Harissa: North African Chili Paste

Harissa in bowl with spring onions in background
Jean-Blaise Hall / Getty Images
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 1 mins
Soaking time: 30 mins
Total: 51 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
8 Calories
0g Fat
2g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 8
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 271mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 19mg 94%
Calcium 9mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 50mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Tunisian in origin, harissa is a delicious red chile pepper condiment now accepted as part of Moroccan cuisine. Dried red chile peppers are ground to a paste with garlic, spices, lemon juice, and olive oil. Some Moroccan recipes also include tomato paste or purée, or roasted red bell peppers, but this is a more classic version.

You can use a small processor, blender or immersion blender to make harissa, but this quantity is easily made in a large mehraz, or mortar and pestle.

Any single variety or mix of dried chile peppers will work, so select your peppers according to your desired heat. If you find your harissa is hotter than you expected, try mixing in some puréed roasted red bell peppers or tomato paste to reduce the pungency.

Harissa is sometimes added with other ingredients during cooking, but most often it's offered on the side as a condiment. Serve it with tagines by placing a small spoonful on the side of the dish—you can dab your bread in the chile paste before moving on to the meat, sauce, and veggies.


Steps to Make It

  1. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chile peppers and place them in a bowl.

  2. Pour boiling water over the chile peppers; leave the peppers to soften for 30 minutes to an hour.

  3. While the peppers are soaking, heat a skillet over medium heat until hot.

  4. Add the whole spices and toast until fragrant, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.

  5. Remove the pan from the heat and grind the spices with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Set aside.

  6. Drain the chile peppers and gently squeeze out excess water with a paper towel.

  7. Using a mortar and pestle (or a blender or mini food processor) grind the chile peppers, garlic, salt and spices to a paste.

  8. Add the lemon juice and just enough olive oil to moisten the harissa to the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

  9. Store unused harissa in an airtight glass container in the fridge. For long storage, lightly top the harissa with a little oil before closing.