TIP OF THE DAY: Harissa & How To Use It | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures TIP OF THE DAY: Harissa & How To Use It | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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TIP OF THE DAY: Harissa & How To Use It

Homemade Harissa Paste
[1] Homemade harissa paste. Here’s a template to make your signature recipe (photo © Slow Burning Passion).

Shakshouka With Feta
[2] A classic Tunisian dish, shakshouka, punches up the tomato sauce with harissa (photo © A Better Happier St. Sebastian).

Butternut Squash With Harissa
[3] Hot harissa ports easily to American cuisine, such as this baked squash with maple syrup and pomegranate arils (photo © Cava).

Cheddar With Harissa
[4] How popular is harissa? In England, it’s become a flavoring for English Cheddar (photo © iGourmet).

A Can Of Harissa Paste, a North African Condiment
[5] You can find harissa paste in cans, jars, and tubes (photo © Silk Road Spices).


Like hot and spicy foods? Try harissa, a North African hot paste and sauce originally from Tunisia. It contains peri peri chiles, serrano chiles, garlic, coriander, caraway, and other spices.

This “unofficial condiment of Tunisia” is extremely versatile. In Tunisia, Morocco and across North Africa, harissa flavors almost all of the local cuisine:

  • Couscous or rice
  • Grilled meat or fish
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Soups, stews and stocks
    It’s also served with bread. Harissa is both a flavor enhancer and a condiment used for dipping and spreading.

    While you can purchase harissa in jars, it’s easy to make at home (see the recipe below), where you can adjust the amount of heat with the type or the number of chiles.

    We use smoky chiles: chipotle (dried, smoked red jalapeño) and/or the mild ancho (dried, smoked poblano).

    For serious smoky heat, look for smoky bhut jolokia chiles, a.k.a. ghost chiles (the different types of chiles). Harissa is meant to be hot.

    Beyond heat, harissa delivers a depth of flavor not provided by hot sauces, including sriracha.

    Don’t like a lot of heat? Make red bell pepper sauce instead, and add a pinch of heat: chile flakes or hot sauce to taste.

    Harissa has a place in every meal, from breakfast to dinner. You can even add a bit in a fruit salad for dessert.

  • Beverages, from vegetable juices to Bloody Marys.
  • Breakfast eggs, from a condiment with simple egg preparations or steak and eggs, to a toast spread, to the sauce for shakshouska.
  • Burgers and meatloaf, mixed into the ground meat or the sauce or ketchup.
  • Cheeses, from mild, like ricotta, to tangy, like feta; as a condiment with stronger cheeses on a cheese plate.
  • Chicken wings: mix the harissa with some honey.
  • Dip with crudités.
  • Grilled fish especially hearty fish likesalmon.
  • Hummus, mixed in or used as a garnish on top of the bowl; or as a condiment on a hummus and roasted vegetable sandwich.
  • Pasta and pizza: add harissa to the sauce.
  • Roast chicken, baked ham, as a rub or condiment.
  • Roasted vegetables, especially carrots, fennel, potatoes and squash (toss with the vegetables before roasting).
  • Rubs and marinades: rub directly onto a pork roast, leg of lamb or chicken.
  • Tomato sauce and other vegetable sauces.
  • Vinaigrettes with lemon juice, and creamy salad dressings.
  • Yogurt, plus yogurt sauce for grilled meats and vegetables.

    Seasonings vary widely, but caraway, coriander, and cumin are cornerstones.

    Dried chiles are a key ingredient in harissa. You can use any combination you like.


  • 1 whole roasted red pepper, seeds removed
  • 4 ounces dried red chiles of choice
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • Optional: fresh cilantro or mint, maple syrup, orange juice, roasted carrots, sundried tomatoes, tomato paste

    1. REMOVE the stems and seeds from the chiles. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, remove from the heat and add the chiles. Cover the pot and let the chiles steep until soft, about 20-30 minutes. Drain (you can reserve the water to add flavor to other dishes, from boiled potatoes to poached eggs).

    2. TOAST the spices in a dry skillet on the stove top, until fragrant. Grind them in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Add to a blender or food processor along with the chiles and the remaining ingredients, and purée. You want a thick paste, but can add additional oil to achieve the desired consistency.

    3. STORE in a sterile jar, for six months or longer in the fridge. Cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil to keep the color from oxidizing. Each time you use some paste, add another layer of olive oil before returning to the fridge.


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