Oh, Dangerous Harissa!

I sat down to write a recipe for Harissa and the next moment I found myself opening a jar and eating it with a piece of pita. Just thinking about it makes me feel hungry. I smell it and become even hungrier. I wonder, is it me, or Harissa affects everyone like that?

Look how fiery bright it is! I made it smooth and medium, but it could be chunky and hot, and all the variations in between. The beauty of homemade harissa is that you can adjust it to your taste and use locally available chili peppers, which are plentiful in Texas.

Oh, Multifarious Harissa!

I divide all Harissa recipes into three groups: basic, variable, and exquisite ones. For basic harissas, the list of ingredients is shorter — dried chiles bring heat and fruity flavors, cumin and coriander represent spices, garlic (often sun-dried) adds pungence, salt, and olive oil. Variable harissas may include sun-dried tomatoes and fire roasted sweet peppers, onion, and herbs. Extra fancy harissas have an extensive list of spices and herbs and even include Damask rosebuds. My recipe belongs to the second category.

Just like any other chile-based sauces of the world, harissa can be used for a variety of dishes. Besides traditional Middle-Eastern soups, stews, and tagines, harissa can give an exciting and eclectic modification to pasta and rice, yogurt- and mayo-based sauces, marinades for fish and meat to be grilled, etc.

What is your favorite way to enjoy harissa?

Basic Recipe

  • 4 oz dry chile peppers
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Homemade Harissa

Prep Time25 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keyword: condiment, harissa, sauce, spiced
Servings: 1 pint


  • 1 oz Chipotle Meco smoked chipotle
  • 1 oz Ancho or Pasilla
  • 1/2 cup water hot, 208F
  • 2 each Bell sweet peppers red, fire roasted and peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp mint dry
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  • Prepare dry Chipotle and Ancho chiles. Remove stems, veins, and seeds. Cut to small pieces, place them in a bowl, and pour hot water over. Make them submerge by pressing down. Leave for 20-25 minutes to reconstitute.
  • Preheat a frying pan over high heat and dry roast cumin and coriander seeds until they start popping. Transfer them into the mortar, add salt and mint, and grind using a pestle.
  • Place all the ingredients in a blender jar and blend into a paste with desired smoothness. Transfer it into a clean glass jar, pour the olive oil covering the top, and screw a lid. Keep refrigerated in a closed container for up to 3 months. (I doubt you won't finish it much sooner!)


О-да! Харисса 2010 | lyukum LJ
Но она такая! Такая! (Всё время путаюсь, она это или он!) Золотистая, и сияющая, и пахнет так, что невозможно спокойно фотографировать. Начать утро с лепёшки с хариссой — это я могу. Как я теперь буду дышать весь остальной день? И ещё хочется. Кошмар!
Harissa, mon amour
North Africa's favorite chile sauce is fiery, but also wonderfully nuanced. What's not to love?
September 26, 2007 | Amy Scattergood | Times Staff Writer