This homemade harissa recipe is surprisingly easy, and once you learn how to make it, you’ll find a million ways to use it in your cooking.
Harissa is an intensely hot, complexly flavored Tunisian chile paste. It is having a moment, and it’s about time. I’ve been having my own steamy love affair with it for years.
If you’ve ever shared a meal with me, you know how much I love a bold kick of spice. I’m a hot sauce junkie, and I have favorites that vary by cuisine.
For Chinese, I’m all about a simple but hot chili paste or hot chili oil studded with tangy fermented black beans.
Korean food is best fortified with mouth-searing gochujang, the fermented chile paste the cuisine is famous for.
Mexican food—and just about any egg dish—begs for the pure chile heat of an unadulterated hot pepper sauce like Tapatio or my own Homemade Hot Sauce.
And Then There’s Harissa
Harissa was born in North Africa and plays starring roles in virtually every cuisine of that region.
It delivers intense heat, and because it is made with raw garlic and toasted spices, its flavor is deeply complex. At its most basic, harissa paste combines sun-dried chiles, garlic, toasted and ground caraway and coriander seeds, and olive oil.
You’ll see variations that include everything from cumin, saffron, smoked paprika, or tomato paste to rose petals and/or rose water.
Lately harissa is popping everywhere—in marinades for meat and fish; as a condiment for couscous, roasted vegetables, lamb burgers, or falafel; or stirred into soups or stews.
And they even sell a version at Trader Joe’s. The TJ’s version is made in Tunisia and surprisingly tasty. But really, nothing beats homemade harissa. And by learning how to make harissa paste at home, you can customize the heat level and vary the other flavors however you like.
Keep a Jar of Homemade Harissa in Your Fridge
Ideally, homemade harissa should be refrigerated for a day or two before serving to give the flavors a chance to meld together and mellow a bit.
One of the things I love about this harissa recipe is that it lasts a long time—you can keep it, in a glass jar, for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
Homemade harissa paste is easy to make and is a versatile condiment to have on hand. It's great as a buger or sandwich spread or as a marinade or finishing sauce for meat or fish. I also love it on my breakfast eggs. You can use any type of hot red chili you like. Dried cayenne chiles work well. I like to use dried serranos from my garden when I have them. This condiment is meant to be spicy, but if you are using very hot chiles, be careful to remove as much of the ribs and seeds as you can or the result may be unbearably hot.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time1 minute
Additional Time5 minutes
Total Time16 minutes
1 cup dried red chiles, stems, seeds, and ribs removed
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 small garlic clove
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil, plus additional if needed
In a small, heat-safe bowl, cover the chiles with very hot water and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain the chiles, discarding the soaking liquid.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and toast the caraway and coriander seeds, shaking the pan occasionally, until they begin to pop and become aromatic, about 1 minute. Remove the seeds from the hot pan immediately and grind them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
Transfer the chiles to a blender or food processor and add the garlic, ground spices, paprika, salt, and olive oil. Puree to a paste.
Transfer to a clean jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
I highly recommend that you wear gloves when you are handling the dried chilies to remove the stems and seeds. I use disposable nitrile gloves (the kind used for medical exams). I buy them in boxes of 200 for around $15.
Harissa paste will keep, in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator, for up to 3 months.
Jewish recipes are the heart of every Jewish holiday celebration. There’s a special dish (or five!) for every occasion, from the high holidays to Shabbat dinners! Here are my favorite Jewish recipes for the holidays or any day.
Brisket is braised in a mixture of red wine, beef broth, dried fruit, and North African spices for a Mediterranean take on the traditional Jewish holiday dish. This recipe was adapted from a recipe by Jayne Cohen in Bon Appetit.
You can make a gluten-free version by substituting gluten-free brown rice flour for the flour. You can also jazz up the recipe by adding thinly sliced scallions or substituting sweet potatoes, parsnips, or apples for some (or all) of the potatoes. This recipe serves about 4 people and is easily doubled or tripled.
This Instant Pot hummus from scratch starts with dried chickpeas and takes less than an hour to make—and that's start to finish time. There's no need to soak the beans. The result is lush, rich, creamy, and full of flavor.
This is a great way to use up leftover cooked couscous. The dressing can be whisked together in a bowl, but is especially easy to make in a food processor—chop the parsley leaves in the processor first, then add the other ingredients and process until smooth.
Ground lamb is mixed with lots of fresh herbs, aromatics, and spices and then grilled on skewers. I like to serve these with pita bread, hummus, tzatziki, harissa or chermoula, and a salad of romaine, cucumbers, and tomatoes with lemon dressing. Brown basmati rice is a great accompaniment as well.
Pita bread is surprisingly easy to make and watching the rounds puff up in the oven is so, so satisfying. Use them for sandwiches or cut them into triangles and use them to scoop savory Middle Eastern dips like my Instant Pot Hummus, baba ganoush, or tzatziki.
This bright, fresh, kosher for Passover salad—a take on the popular Middle Eastern bread salad called fattoush—gives the plain crackers new life. Spiced, baked matzo “chips” replace the usual flat bread, but other than that, this hearty salad packs all the fresh herby, tangy, spicy flavor you expect from fattoush.
Sufganiyot are traditional Israeli jelly donuts often eaten during Hanukkah, along with other fried foods. Because, of course, fried foods celebrate the miracle of the oil! This recipe makes a simple, lightly sweetened fried dough that can be filled with jelly or the fillling of your choice and dusted with powdered sugar.
Israeli Salad, distinguished by finely diced tomatoes and cucumbers, is described (by Wikipedia) as "the most well-known national dish of Israel." Variations on the theme are limitless. Our version includes hard boiled eggs and feta cheese.