If you’ve never had harissa before, then I urge you to run, not walk, to the grocery store RIGHT NOW. Too pushy? Sorry. But you’ll thank me later.
I tasted harissa for the first time this year and I think it’s safe to say that I’ve become obsessed with it. Harissa is a thick paste commonly used in North African cooking that is made from dried chiles and various whole spices. It’s incredibly versatile and it can be used to add BIG flavor to any number of foods. It’s great on roasted vegetables or grilled meats. It makes a perfect sandwich spread. It can be stirred into grains, mashed potatoes or hummus. You catch my drift. Essentially, anywhere you want to add a boost of flavor, harissa will do the job.
Don’t be scared off by the color. It may look intimidating, but it’s actually not THAT spicy. It’s got a kick, but it won’t set your mouth on fire. That being said, if you want more spice or a slightly different flavor profile, feel free to customize (harissa recipes do vary slightly depending on regional preferences).
I’ll be sharing ways that I use harissa in some upcoming posts to help you get your creative juices flowing! Update: check out my Harissa Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Coconut Sauce.
A jar of this homemade harissa paste would make a great gift for the chef in your life!
Recipe slightly adapted from The Kitchn
- 3 ounces dried Mexican chiles
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds
- 3/4 tsp. coriander seeds
- 3/4 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. fresh mint leaves
- 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 5 garlic cloves
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Remove and discard the stems and the seeds from the chiles. The easiest way to do this is with your hands (I recommend wearing disposable gloves). The stems should just snap right off and the seeds will easily shake out. Place the chiles in a medium bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them soak in the water for about 30 minutes.
- Toast the caraway, coriander and cumin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, about 2-4 minutes or until they become fragrant, stirring frequently to prevent them from burning. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Once cooled, grind the toasted seeds along with the mint in a spice/coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- Drain the soaked chiles. Place them in the bowl of your food processor with the blade attachment along with the ground spices, salt, garlic cloves, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Process until a smooth, thick paste forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. It will take a couple minutes, so be patient. You can also add another tablespoon of olive oil to keep things moving.
- Transfer the paste to a small, seal-able jar (I like mason jars). Drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the surface. Seal the jar and transfer it to your refrigerator. The harissa will keep for up to a month. As you use the harissa, add a fresh layer of olive oil to keep the surface covered.