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Harissa paste is a hot, earthy condiment from North Africa. Although you can buy it ready-made, once you’ve seen how easy it is to make yourself you’ll never look back! Plus, this homemade version allows you to completely control just how hot you want it!
What is it?
Harissa is a North African chilli-based paste that originates from Tunisia. It’s incredibly flavoursome and hugely versatile (see suggested uses below). It combines blended chillis with a variety of warming spices.
The name comes from the Arabic word ‘to pound’ based on how harissa is traditionally made (by pounding and mashing up the chillis). However, I typically use a blender when whipping up harissa – which is a lot easier all round!
What type of chilli should I use?
If, like me, you are in a location where you don’t really have a vast choice of different dried chillis to buy (or you don’t know where the heck to even look!) then don’t fret – you can buy some generic dried chilli from Amazon. They are also really cheap and a packet will keep for years and last for many batches of Harissa.
I recommend adding a few chillis at a time to the paste and testing, as the heat can drastically vary from chilli to chilli. Plus this way you can really tailor the result to your own tastes.
However, if you want to go the authentic route, and you can manage to get your hands on dried Baklouti peppers then this is the traditional pepper used in the dish. Although they are quite a large chilli, they are fairly mild, so still use a similar amount of them.
Alternatively, if you can get your hands on Mexican dried Guajillo chillis (available on Amazon) then these are fairly similar to Baklouti as they are also large and again, fairly mild.
What can I serve it with?
There are countless uses for harissa! Serve it on top of a pizza, stirred through pasta or smother it over chicken, vegetables or fish before baking. It adds immense flavour to anything you pair it with – just remember that it is quite spicy so a little goes a long way!
Some great ideas are:
- In this harissa chicken traybake.
- On these Mediterranean roasted vegetables – use it in place of the balsamic vinegar.
- Smothered on this garlic pizza bread to add a little heat to a snack or starter.
- In place of the sweet chilli sauce on this easy salmon foil packet dish.
- Instead of the red pesto in this comforting pasta.
- Dolloped onto bubble and squeak to add an extra flavour dimension and warmth
Can you eat it raw?
You can absolutely eat Harissa paste raw – it’s great as a dipping sauce for crudites. Or you can use it in place of chilli sauce – dollop it on top of shawarma or fries for an extra delicious kick!
How long does it keep?
Harissa paste can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 month. Make sure to sterilise the jar first by washing the jar and lid very well in hot soapy water, then transferring to a warm oven to dry. In between uses pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface of the paste to prevent air from getting to it.
You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Transfer to a freezer-proof container and press clingfilm on the surface before adding the lid to prevent freezer burn.
For a full list of ingredients with measurements jump to the printable recipe card.
- Dried chillis – see notes above on types of chillis
- Large garlic cloves, crushed or grated
- Extra virgin olive oil – use a good quality oil
- Lemon juice
- Tomato puree (note: In the UK look for tomato puree and in the US look for tomato paste – it’s that thick tomato substance often sold in tubes that you want!)
- Ground coriander
- Ground cumin
- Caraway seeds
- Sweet paprika – or you can alternatively use smoked paprika
How to make it
For more detailed instructions with recipe tips jump to the printable recipe card.
- Snip the tops off the chillis and (optional) pour out the seeds and discard them.
- Place the chillis in a bowl. and pour over boiling water. Leave for 30 minutes.
- Drain the chillis and add around a third of them to a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients and season well with salt and pepper. Blitz until you have a smooth paste. Taste and add more chillis until you get the desired level of heat.
Looking for more great sauce and chutney recipes? Try:
- Sugar-free sweet chilli sauce
- Red pesto
- Spiced pear chutney
- Hummus without tahini
- Beetroot hummus
- Healthy homemade tzatziki
- Italian salsa verde
Products that work well for this recipe:
Magnetic Spice Rack – Set of 12
Russell Hobbs 3-in-1 Blender
Snack and Dip Bowls
Hot, earthy and delicious. This Harissa Paste is super easy to make at home and is great as a dip, for rubbing over meat or even spooning onto pizza.
The default recipe makes 4 portions (of 2 tbsp each)
- 5–15 dried chillis (see note 1 & 2)
- 4 large garlic cloves, crushed or grated
- 60ml / 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 lemon – juice only (around 2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp tomato puree (see note 3)
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 tsp sweet paprika (see note 4)
- Use scissors to snip off the top of the chillis and tip out the seeds. (see note 5)
- Place the chillis in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 30 minutes.
- Drain the chillis and transfer around a third of them to a food processor/blender.
- Add the remaining ingredients and season well with salt and pepper. Blitz until you have a smooth paste. Taste and add more chillis until you reach the heat you want.
- Transfer to a sterilised jar with a lid (see note 6). Cover with a thin layer of olive oil between uses to prevent air from getting to the paste. Keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- Type of chillis – If you don’t have a wide selection available you can buy some generic dried chilli from Amazon. However, if you want to go the authentic route, and you can manage to get your hands on dried Baklouti peppers then this is the traditional pepper used in the dish. They are also quite large and fairly mild. An alternative to Baklouti is Mexican dried Guajillo chillis (available on Amazon) as they are also large and again, fairly mild.
- The reason for such a wide number of chillis stated in the recipe is because there is such a broad spectrum of heat depending on which chillis you use. Around 10 works for me (using generic, small red chillis)
- In the UK you’ll need to look for tomato puree and in the US look for tomato paste – it’s the very thick tomato paste that you can buy in tubes or small pots that you need!
- You can use smoked paprika instead – I just like the extra sweet notes that sweet paprika brings.
- If you like things very hot then you can skip the step of tipping out the seeds (and I’m sure this suggestion will make many chefs shudder). However, the seeds hold most of the heat in chillis so this will make it a little more palatable for many.
- To sterilise a jar first wash it really well with soapy water, including the lid. Then transfer the jar and lid to a warm oven to dry.
- You can also freeze the harissa for up to 3 months. Stir well to mix if it has separated when defrosted.
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Blend
- Cuisine: Tunisian
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 155
- Fat: 14g
- Carbohydrates: 7g
- Protein: 1g
Keywords: sauce, seasoning, dip, paste, tunisian, north african, spicy, hot, tomatoes