Follow all our tips on how to make an authentic harissa paste, which is a traditional North African spicy red chilli condiment that has so many uses. Add to stews, serve with meat or fish, or just use it as an incredible dip, with a really rich flavour.
We can't quite explain how obsessed we are with this harissa paste recipe. The flavours are like nothing else. It's smoky, spicy and has such a depth of flavour. If you are looking for a new way to add flavour to meat, fish and vegetables, then this harissa sauce is it!
What is harissa paste?
Harissa is a North African (thought to have originated in Tunisia) red chilli paste that is make with flavour packed ingredients like roasted red peppers, garlic, citrus, oil and warming spices.
We went to Morocco recently, and we ate this harissa paste everywhere. It was served with chicken kebabs, alongside vegetable stew and we even had it on the side to dip bread into. It has a slightly sweet and tangy flavour, with a real kick of spice.
If you are looking for some other sauce recipes, why not try our easy Tahini Dressing, authentic tasting Kebab Shop Chilli Sauce, creamy Garlic Sauce, copycat Chipotle Southwest Sauce or our simple Healthy Tomato Ketchup?
Why you will love it
- Quick - This harissa paste recipe takes just 5 minutes to make, if you use our "cheat" by using a jar of roasted red peppers. You just put everything into a food processor and blend.
- Versatile - There are SO many ways that you can use this harissa sauce. So, make a big batch and put it on everything!
- Adaptable - You can adapt this to make it as spicy or as mild as you like.
- Stores well - This stores well in the fridge, so you can keep it to put on meals throughout the week.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Roasted red peppers - This is our little "cheat" to keep this recipe under 5 minutes. It is cheaper to roast your own red peppers, however we always keep a jar in the cupboard to add to sauces, pasta or hummus.
- Red chillies - This is where all the spice comes from. The type of chilli you use will change the spiciness of the sauce. To make it less spicy, you can remove the seeds from the chilli.
- Garlic - Freshly garlic is always best.
- Tomato puree - This gives it a little tomato flavour, but also a more vibrant red colour.
- Olive oil - This helps to loosen up the sauce. Make sure to use the best quality you can, as you really will taste the difference. We like extra virgin olive oil.
- Lemon - This helps to freshen the paste up and balance out the chillies. You might need extra if your lemons aren't very juicy. In Morocco they often add preserved lemons.
- Spices - We used cumin seeds, fennel seeds and coriander seeds and this adds a real warm flavour to the sauce.
- Chilli flakes - As well as the fresh chillies, we added some dried chilli flakes for an extra kick of spice. You can leave them out though.
- Salt and pepper - Generously season.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to make harissa paste - Step by step
One: In a dry frying pan, toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and chilli flakes - about 2 minutes. Keep shaking the pan to prevent the seeds burning.
Two: Using a pestle and mortar, grind the toasted seeds into a fine powder.
Three: Add the ground spices and the rest of the ingredients to a food processor.
Four: Blend until smooth.
How to use harissa paste
The real question is, what can't you put harissa paste in? This is such a versatile sauce and can be used in recipes, or served on the side as a dip. We have lots of suggestions so that you can get the most out of this harissa paste recipe.
- Soup - This is an easy way to add a lot of flavour to soup. We like it swirled through our Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup or Carrot and Lentil Soup.
- Hummus - The great thing about homemade hummus is that there are so many ways that you can flavour it. A big dollop of this on top is an instant flavour booster.
- Bread - Although it goes really well in things, we would happily eat it just as it is with some bread dipped in. Why not try our Easy Flatbread Recipe, Homemade Naan Bread or Slow Cooker Bread?
- Stew - Stews are so hearty and comforting and this harissa sauce is an easy way to give them a bit of a lift. To keep it traditional, add some to our Moroccan Chickpea Stew or Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken.
- Kebab - When we were in Morocco, we had chicken kebab every time it was available and smothered it in this sauce. Why not try our Lamb Shish Kebabs, Turkey Kebabs, Vegetable and Halloumi Kebabs or Moroccan Chicken Flatbreads?
- Dip - It makes a really good dip just on it's own, but you can also mix it in to yogurt or mayo for a creamy dip.
- Roast dinner - This might not be the most traditional addition to a British roast dinner, but this goes perfectly with lamb so why not serve it with our Pulled Lamb or Slow Cooker Lamb Shoulder. It can also be used on our Harissa Chicken recipe.
- Eggs - Take eggs to the next level with a spoonful of this. Add it to Scrambled Eggs, Poached Eggs, Fried Eggs or even on a Fritatta.
We used a jar of roasted red peppers to make this in under 5 minutes, however to make this a budget friendly sauce then we would recommend roasting them yourself. It takes some time, but it's much easier than you might think. Check out our Roasted Red Peppers recipe.
Spice is relative, but we think this has a serious kick of heat - just look at the chilli seeds you can see it it. We would recommend just adding one or two fresh chillies to begin with, tasting it, and then blending in more if you want it spicier.
Traditionally, in Morocco, they would add preserved lemons into it, so you can give that a try if you want.
Store: The key to keeping harissa paste fresher for longer in the fridge is to add a layer of olive oil on top of it every time you have used it. It should keep in an air tight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. We think it actually tastes better after a couple of days, as the flavours really deepen.
Freeze: You can actually freeze harissa paste. We store it in ice cube trays for individual portions, or you can store larger portions in freezer containers.
Defrost: You can defrost this in the fridge overnight. However, if you are using it in cooking, the frozen harissa can be added straight from the freezer.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to use dried whole chillies instead of fresh, then you can. You will just need to rehydrate them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes first.
Yes, as long as you make sure there is no cross contamination, this can be gluten free.
Yes, this is a vegan recipe and it's a great way to add extra flavour to vegan stews or even served with roasted vegetables.
More North African recipes
- 3 Roasted red peppers
- 3 Red chillies
- 5 Garlic cloves - crushed
- 2 tablespoon Tomato puree
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoon Red chilli flakes
- 2 teaspoon Coriander seeds
- 6 tablespoon Olive oil - extra virgin
- 0.5 Lemon - juice only
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- In a dry frying pan, toast 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds, 2 teaspoon Coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon Fennel seeds and 2 teaspoon Red chilli flakes - about 2 minutes. Keep shaking the pan to prevent the seeds burning.
- Using a pestle and mortar, grind the toasted seeds into a fine powder.
- Add the ground spices3 Roasted red peppers, 3 Red chillies, 5 Garlic cloves, 2 tablespoon Tomato puree, 6 tablespoon Olive oil juice of 0.5 Lemon and 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper to a food processor.
- Blend until smooth.
- Make sure you toast all the spices first, as it really does make a difference to the finished flavour.
- This actually tastes better a day or two after making it.
- Put a layer of olive oil on top of it in the jar after each use to help it store for longer.
- If you don't want this too spicy, remove the seeds from the fresh chillies.
- Some variations of harissa have rose water in it, but we are not a fan of that flavour so we left it out.
- Wear gloves when you are chopping the chillies.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.