homemade harissa

One of my secret food shames is that I don’t love spicy foods as much as would probably make me cool these days. I’ve got no Thai chile-eating bravado, no Sichuan peppercorn count to throw around, and I never even once in college went to one of those Buffalo wings places where they make you sign a waiver (such as the delightfully named, late Cluck U Chicken near Rutgers University) and lived to brag about it, the way others might boast about how much they bench press or how fast they run a mile (nope, nothing to swagger about there either). My ideal hot sauce can’t be found among my husband’s collection of Tapatio, Cholula and Sriracha, but in this Mild Sauce for Hot People, one of the few little orange bottles that I feel really understands my appreciation of heat in food, but not so much that it overwhelms everything. I accept that this makes me culinarily a wuss.

the chiles I used
boiling water to soften dried chiles

Yet I adore harissa, a Northwest African chile pepper paste with red peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic, coriander, caraway. Of course, when a condiment is used everywhere from Tunisia and Libya to Algeria and Morocco, you’re bound to find as many versions of it as there likely are people who make it, so there are recipes with cumin, lemon juice or even smoked chiles. There’s no one correct way to make it.

a very roasted red pepper

what you'll need
toasting spices, if you please

But there is the way I like it. In case you didn’t believe me when I’ve said that my queue of recipes I hope to share here one day is very, very long, I first made harissa in 2008, after The Wednesday Chef made a riff on the one Amy Scattergood had shared in the LA Times the fall before, mostly because I’ll cook anything Luisa Weiss tells me to. Using roasted red peppers, rehydrated chiles, garlic, spices and my favorite totally unhip ingredient, sundried tomatoes, it’s everything I wish bottled hot sauce were — robust with complex flavors, not just a vinegary punch.

to blend

So what can you put it on? All of the things, really; fish, meat, couscous, beans or soups. You could swirl it into yogurt for a lovely marinade or mayo for a glorious dip. In my first cookbook, I made a honey-harissa vinaigrette for a roast carrot and parnsip farro salad and in the archives, there’s a beloved carrot salad with mint, feta and harissa. It’s had it’s fair share of play lately atop crispy eggs and latke waffles. It would be welcome in a fall-toush salad, or be an excellent gift for the “hotties” in your life, in small jars, although make extra, because I find this stuff hard to share.

homemade harissa

One year ago: Potato and Broccolini Frittata
Two years ago: Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas
Three years ago: Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble
Four years ago: Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese
Five years ago: Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers
Six years ago: Meatballs and Spaghetti and Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad
Seven years ago: Pumpkin Butter and Pepita Granola
Eight years ago: Wild Mushroom and Stilton Galette

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Avocado Cup Salads, Two Ways
1.5 Years Ago: Yogurt Panna Cotta with Walnuts and Honey
2.5 Years Ago: Cinnamon Toast French Toast
3.5 Years Ago: Crispy Potato Roast

Homemade Harissa
Adapted from Amy Scattergood and Wednesday Chef

Which dried chiles to use? From Amy Scattergood: “Although you can make harissa out of virtually any dried chile that suits your personal heat index, most traditional harissas use chiles that are only about as hot as anchos or pasillas. Guajillo and New Mexico chiles, according to cookbook author Paula Wolfert, are the closest to the peppers of Nabeul and Gabès in Tunisia. Use one or both, or add a few chipotle chiles into the mix: The smokiness of the chipotles adds a terrific earthy note. Or, if you like more heat, add a generous handful of chiles de arbol or even some red-hot Thai chiles — the flavors will mellow a bit, though not that much.” For the total of 4 ounces dried chiles, I used a mix of 2 ounces negro, 1 ounce ancho and 1 ounce chipotle chiles.

My other changes were adjustments to personal taste; I used much less garlic than the 4 cloves originally recommended, as I didn’t want it to overwhelm (and a single clove of the stuff I get at farmer’s markets is usually quite strong). And I added a little cumin, because I love it here. Finally, Amy recommends only using half your roasted red pepper but I always use all of it. We already know I’m a wimp about heat, but the final harissa doesn’t suffer any mildness because of it, just an extra boost of flavor. The recipe below includes these adjustments.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 large red bell pepper
4 ounces dried chiles (see suggestions above)
3 sun-dried tomatoes, dry-packed
2 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander (1 1/2 teaspoons seeds, toasted and ground)
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway (or 1 teaspoon seeds, toasted and ground)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (or 1 teaspoon seeds, toasted and ground)
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for storage

Roast your red pepper: You can do so in a 350°F oven, turning it every 15 minutes for a total of 45 to 60, until it’s deeply roasted on all sides. Some people prefer to do this over a gas flame, but be sure you cook it long enough that’s it truly soft inside, so it will blend well. Set aside to cool — you can do this in a bowl with foil or plastic over it, but I find it’s just as easy to peel a well-roasted pepper even if it’s cooled right on the tray, without the added steam. Once cool enough to handle, peel and seed the pepper.

Meanwhile, place dried chiles and sundried tomato in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes, until well-softened. Drain and with gloved hands, if you don’t like living on the edge, remove the seeds and stems from the chiles. The sundried tomatoes can be used as-is.

Place roasted red pepper, rehydrated chiles, tomatoes, garlic, salt and spices in a blender or food processor with 1 tablespoon olive oil and blend until it becomes a thick paste; a little water may be necessary to help this along. Store in the fridge, topped with a thin layer of olive oil. Use on everything.

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155 comments on homemade harissa

  1. val

    I can so relate to the feeling of wussness. I do fine with Mexi-spicy, Indian-spicy, and most spicy cuisines, but I just can’t with Thai. It has to be some quality of the peppers. I make my own curry pastes so I can temper it. I’ve been making my own harissa for years, too, using Deborah Madison’s recipe. It is so easy–and as you’ve shown here, easy to adjust to your liking. Last weekend I had roasted butternut squash with a sauce made of yogurt with harissa swirled in (a la Ottolenghi)–this will be slathered on everything from now on!

  2. I can’t take the heat either! So I’m reassured that you are obviously making harissa and able to tolerate it. Really appreciate the foundation of red pepper, hate most peppers but loved the orange/red/yellow ones…maybe because they’re sweeter and help me handle the spice better? Intrigued by such a combination of spice and eager to try! Would make a great wedding favor, little jars of this with a ribbon on top =)

  3. Mahtab

    I was just talking about harissa yesterday, saying I need to find a grocery store that sells it, and then contemplated making my own, and just like magic, here’s the recipe on SK!

  4. I probably have an average American spice tolerance (ain’t got nothing on some parts of the world). I’ve made my own sriracha (which was too hot for me right at first but mellowed into something I loved after about a week). I’ve yet to make my own harissa, but if you *and* Luisa endorse it, it’s got to be good.

  5. Lee Ann

    I have been wanting to try Harissa, & am too lazy to go searching for it, even though I have African markets around. I’m excited to try this. (& happy to know that I’m not the only one who is not fond of super-hot chilies.)
    How long do you think this would keep in the fridge?

  6. deb

    I’d expect the harissa to keep for a few weeks in the fridge (we made this batch 2 to 3 weeks ago, and it’s fine). Longer, however, you might want to freeze it in cubes, as you might tomato paste.

  7. Our local coffee shop made BLT’s all summer on brioche buns with a harissa mayo, and they were heavenly. Since we’re moving to another state in a few weeks, I absolutely need to make this.

  8. I used to hate all spicy foods, especially (ESPECIALLY) Thai food, but all that changed during my pregnancy. Now I get upset if my green papaya salad is missing the heat. But it’s still all relative — half a hot pepper, maybe 3/4 of one, for the dish. Poor Lilli seems to have my old taste buds and screams when she ends up with a mouthful of heat. We had some bad moments at the Indian buffet yesterday.

    That being said, I find myself reaching for harissa more these days than I would have even two years ago.

  9. Kate

    Deb, if I may be so immoderately bold as to request a recipe, I remember after you went to England on tour you were talking about cauliflower cheese, and I was thinking how perfect such a dish would be for now as the weather gets colder but farmer’s markets are still open. Just a modest request from one of your biggest fans! My mom, sister in law and I bond over your wonderful recipes all the time.

  10. Harissa is one of my favourite condiments, too! In a spoonful it changes a simple carrot salad into a great side dish that completes any fritter or falafel, I am quite addicted to it. Love to try out this version against one I have bookmarked for ages, and I agree, anything Luisa cooks is defintely worth trying. N xx

  11. I agree with you on the spicy front – I’m sort of a wuss too, especially after I went to Mexico and experienced my first chemical from a serranno pepper – ouch! But I do love a little bit of heat, and this looks absolutely delicious. I might have to brave my pepper fear and try this!

  12. Gael

    I’ve never toasted and ground whole spices for a recipe, but this looks DELICIOUS and I’d like to give it a try!
    Could you explain how to do that step, because I’m a little clueless :)

  13. I fall on the other side of the spectrum – I’m a spicy food fanatic! It’s been a bit tough on our South America trip because they really don’t do much in the way of spice here. I do love harissa though and absolutely need to try making my own when I get home. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Pam

    I can’t wait to try this. I love the flavor of harissa on steamed or roasted veggies. And it keeps me from dousing everything with butter.

  15. Rebekah

    “Use on everything.”

    Hilarious. Thanks for this, Deb. It’s just the thing for the upcoming colder months when we need a little heat on things. It sounds like a great gift too, to counter the sugary treats I know I’ll be eating.

  16. Mairsydoats

    Thanks for the recipe to refill my jar of store-bought! The most surprising thing I did with harissa (and crazy-easy!) was to slather it all over a pork tenderloin, then cook it after letting it sit a few. Then I fell over with pleasure at how amazing and flavorful, yet not crazy-hot it was! Heavens, it might have been your recipe for all I remember. What I remember very, VERY clearly was how insanely easy and yummy it was.

  17. Kayshin

    just made this yesterday- the internet stars have aligned. one tip is to cut and de-seed the chiles while they are still dried. much easier to shake them all out instead of trying to pick seeds out of a rehydrated chile.

    also, does anyone have any recommendations on food processing chiles? i always get pieces of chile skin in the paste. other than a food mill, how can you make the paste smoother?

  18. Courtney

    I love a little bit of kick with a little bit of afterburn in foods. But I have no interest in any food that is so spicy that I can’t taste the other flavors. What’s the point? I don’t think you’re a wuss. I think you have a more sophisticated palette than the chest-thumping spice eaters. They aren’t enjoying their food–they are suffering through it for the sake of bragging rights.

  19. Nima

    I love hot spicy food. I’m of the group that believes: if your nose isn’t running and your eyes are tearing up: it is not hot enough. Harissa is one of my favourites – I put it on all sorts of things. However I haven’t used on crispy eggs yet – so there is breakfast tomorrow: crispy eggs with harissa (will probably use about 10X as much as you would but there you go).

  20. editorStet

    I love harissa and am so glad to see this recipe! Everything else I’ve made of yours has become a regular in my rotation of cooking, so I’m thrilled for this.

    I also love spicy (as in, too spicy for most people), but I highly recommend Nando’s Peri Peri hot sauce if you can find it. It’s from a chain restaurant that there are very few of here in the States, but you can order it online or find it in some grocery stores (Safeway stores in the PNW have it), and their mild hot sauce has some of the best flavor according to my non-hot-sauce-loving friends. (I get their hot and extra hot for myself.)

  21. I am now addicted to the harissa that I purchased in Paris, and I was getting nervous that it was only available in Europe (it’s made in Morocco)…..thankfully, I found it on amazon grocery yesterday! I ordered a ton, because it is SO good, I eat it on my avocado…’s addictive.
    I will have to try to make it at home, your recipe sounds very good.

  22. Flowerscat

    Looks amazing and will make a perfect birthday gift :) Have you ever tried making chilli jam? – tastes amazing, and goes with everything. It is too hot (spicy hot) to eat on the day you make it, but the flavours mellow over a couple of weeks and then it starts tasting wonderful.

  23. Lisa

    It is UNCANNY that you posted this today – over the weekend I made the dressing from the carrot, feta, mint, and harissa salad on the site, and used it on roasted delicata squash and brussels sprouts, a la your fall-toush salad. It was amazing! I highly recommend the combination.

  24. Sage

    Ok, so I know this is a pretty loaded question, but … what could I use instead of the bell pepper? I’m allergic to them. I can have all other kinds of peppers, including spicy ones, but eating a bell pepper is like asking to have food poisoning for three days.

    1. Eeka

      Someone lower down the comments thought about subbing in tomatoes for the bell peppers, but I would try carrots (cooked, maybe roasted) instead. They’ve got the sweetness of the bell pepper, and wouldn’t add the acidity that tomatoes would.
      From other comments, harrissa and carrots go together well…

  25. Stephanie

    We get a ton of fresh hot peppers from our CSA, so I’ve started making Harissa. I love spicy food, the kids don’t, and hubby varies from one moment to the next. It’s perfect, because you only add what you want!

    Yum, Thanks!

  26. Deborah

    I always love your recipes, but was especially happy to see this post. My grandmother was born in Algeria and used to make her own harissa, which we’d swirl into bowls of couscous topped with chicken soup (it might sound odd, but it was delicious!). I remember watching her make it, but never got her recipe. I’m excited to give this a try! Thanks!

  27. Drew

    Like Sage, I can eat habaneros and jalapenos and love chipotle, but am severely allergic to all colors of bell pepper. Would tomato work as the base instead?

  28. Sleepover “at a girl’s house” – too cute! Also, I love the new “other side of the world” list bc if I was on the other side I’d be sad I was missing out on all your seasonal favorites. We were just talking over dinner last night (I was rudely flipping through your cookbook during dinner) how you always know what we’re in the mood for. You’re very much a seasonal cook without being pushy about it…e.g. it’s the dead of winter, and that means pudding (bc we all want to eat our SAD away but our January resolutions suggest we shouldn’t make brownies).

  29. The appeal of hot sauce has always been more the flavor than the heat for me. It sounds like you have similar tastes – so I’m sold on this recipe!

    PS – I didn’t ever go to Cluck U, either. It was definitely past its prime when I got to RU

  30. Gayle

    The first time I ever encountered harissa was in a mention on the menu of Zingerman’s Deli (in Ann Arbor)as an ingredient in Carrot Top spread, which was described as a Moroccan-style carrot spread with roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, housemade harissa spice mix, beldi olives and lemon juice. Well, OMG, I’d never had anything quite so wonderful as carrot top spread, and since I don’t live anywhere near Ann Arbor, I came home and went directly into my kitchen to reconstruct the recipe, beginning with researching “what the heck is harissa and how do you make it?”. Nowadays I keep my harissa around just for carrot top spread, and truth be told, never thought to add it to anything else. But wow, now I have lotso ideas, as well as new options for tweaking my current recipe. Good news all around — thanks!

  31. Eileen W

    Do you follow me in your sleep? I spent Friday toning down a store-bought harissa to wimp level by diluting with a ton of roast peppers and toasted spices. Should have waited until today instead of Fri. a.m. tinkering. At least now I have a multi-level heat display of harissa!

  32. Jane Rutherford

    Hello from Canada! I have never seen whole sun dried tomatoes. Your recipe calls for 3 sun dried tomatoes. Could you advise on how many tablespoons that would be if they were chopped? Or how much that would weigh? Thanks

  33. i am a huge fan of heat in dishes, and one of the things i love is how different cultures use peppers. i dig mexican heat and thai heat and chinese heat but i have very little experience with north african heat. can’t wait to try this out!

    ps if you are interested i DO recommend accustoming yourself to hot things…i didn’t used to like spicy, but you can learn! and it opens up a whole new world of food. now i crave it on everything.

  34. I’ve seen the word Harissa in recipes and never bothered to find out what it is… well now that I see a recipe for harissa, all I can say is yum! I love flavorful spicy sauces and spreads (not just vinegary ones), I think I’ll try to make this! Maybe I’ll mix in some more sun dried tomatoes, just because I love those things :)

  35. JP

    You are right. In today’s world you have to enjoy HOT to be cool. To me, it is a tiresome trend. I have gone to restaurants where it was an it was nearly impossible to find an entree that was not spicy, and this is not always in a restaurant that you would expect this to be a problem…but it is chili this and chipotle that. I do not like the feel of my mouth and throat burning, but I do enjoy good flavor. Even black pepper can make me choke. Still I am interested in harissa and if it can be tamed so that I can taste flavor and not suffer the consequences, I would whip up a batch. Glad to know I am not the only one who fears spicy food.

  36. Randi

    I love a little bit of spicy but don’t want to choke to death or burst into flames. I’ve never tried anything African but this does sound pretty tasty.

  37. Can’t wait to try this! I’m not quite sure I should admit this but (it is just us, right?) the “older” I get, the less “heat” I can take! But, enough about me . . . O.M.G. . . . that picture of Jacob was sooooooooo sweet! Sleep-over . . . at a GIRL’s house? ? ? ? Tooo cute!

  38. Iman J.

    Everytime I see that name I think of a totally different dish from my dad’s hometown made of beef/mutton, spices, and oats xD. It’s spelled ‘harisa’ though, and isn’t even that well-known among the people there.

    Oooh but it’s lovely, eaten with honey, fried onions and melted ghee!

  39. maura

    @Kimberly-your husband’s quote is pure gold and I plan on using it. To Deb-thanks for another great recipe and fear not, there’s no shame in not liking hot/spicy food and enough with people trying to make a federal case out of it. Eat what you like.

  40. Amy V

    Deb, this looks delicious as always! I’m on the hunt already for recipes that can be used as gifts over Christmas (as a student, I have to substitute effort for money when producing gifts for the wealthy Grown Ups in my life) – maybe an idea for a beginning-of-blog suggestion list?

  41. Susan

    To go back to an earlier question about storage, Harissa freezes beautifully. I make a big batch about once a year and either freeze in ice cube trays or in 1 T. blobs on wax paper. To prevent the otherwise inevitable freezer burn, I use my handy-dandy Foodsaver to package the frozen cubes in vacuum-pack bags, putting a half-dozen or so cubes in each bag. I do the same with pesto. It works great.

  42. cecilia

    This recipe sounds fabulous. I don’t crave heat. i also don’t run away from it. My question has to do with the olive oil. I have recently started using coconut oil in place of all oils and i’m wondering if I can do that in this recipe. i understand that coconut oil has a distinctive flavor. Many times the flavor is absorbed in whatever food it is cooked into. So, with this recipe is it olive or coconut oil?BTW, I love your blog!

  43. just a big thank you for name-checking my beloved haunt, cluck-u chicken. when i was at RU, it was always hilarious (to us, don’t ask) when we would call for delivery and someone would answer the phone, “hello — cluck-u!”

    yeah, maybe you had to be there.

    let me know when you attempt to recreate some of that. (although there are still other cluck-u outposts in the world. (another don’t ask me how i know that.)

  44. Slaney

    Love this recipe for Harissa – thank you.
    I put it into lots of dishes, hot or cold to jazz them up a notch add depth etc.
    Also use kimchi and chimichuri in the same way, their heat is easily adjusted to suit

  45. Oh my gosh I am SO happy you posted this recipe. I purchased storebought harissa a few months ago, never having tried/heard of it before. The recipe I was following (a chickpea soup, I think) called for lots (LOTS) of it, and being the dummy I am, I didn’t question it at all. The soup was not edible. 1/8 tsp of it would blow your head off. Agh! Since then, I’ve seen several recipes calling for harissa but was always too wary to try it again. Knowing you’re a spice wimp comforts me a great deal. Can’t wait to try it!

  46. Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve just moved to Singapore from London and Harissa is proving VERY hard to come by but I love it. I never realized it was so easy to make. Will definitely be giving this a go this weekend. Thanks!

  47. deb

    Canning harissa — I’m not an expert in canning so I don’t feel comfortable giving advice, though there are certainly some sites that say that you can.

    Cecilla — I wouldn’t know for sure if the flavor of coconut oil would come through without trying it, but there’s a lot going on here so it might not be an issue. I’d be more concerned that coconut oil will be solid in the fridge, which make not look very nice as you’ll want to use the harissa straight from the fridge.

    Judy — Yes, I suggest either a food processor or a blender in the recipe.

    Jane — I’d estimate that they’d be about a tablespoon each when chopped. They probably weigh as little as 5 grams each.

    Drew — I’d definitely think it would.

    Alison — Sadly, I did not but maybe we could pester a few stores to carry it? I think Brooklyn Kitchen should be all over this, personally. :) I tend to do an order from Rancho Gordo 1-2x a year to stock up on beans and other stuff. FWIW, there are a few stores in the area that sell their beans, but always with a markup. I figured I’d rather cough up for $8 shipping here and there and give the money directly to them (and have the whole catalogue to choose from).

    Kate — Thank you for reminding me! Hello, dinner tonight.

    Binsey — Indeed! Or, as soon as I write it, ahem. Announced here, when probably everyone was away from the summer.

  48. Sara C.

    I used to roast pepper the way you did here, but one day I discovered a better approach. Cut the pepper in half and put on a pan the cut side down, roast under the broiler. It takes the half time roasting.

  49. Jill W

    I’m so with you, Deb, on the level of heat that I want in my food…just enough to make it interesting but not so much that my taste buds are accosted to the point of not being able to enjoy the dish – or even close to it! And, I, too, enjoy harissa. As a matter of fact, just yesterday I was craving a kale salad I’ve made with a harissa & honey dressing (hey, I think it’s a riff off YOUR recipe, now that I think of it), but was dreading the trip to the deli where I can buy harissa. Thank you so much for this recipe – I’m going to try it soon!

  50. Can’t wait to try this! I think I’ll test out the harissa honey dressing you mentioned. I too am a much greater fan of a smoky flavor, rather than just heat for the sake of heat. How long does this version typically keep in the refrigerator?

  51. Jennifer S.

    I’ve never had harissa, but I was looking for some last week after I saw a recipe for Harissa Deviled Eggs. It’s a little too exotic for where I live I think, but now I know I can make it! Awesome!

  52. Lauren

    Literally had a jar of Harissa in my hand last night at the ShopRite. Put it back ’cause I was a-scared it would “blow my head off”( great comment Ella!) but now that the mindreader at SK has obliged me yet again….I can proceed without caution! Thanks again Deb…don’t know how you do this. You’re like the” Great Carnac.”

  53. Nell

    Oh! Wonderful! I used to buy a harissa hummus that was my absolute favorite, but I haven’t seen it in years. Excited to try mixing this harissa into a hummus dip. Thanks!

  54. JoAnn Whittaker

    thank you, thank you for the recipe for harissa. I live in Canada in a desert area where the most wonderful fruits and veggies are available including the requisite red peppers and chiles. In the major urban centre nearby one can buy really good olive oil (imported) so I am on a roll.!!

  55. I just moved back to the states from living a few years in Tunisia. In addition to hoarding several bottles of perfect cold pressed Tunisian olive oil in my shipment home, I squirreled away a few jars of my neighbors homemade Harissa. I too am a spice wuss but hers is so perfectly balanced. Can’t wait to make yours to compare.

  56. Nadine

    A tip on de-seeding the dried peppers…I find it so difficult to de-seed them once hydrated. I get seeds stuck everywhere. Crack them open a bit before hydrating, then dump out as many seeds as you can. When you hydrate them, there are far fewer seeds to deal with.

  57. Prandesha

    Please try Mozambique peri-peri sauce as well. Im from South Africa and my absolute favourite food is Mozambique/Portuguese chicken and LM prawns. Its lemony and spicy and delish!

  58. Thank you for this recipe. I recently went to a food blogger’s conference in Seattle where Chef Thierry Rautureau passed a jar of harissa around for anyone who wanted to taste it. I was surprised at how many hands went up, people who had never tasted it! It is my favorite “hot sauce.” Thank you for bringing it to the masses!! Can’t wait to try all the recipes you mentioned!

  59. jill

    Deb- Like you, I’m a harissa fanatic. I love roasting cauliflower with harissa. Recipe sounds awesome; Can’t wait to try this out!

  60. Brilliant! I would love to get more recipes that use harissa, if you had any more up your sleeve. There was a sale on peppers recently, and well, you can probably guess the rest… As much as I love the stuff, I want something more exciting than just a dollop on top of my salads and baked potatoes now.

  61. Cww

    Just a note to people asking about canning. The can-able recipes all have a fairly decent amount of vinegar as it’s the low pH that makes them safe. Recipes that don’t have vinegar (and are hence “more traditional”) should be refrigerated or frozen. The oil on top will keep out oxygen and should help the flavors from oxidizing so I’d bet that it’d keep for a couple months in the fridge without much problem.

    Generally, oil-based things can’t be canned safely at home and require a higher temperature than even a pressure canner can get to. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

  62. We live in Algiers and have become somewhat harissa experts. (The Tunisians make the best, and we buy from a vendor who comes from eastern Algeria, Moroccan harissa is wimpy in my opinion). Great that you highlighted how simple it is to make homemade! Most of the stuff that is sold overseas is both expensive and low quality. Harissa is really just chiles, spices, oil, and garlic if desired. You can use fresh or dried chiles depending on the season and there are many variations. There’s even a famous one with rose petals from southern Tunisia. A traditional recipe would not include the roasted red pepper or sun dried tomatoes, and would use something closer to japones or arbol chiles, but like I said there’s tons of varieties.

    Also PSA – Harissa does go bad, we keep extra in the freezer!

  63. My husband and I are currently travelling through Morocco (I’m typing this from a beautiful raid in the medina in Marrakech) and it’s been really interesting to note how different the harissa has been from one restaurant/food stall/snack shack to the next. I’m looking forward to making this when I return to Canada.

  64. I love harissa! I found this to be an incredible spice crust on a rack of lamb – Brown the outside of the rack, then smoosh the harissa all over the outside and pop it in the oven to finish. The harissa caramelizes with the juices of the lamb and creates an incredibly flavorful combination. I also like to add a little allspice to the mix, I feel it rounds out the spice mix. Delicious!

  65. Hello,

    I have made a very similar recipe to this many times my little punch of flavour is celery seeds. You do not need very much but it enhances the flavours greatly. I have used this sauce in very surprising ways. My favourite way is to make this into a salad dressing. Add some oil and vinegar make a nice vinaigrette, or make it creamy with some Greek yogurt. Put it on a southwestern with chicken marinated in the harissa. Thank you for sharing the lovely recipe. It is definitely worth keeping, because you can keep coming back to it.

  66. Oh, man. I need to stop being lazy, go buy all the peppers, and make this harissa! It’s one of my favorite sauces when I’m going out to eat, but I could never work up the courage to make it at home. This post is serious harissa inspiration, though– adding this recipe to my to-make list!

  67. Harissa has been on my to-make list for ages. Now that I have uncovered the stash of dried peppers at my supermarket, your recipe will be my first! My only question is: how long does it last in the fridge? I would guess a while due to the peppers and garlic, but it would just be me gobbling it down, so maybe I should halve the recipe?

    1. deb

      Maggie — I am not sure what the exact amount it’s good for it. Mine is going on a few weeks now, and is just fine. I suspect you could freeze half to increase its shelf life.

  68. Teresa Chavez

    Perfect! I like knowing I can switch out different chilies depending on what’s available and still get the essence if harissa. I do make my fair share of mexican food and of course chili are the heart of it all. I love adding to m arsenal. Thank you :) …off to the kitchen.

  69. Diandra

    Hi, i want to make a shashuka recipe and it requires harissa. I Love the cava restaurant harissa but im living in Canada so i dont have access to
    It! Your recipe looks great however I only Found ancho, guadilla, and passadilla dried pepper. How many should I use of each? I love spicy however I dony want it to be overwhelming spicy. Please help! Thanks!

  70. Rachelle

    Wow! Just made this and it was easy and delicious. I was very surprised to see the number of chilies it took to make 4 oz and was scared it would be too hot, but it’s great. I’ve just made a sweet potato dip/spread, trying to copy one I got from the deli. Puree 1 large cooked sweet potato, cooked white beans and/or chick peas, garlic, a little oil, lemon juice, and heaping tablespoon of harissa. Turned out delicious and about 1/4 of the cost of the deli stuff. Thank you!

  71. stephelhajj

    The ancho chiles I used must’ve been reaaaaally dry, because even with soaking, the skin didn’t quite soften just right. Still delicious. Yes, I licked the spoon. Now researching all the different treats I can make with this. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. deb

      I’ve kept mine in the fridge for months; I’m not sure if that would pass muster with a food safety expert, however. I use an airtight jar, the one you see in the pictures.

  72. Laura

    That was really fun to make. I was a little stressed out getting all the seeds out (no small feat) as I didn’t want it to end up burning hot. Having never done it before (and not entirely sure how it was supposed to turn out) I am really proud. It’s good!

  73. Tina

    Made this today with dried anchos and a fresh pasilla, and it came out wonderfully. I think I’m going to have to make this for my whole family for the holidays!

    I was afraid of the heat, so I was really careful to get rid of all the seeds, but I needn’t have feared so much. Mine came out mild enough to eat straight with some chips.

  74. Stacey Stewart

    This was our second attempt at harissa. We are wondering if 4 chiles is enough rather than 4 ounces. It seemed like the chiles over-powered everything else. Now we are adding more bell peppers and onions to make it sweeter. Even with one recipe that didn’t meet our expectations, you are still batting nearly 1000. Thanks for all your awesome work!

  75. Andrea Garcia

    I made this and it is wonderful. The harissa has a lovely earthy flavor from the peppers. That said, my harissa tasted bitter. Any suggestions on how to tame the bitterness? Did anyone else’s taste bitter? I used the dried peppers you suggested (ancho, chipotle and chile negro). Any help is appreciated and as always, thank you for support.

    1. Made this today with dried anchos and a fresh pasilla, and it came out wonderfully. I think I’m going to have to make this for my whole family for the holidays!

  76. Katie K

    I made this because the commercial brand I bought was pretty insipid; this is not!
    Good amount of heat, seemed a bit bitter at first but I think this is something which will mellow. Used ancho, chipotle and guajillo; the chipotle never really softened up. The seeds were a pain to get out, I did them under running water.
    My only complaint is that some of the skins were still in the paste and would stick to the back of my throat which I didn’t like at all. Ran the food processor a bit longer to see it that helps.

  77. Gwendolyn Hendry

    I do not own a food processor, but I have a hack for that:
    I use my extra coffee grinder to reduce the dried peppers and seeds to a powder. Mixed with tomato paste, minced roasted red pepper, and a little water as necessary, this powerful powder makes a delicious Harissa.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

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