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


Yield: Makes about 1 cup



  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

21 comments on “Harissa”

  1. Pingback: Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas | Barefoot Musings

  2. Please add me to your mailing list! Can’t wait to see what you’re posting! I’m new to eating more vegan!
    Thank you,

  3. Please add me to your mailing list

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  5. Thank you so much for this recipe I was feeling like an idiot that as an experienced classic chef I didn’t know how to make home made Harissa sauce! sigh…busted!

  6. Please add me to your email list so I can receive your recipes.

  7. Love your recipes; please sign me up! Thank you. 🙂

  8. Love this recipe. I always like to make things from scratch. Please sign me up to your mailing list

  9. Why can’t you set this site up so I can just print out your wonderful recipes and not get 8 wasted pages of other people’s comments which I do not need? Please do this for those who would like to try your recipes, and please put me on your mailing list! Thank you!

    • There is a print button at the top right of the recipe index card. Click it and then you can print the recipe without the rest of the blog post. Hope that helps!

  10. Looking for more healthful, vegan or Mediterranean type recipes. My wife and I are in our 80’s, have given up our sailboat and have taken up kayaking.

  11. This does sound yummy! This may sound silly, but, should we use a particular type of Mexican chile? Some are much spicier than others, right?? Thank you for your help.

    • Hi Kathy! Good question about the peppers. Dried chiles can be confusing as they have lots of different names and depending on where you shop, you may have a lot of choices or relatively few choices. I usually buy the large red ones that come in the cellophane packages. Look for Mexican or New Mexican on the label. More specifically, Guajillo or New Mexican Red are usually the ones I buy. Anchos would also work, but I believe they are a little less spicy.

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