepper directly on the element of a gas stove instead of under the broiler. Place the pepper over a medium–high flame and cook it for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.[2]
    • When the pepper is done, remove it from the oven or the gas, transfer it to a heat proof bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave the pepper to steam and cool for about 20 minutes. When it’s cool, peel away the skin with your fingers and remove the seeds. Discard the skin and seeds.
  2. 2
    Toast and grind the spices. Turn an element to low heat and warm an empty frying pan. When it’s warm, add the caraway, coriander, and cumin. Turn the seeds often to prevent burning, and continue toasting for about three minutes.[3]
    • Remove the pan from the heat and pour the seeds into a spice grinder. Pulse a few times, until the seeds have been ground to a powder. You can also use a pestle and mortar to grind the seeds.
  3. 3
    Cook the onion, garlic, and chilies. Pour the olive oil into the warm frying pan that you used for the spices and heat it over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and chilies to the pan and cook them for about 10 minutes. You want the ingredients to take on a smoky color and start to caramelize.[4]
    • Any red chilies will do for this recipe, and you can regulate the spiciness of the harissa with different chilies.
    • Mild red chilies include ancho, paprika, chipotle, and cascabel chilies.
    • Medium-hot red chilies include cayenne, Thai, tabasco, and habanero chilies.
    • Hot red chilies include the Bhut jolokia (ghost pepper) and the Trinidad scorpion.
  4. Image titled Make Harissa Step 7
    Blend the ingredients. Transfer all the ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend on low speed to start, then increase the speed to medium as the ingredients start to incorporate. Continue blending until you have a smooth paste.
    • Add extra olive oil as necessary to keep the blender moving.
    • Additional ingredients you can add at this stage include a few sun dried tomatoes or a couple leaves of fresh mint.[5]
    • If you don’t have a blender or food processor, place the ingredients in a bowl and puree them with an immersion blender.
  5. Image titled Make Harissa Step 8
    Transfer to a clean jar and store in the fridge. Once you have a smooth paste, the harissa is ready to use or store for later use. Transfer any leftover harissa to a clean jar, drizzle a layer of olive oil over it to help preserve it, and close the jar with an air-tight lid.
    • The harissa will last in the refrigerator for two to four weeks. When you use the paste, add a bit more olive oil to the top of the jar when you're done.[6]

Method 2
Making Spicy Harissa

  1. 1
    Stem and seed the peppers. With a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, cut the very top off the chilies to remove the stem. Slice open the side of the chilies and open them up to reveal the seeds. With your finger or a spoon, scrape out the seeds and the fleshy veins.
    • You can leave some seeds in the peppers if you want to increase the heat, but the seeds don’t blend very nicely, which is why you remove them.[7]
  2. Image titled Make Harissa Step 4
    Soften the chilies. Put the chilies into a medium bowl and cover them with boiling hot water. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let the chilies soak for about 20 minutes, until they're soft.
    • After 20 minutes, strain out the chilies and reserve the water.[8]
  3. 3
    Toast the spices. Place a dry frying pan over medium–low heat. When it’s warm, add the caraway, cumin, and coriander seeds. Toast the spices for about four minutes, stirring frequently to prevent them from burning.[9]
    • When the spices are ready, transfer them and the mint to a spice grinder or mortar and grind them to a powder.
  4. Image titled Make Harissa Step 7
    Puree the ingredients. Combine all the ingredients and use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender to puree the ingredients into a smooth paste. Add the reserved chili water as necessary to keep the blades moving freely.
    • Additional ingredients you can add now include a few dashes of rose water, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, or a few pieces of preserved lemon.[10]
  5. Image titled Make Harissa Step 8
    Serve and store the harissa. To keep the harissa for future use, transfer it to a clean jar with an air-tight lid and cover the top with a layer of olive oil. Transfer the mixture to the fridge. This recipe will last for about three weeks.[11]
    • When you use the harissa, add a fresh layer of oil to the top to help preserve it.

Article Info

Categories: African Cuisine | Spice Mixes