Harissa Paste is a spread made of chiles, spices, and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s not necessarily spicy, although it can be, and it makes a delicious marinade for chicken.

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

Recipe ingredients:

Labeled ingredients for harissa paste.

Ingredient notes:

Use this guide to help you figure out which chiles to use based on how fiery you like your harissa.

  • Mild: New Mexico or Guajillo chiles, roasted bell peppers
  • Medium:  puyo, morita, ancho, pasilla chiles
  • Spicy:  Arbol chiles
  • Smoky (and spicy!): chipotle chiles

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Soak the whole dried chillies in a bowl of boiling water and let them hydrate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight on the counter.
    Chilies soaking in water in a silver bowl.
  2. While the peppers are soaking, gently roast the cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds in an un-oiled skillet over low heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Keep the pan moving so the seeds don’t scorch. Once they’re toasted, grind them up using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
    Caraway seeds in a sliver pot.
  3. Next, when the peppers are soft, drain them and remove the stems. I use gloves to deseed peppers (contact lens alert!) so I don’t burn my eyes later. Add them to the bowl of a food processor, along with the sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, ground spices, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt, mint, and cilantro.
    Harissa paste ingredients in a blender.
  4. Purée the mixture into a thick paste, scraping down the sides so everything gets mixed together. Dip your pinky in and taste. Does it need more salt? Add a bit and pulse. Missing a little acidity? Squirt a wedge of lemon juice or lemon zest in the bowl and mix again.
    Harissa paste in a blender.
  5. Store the harissa paste in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and use liberally.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Harissa: Pronounced ha-RISS-uh
  • Dried or fresh chiles: You can use either one or a combination of both. But remember: Adding lots of “fresh” ingredients adds extra water to the paste, so it could turn into more of a sauce.
  • Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Freezing: Freeze the paste in small portions for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or add directly to hot soups or sauces.
  • Vinegar: Substitute your favorite vinegar for the lemon juice.
  • Smoky: Use some smoked paprika in place of the cayenne pepper.

Tasty uses for harissa:

  • Mix some into Greek yogurt or mayo and spread on your leftover meatloaf sandwich.
  • Toss chickpeas in harissa before roasting in the oven as part of a sheet pan dinner.
  • Stir into homemade hummus.
  • Roast carrots with harissa for a delicious balance of sweet and spice.
  • Harissa Chicken with roasted chickpeas, white rice, carrots, and a creamy yogurt sauce. Amazing!

Three white plates of Harissa chicken and rice.

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

Harissa Paste

Harissa Paste is a spread made of chiles, spices, and sun-dried tomatoes. It's not necessarily spicy, although it can be, and it makes a delicious marinade for chicken.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Pantry
Cuisine African
Calories 88

Ingredients 

  • 4 ounces dried chilies (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 tablespoon oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions 

  • Place chilies in a large heat-proof bowl. Cover with boiled water and let sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  • Meanwhile, add caraway seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds to a dry skillet. Toast over the lowest possible heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Shake frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.
  • Transfer toasted spices to a small grinder or mortar and pestle. Process until finely ground.
  • Drain the chillies well. Remove the stem and seeds from each chili (wearing gloves is recommended) and transfer to a food processor.
  • To the food processor, add ground spices, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, mint leaves, cilantro, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and salt. Process until a thick paste forms, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  • With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Transfer to an air-tight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months (see notes).

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Harissa: Pronounced ha-RISS-uh
  2. Dried or fresh chiles: You can use either one or a combination of both. But remember: Adding lots of "fresh" ingredients adds extra water to the paste, so it could turn into more of a sauce.
  3. Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  4. Freezing: Freeze the paste in small portions for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or add directly to hot soups or sauces.
  5. Vinegar: Substitute your favorite vinegar for the lemon juice.
  6. Smoky: Use some smoked paprika in place of the cayenne pepper.
Use this guide to help you figure out which chiles to use based on how fiery you like your harissa:
  • Mild: New Mexico or Guajillo chiles, roasted bell peppers
  • Medium:  puyo, morita, ancho, pasilla chiles
  • Spicy:  Arbol chiles
  • Smoky (and spicy!): chipotle chiles

Nutrition

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

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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