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Harissa paste is a fiery and delicious condiment from North Africa that packs a punch. It combines spicy dried guajillo peppers, smoky roasted red peppers, and other tasty seasonings to create a flavor explosion that can elevate any dish!

Harissa paste is most commonly known for making harissa chicken, but it’s actually super versatile. Baste it on some grilled vegetables, add it to your favorite salad dressing, or mix into into homemade hummus for a delicious, fiery kick.

Hero image of harissa paste in a glass jar.

What is Harissa Paste?

Harissa paste is a spicy and flavorful condiment that originates from North African cuisine. It’s made from a blend of chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and a bunch of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, and caraway. This vibrant red paste brings the heat and a smoky, tangy kick to dishes. People in places like Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria use it to jazz up stews, soups, marinades, and dips. You can find it in some grocery stores and places like Trader Joe’s, but I personally like making it from scratch! It’s the secret weapon for adding a spicy punch to your cooking.

So, check out the ingredient list below and break out your spice rack because harissa paste is a must-make! Like other homemade sauces, you can customize it to your liking. Add more heat, tone it down, make it more savory, you name it! Then you have a tasty blend to add heat and flavor to your favorite dishes. Harissa paste is so great! You’ll love having it around.

Is Harissa Paste Like Sriracha?

They’re both spicy sauces, yes, but they have some clear differences. Harissa paste has a thicker consistency and a more deep, smoky flavor. Sriracha sauce is thinner, sweeter, and more tangy thanks to the addition of sugar and vinegar. Both are great, but I wouldn’t recommend using them interchangeably.

Ingredients Needed

I know it looks like a lot, but harissa paste actually uses really simple ingredients! Pick up some peppers and a can of tomato paste from the store, then raid your pantry for all of the spices and seasonings! Note: exact measurements are in the recipe card below.

  • Dried Guajillo Peppers: These dried peppers pack some serious heat and bring a rich, smoky flavor to the harissa paste.
  • Tomato Paste: Tomato paste adds a touch of sweetness and tanginess to balance out the spiciness.
  • Roasted Red Peppers: You can use canned or jarred. Roasted red peppers bring a delightful smokiness to the mix.
  • Garlic Cloves: Garlic is a flavor superstar, and it really shines in harissa paste. It makes it so savory and irresistible!
  • Lemon Juice: Lemon juice adds a bright, citrusy zing that cuts through the richness of the other ingredients.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil not only helps bind all the ingredients together but also contributes a smooth and luscious texture to the harissa paste.
  • Salt: You only need a pinch to bring out the best in all the other ingredients.
  • Spices and Herbs: This recipe calls for a blend of ground caraway, coriander, cumin, and clove. Together, this mixture adds flavor that’s warm, nutty, earthy, and spicy!

How to Make Harissa Paste

It’s so simple! All you have to do is let your peppers soak in hot water and then blend all of your ingredients together. You’ll have a tasty paste ready to use in no time.

  1. Soak Chile Peppers: Add your dried chiles to a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Allow them to soak and soften for about 30 minutes.
  2. Add Other Ingredients to a Food Processor: While your chiles are soaking, place your tomato paste, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and all your spices into a food processor or blender.
  3. Blend: Once your chiles are ready, add them to your food processor or blender and blend everything together until a smooth paste forms.
  4. Use or Store: Remove the harissa paste and add it to a container with a lid. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.
3-photo collage of all the ingredients needed to make the sauce.

Tips and Variations

Here are a few ways to customize and perfect your homemade harissa paste. That’s the beauty of making homemade sauces, you can switch them up however you’d like!

  • Adjust Heat Level: Harissa can be quite spicy, so adjust the amount of chili peppers or harissa paste based on your spice tolerance. You can add more or fewer peppers to control the heat. Start with a smaller amount and gradually increase if desired.
  • Sweeten it Up: If you prefer a touch of sweetness to balance out the heat, consider adding a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar to your harissa sauce. Adjust to taste.
  • Spice it Up: Harissa is all about adding your favorite spices. You can throw in some extra flavors like smoked paprika, chili powder, or a hint of cinnamon for a cool twist.
  • Soften Those Dried Peppers: If you’re using dried chili peppers, soak them in hot water for 15-20 minutes to soften them up. It’ll make them easier to blend into a smooth sauce that’s full of flavor.
  • Allow Flavors to Develop: Let the harissa sauce sit for a while before using it to allow the flavors to meld together. This will enhance the overall taste of the sauce. You can store it in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before using.
Top-down view of a jar of harissa paste with a wooden spoon inside.

How Long Will Homemade Harissa Paste Last?

As long as you keep it in an airtight jar in the fridge, homemade harissa paste will last for about 3 weeks. The ingredients may settle the longer it sits, so give it a quick stir before you use it!

4 pieces of harissa chicken on a white serving dish.

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Harissa Paste

5 from 1 vote
By: Alyssa Rivers
Harissa paste is a fiery and delicious condiment from North Africa that packs a punch. It combines spicy dried guajillo peppers, smoky roasted red peppers, and other tasty seasonings to create a flavor explosion that can elevate any dish!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 1 cup

Ingredients 

  • 6 whole dried guajillo peppers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup canned or jarred roasted red peppers drained
  • 3 whole cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground clove

Instructions 

  • Add your dried chiles to a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Allow them to soak and soften for about 30 minutes.
  • While your chiles are soaking, place your tomato paste, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and all your spices into a food processor or blender.
  • Once your chiles are ready, add them to your food processor or blender and blend everything together until a smooth paste forms.
  • Remove the harissa paste and add it to a container with a lid. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

Nutrition

Calories: 391kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 6gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 21gSodium: 3565mgPotassium: 958mgFiber: 10gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 6444IUVitamin C: 61mgCalcium: 109mgIron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: pantry staple, Sauce
Cuisine: north african
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!
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About Alyssa Rivers

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Alyssa Rivers and the food blogger behind The Recipe Critic. The blog launched in 2012 as a place to share my passion for cooking. I love trying new things and testing them out with my family. Each recipe is tried and true, family-tested and approved.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    great, and yes, have usually just bought this at Trader Joe’s but always better homemade, so thank you!