Today you’re going to learn how to make spicy Harissa at home- with just a few simple ingredients! This red chili pepper paste is incredible to add to -basically- everything! Meats, eggs, bread, and veggies get an instant upgrade with this beautiful red hot condiment. Excited?!
Harissa can be compared pretty close to the girl-next-door… the hot Thai sauce, sriracha. It’s hot, has a complex flavour profile, and leaves you thinking about it long after your meal is finished. While you can buy Harissa paste, and even powder, in certain mainstream stores, it is so simple to make at home, and there is nothing like homemade! While traditionally made with a mix of three different chili peppers, I’m sharing a recipe that is more suited for the home cook- less chili pepper variety and more easy-to-find pantry staple spices.
SO, exactly what is Harissa?
While ingredients vary by country and ethnicity, the basic recipe is made of hot peppers, garlic, salt, and lots of olive oil. Then there are the spices- coriander seeds, which we lightly roast to let out all their flavour, cumin, cayenne pepper, smoked salt, and paprika.
In many countries, it serves as a condiment(like ketchup, but totally not!), and in others, as a flavour base for stew, curries, and marinade.
We are using dried Guajillo peppers(you can sub with another spicy variety), and they need to be soaked first to “rejuvenate”. Dried peppers offer up the most complex and surprising flavours, and combined with the other spices in this dish, really create something special.
Where does Harissa originate from?
The name Harissa comes from the Arabic verb “harasa”, meaning “to pound”, or “to break”. In the shuks of Tunisia, it was made in a mortar and pestle fresh for shoppers to buy. I haven’t been to Tunisia, but I have travelled to Morocco, and can vividly imagine this scene! There is truly nothing like a Middle Eastern open “shouk” market, where vendors sell everything under the sun, in as many colours, everything made from scratch.
Originating in Tunisia, this spice has grown to become a staple in Northern Africa- in Tunisia as a rub for meat and a base for stews, in Moroccan cuisine scooped up with a flatbread or served with chicken and couscous, and often seen in Israeli street restaurants topping the famous “Sabich” sandwich, made with pita bread, eggplant and hard boiled eggs.
So, how will I add Harissa to my weekly menu?
If you’re not into making sabich and couscous dishes on a daily basic, fret not!
#1 I add harissa to scrambled eggs in the morning, kind of like tabasco sauce, but so so much better and soooo fresh!
#2 Drizzle your spicy chili paste on fried eggplant or cauliflower for an instant upgrade.
#3 Roast carrots with harissa and honey for a sticky and spicy glaze.
#4 Add Harissa when roasting chickpeas and use for topping your favourite soups and salad.
#5 Use as a rub on chicken and lamb skewers for your next BBQ!
Your newfound love of a chilli paste will last between 6 weeks to 3 months. It needs to be refrigerated. Store in a glass jar with an airtight lid- you will find yourself grabbing for it all the time!
To keep the freshness, after transferring the paste to a jar, it should be covered with about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. This is like a protective layer keeping any bacteria from getting inside.
I hope you love this Homemade Harissa Chili Paste like we do! I love hearing your thoughts in the comment section below- what recipes are your favourites….and what is the current “matzav” in your kitchen! For fun and behind-the-scenes, come and join the fam on Instagram <3
Lots of love, Estee
Thank you 1220 Ceramics for the beautiful little pinch dishes! They are perfect for serving Harissa 🙂
Homemade Harissa(Chili Paste)
- 6 guajillo chilies(large dried hot peppers)
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, whole
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 Tbs white vinegar
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp smoked salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder, granulated
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil (+2 Tbs, divided)
- Place guajillo chilies in a heat proof glass or bowl. Pour over boiling water until the chilies are submerged. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and let sit for 15 minutes. This will rehydrate the peppers. Drain the peppers(place them in a strainer), open them up and remove the stems and most of the seeds. It's okay for some seeds to be left. You might want to wear gloves for this!
Toast coriander seeds
- Heat up a small pan over medium heat and add the coriander seeds. Toast until fragrant, 3 minutes. Place them in a food processor fitted with the "S" blade attachment, and add the garlic. Pulse. Add the cleaned chili peppers, and pulse until a paste forms. (alternatively, you can grind the ingredients with a mortar and pestle, if you have one- this is the traditional way to do it).
- Add the lemon juice, vinegar, paprika, salt, cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper, and process for about a minute. The paste should still have texture but be on the smoother side. With the processor running on low, drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil. Process until olive oil is incorporated.
- Transfer the Harissa paste to a glass jar, cover the top with 2 Tbs olive oil, and close with an airtight lid. Store in the fridge.