Harissa Harissa is a North African chili sauce that is typically associated with Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.  Recipes for Harissa can vary greatly from region to region; however most recipes have chili pepper, garlic and olive oil.  This Harissa features a combination of California and Guajillo chili peppers, lemon, garlic, tomato, olive oil and a slew of wonderfully fragrant spices (all spices can easily be found at your local grocery store).  Harissa can be used in many different ways.  Here are some ideas: Mix a few spoonfuls of Harissa with plain yogurt and use as a dip or marinade.  Toss with fresh pasta and vegetables for a spicy fusion dish.  Spread a thin layer of Harissa on your burger bun for an exotic alternative to ketchup.  Continue reading for the recipe.

Chili Peppers

Adapted from the New York Times.

5 medium dried red chili peppers, stems removed*
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup tomato paste

Harissa Soak chili peppers in vinegar for at 30 – 45 minutes (until soft).  Add chilies, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and olive into a food processor and process until smooth.

In a small frying pan, lightly toast coriander and fennel seeds (no need to add oil).  Grind up spices with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.  Add ground coriander and fennel seeds to the food processor with pepper, allspice, nutmeg, salt and tomato paste.  Process until smooth (drizzle in extra olive oil if the mixture seems too thick).

Makes 1 cup.

* I used a mixture of 3 california chili peppers and 2 guajillo chili peppers and my Harissa turned out spicy and flavorful (but not 5 alarm)!  Feel free to experiment with different types of dried chili peppers.  Dried chipotle peppers will give your Harissa a smokier flavor.



  1. says

    I love spicy stuff so Harissa has always been high on my list of things to try. Although I have never gotten round to it, your recipe doesn’t look too difficult so I should give it a try. Your photos looks beautiful.

  2. says

    I am getting fixated to everything you make and your beautiful pictures….I just used this spice in a recipe – but I didn’t make it – I bought it!

  3. says

    I love the photos! To be honest I have always liked harissa but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was..thanks for the inventive ideas on using it!

  4. Brandon Matzek says

    @Katie B Harissa will last for a while in the fridge as long as you keep the top covered with a thin layer of olive oil.

    @Gina I’ll have to try mixing a spoonful in some hummus. Great idea!

    @Jason Phelps Thanks! I hope you give it a try.

    @Kooky Girl That is a great addition. I would think a spoonful of this would go very well in a chicken soup.

  5. Brandon Matzek says

    @Stephanie You could certainly mix a spoonful in with soup or toss with pasta. I recently stirred a spoonful of Harissa in with some ketchup to make a flavorful dipping sauce for chicken tenders (I love my dippies)! Perhaps try mixing some in with warmed cream cheese for a dip. Anyone else have some ideas? Thanks!

  6. Andrew says

    Harrissa with eggs is great. Harissa with potatoes. Harrissa with Tuna really anything that is bland that you would like to “kick up a notch”


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