Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Harissa

Homemade Harissa

Harissa is the classic flavor of Tunisia, a fiery hot sauce that is widely used across Algeria and Morocco as well. Plenty of dried hot chili peppers, garlic and roasted cumin seeds give harissa a characteristic burst of fire that works wonderfully as a condiment for couscous, flatbreads and vegetables and also as an ingredient in soups, stews and salad dressings. If you're looking for a creative way to spice up any of these kinds of dishes, try adding a little harissa — but be sparing with it until you're used to it!

This is a typical version of harissa, although caraway seeds and tomatoes are often used in variations. It's pretty easy to prepare, especially if you use a blender or food processor rather than the traditional method of grinding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. It keeps well for a good many months when stored in a jar with a tight-fitting lid with olive oil poured over the top.

Homemade HarissaHomemade Harissa
Recipe by
Cuisine: North African
Published on May 19, 2007

Plenty of dried hot chili peppers, garlic and roasted cumin seeds give this traditional Tunisian condiment a characteristic burst of fire that works wonderfully for couscous, flatbreads, vegetables, soups, stews and salad dressings

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 24 dried whole red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 4 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • Place the chilies in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 20 to 30 minutes until softened.

  • Meanwhile, heat the coriander and cumin seeds in a frying pan over medium heat for five minutes or until they become aromatic. Grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle or with a coffee or spice grinder.

  • Drain the chilies when they are soft, and place in a small blender or food processor with the coriander and cumin powder, garlic and salt. Blend together while trickling in the olive oil until the sauce has a thick salsa-like consistency.

  • Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid with olive oil poured over the top for up to 4 months.

Makes about 1 cup


Jacqueline Meldrum said...

Thanks for the recipe! I have everything here to make it! I have the option of dried chilli flakes or fresh chilli. What do you think?

Lisa Turner said...

Hey Holler;

Though the best choice is whole dried chillies, I'd recommend using the dried chili flakes instead of the fresh ones.

Also, either tonight or tomorrow, I will be posting a recipe for a chickpea salad with feta cheese that calls for Harissa. Stay tuned.

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

I am going to try out the harissa tomorrow! I have some Jam jars at the ready, so i am all prepared! That reminds me I will have to make some more jam as I am on my last jar and my mum has ran out too!

Reg said...

Lisa - how about a trade, a couple of jars of my homemade salsa sauce for one cup of harissa?

Lisa Turner said...


Let's make a deal! That sounds like a yummy trade, so long as you don't put meat in your salsa!

Thistlemoon said...

Man, I love Harissa. I love making it as well. It goes great with eggs any style!

Jari said...

Oh I love harissa too, once I started making it I always have a jar around the house. My favorite part though is when you toast the spices, press the dried chilis down on the hot dry skillet with a spatula until they're a little blistered and maybe blackened depending on your tastes. It gives such an amazing flavor to it. so fun to mix different types of chilis and see what flavors you can make. The other amazing thing about it is it goes on/in everything, like mix with simple syrup to make sweet chili sauce, vinegar and sugar for hot sauce, pasta sauce for better pasta sauce...mmmm...