Harissa is a dried chili paste from Tunisia made with garlic, spices, and olive oil. It’s packed with flavor and delicious as a condiment, marinade, or spread.

A bowl of harissa paste on a plate with a spoon next to it.

I discovered Harissa in culinary school, and I loved it so much that I used it in my final exam (the one where you prepare 4 complicated recipes under duress and hope for the best).

I love harissa for its complex flavors but easy prep, and I love how versatile it is. Personally I love it on my scrambled eggs, but traditional uses include cooking meats, chicken, and fish with harissa or stirring into soups and couscous. I can’t wait to try it in hummus!

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Harissa Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Ingredients for harissa paste in bowls, labeled.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Dried chiles: You’ll need 4 ounces of dried chiles, and you can determine how spicy the harissa is based on which ones you choose. Be sure to stem and seed the chiles before soaking.
    • Mild: Guajillo chiles, Ancho chiles
    • Medium:  Puyo chiles, New Mexico (Hatch) chiles, Pasilla chiles
    • Spicy:  Arbol chiles, Morita chiles, Chipotle chiles

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a large bowl, add dried chiles and enough boiling water to cover and submerge (you may need to weigh the chiles down with a plate). Soak for 10 to 15 minutes, until completely softened. Drain well.
Chilies soaking in water in a silver bowl.
  1. Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium-low heat, add caraway seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds. Toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer toasted spices to a small grinder or mortar and pestle and process until finely ground.
Caraway seeds in a sliver pot.
  1. To a food processor, add drained chiles, ground spices, garlic, and salt. Process until a thick paste forms, scraping down the sides as necessary. With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil and process until smooth. Add more salt to taste if desired.
Harissa paste in a blender.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 1 cup of harissa (about 16 tablespoons).
  • Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Freezer: Freeze the paste in small portions for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or add directly to hot soups or sauces.
  • More mix-ins: Customize your harissa with fresh lemon juice, vinegar, red onions, fresh herbs, or sun-dried tomatoes.

Recipe FAQs

What does harissa taste like?

Harissa is a dried chile paste with a spicy, smoky flavor.

What is a substitute for harissa?

Sambal olek is a spicy chile paste with additional flavors such as lime juice, shrimp paste, and ginger. But, in a pinch, it might add the heat you need if harissa is not available.

How do you use harissa?

Add to meats, chicken, fish, and vegetables before cooking. Or, stir into soups, couscous, or hummus. I also personally love it with scrambled eggs!

Harissa Chicken with Rice

Harissa Chicken with Rice is so deliciously rich and complex, everyone will assume it took all day to make. But this easy dinner comes together in minutes, thanks to a North African condiment which does all…

40 minutes
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Put your harissa to work

Harissa in a clear bowl.

Harissa

Harissa is a dried chili paste from Tunisia made with garlic, spices, and olive oil. It's packed with flavor and delicious as a condiment, marinade, or spread.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 16 servings (1 tbsp each)
Course Pantry
Cuisine African
Calories 88

Ingredients 

  • 4 ounces dried chilies stemmed and seeded (see note 1)
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 11/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, add dried chiles and enough boiling water to cover and submerge (you may need to weigh the chiles down with a plate). Soak for 10 to 15 minutes, until completely softened. Drain well.
  • Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium-low heat, add caraway seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds. Toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer toasted spices to a small grinder or mortar and pestle and process until finely ground.
  • To a food processor, add drained chiles, ground spices, garlic, and salt. Process until a thick paste forms, scraping down the sides as necessary. With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil and process until smooth. Add more salt to taste if desired.

Notes

  1. Dried chiles: You’ll need 4 ounces of dried chiles, and you can determine how spicy the harissa is based on which ones you choose. Be sure to stem and seed the chiles before soaking.
    • Mild: Guajillo chiles, Ancho chiles
    • Medium:  Puyo chiles, New Mexico (Hatch) chiles, Pasilla chiles
    • Spicy:  Arbol chiles, Morita chiles, Chipotle chiles
  2. Yield: This recipe makes 1 cup of harissa (about 16 tablespoons).
  3. Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  4. Freezer: Freeze the paste in small portions for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or add directly to hot soups or sauces.

Nutrition

Calories: 88kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 2gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 165mgPotassium: 315mgFiber: 5gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 3969IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 17mgIron: 1mg
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