Harissa is a spicy, North African condiment made from dried chiles, served with couscous, potatoes, soups and stews.
This recipe is a homemade harissa version you can make in your kitchen. Keep a couple jars for yourself, and use the rest as gifts!Jump to Recipe
Homemade condiments you make in your own kitchen are fabulous hostess gifts, particularly around the holidays. Some are super easy to make, like this homemade chipotle spice rub, others are more time consuming, like homemade harissa.
But I promise you it's worth the trouble.
🤷♀️ What is Harissa?
Even the name sounds exotic, like a belly dancer sheathed in diaphanous veils dancing for a caliph in ancient times. Right??
But no. While it does hail from Tunisia, where there may be belly dancers, harissa is actually an exotic little condiment found on almost any table in the Northern African countries of Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.
It may be as common as ketchup and mustard are in America. And like other cultural dishes that evolve over centuries, there are a bazillion versions.
From the time North African women are young girls, they learn their family’s recipe for harissa, which commonly includes combinations of cumin, garlic, coriander, caraway, lemon juice or vinegar, and olive oil with the chili peppers, and occasionally dried mint. Over generations, families, towns, and regions tweaked this condiment to put their own stamp on it for soups, stews, curries, and meats.
🧅 Main Ingredients + Notes
The secret to faster and easier meals often lies in the ingredients. For example, store-bought items and ingredients you make ahead and store in the refrigerator (or freezer) can turn a 60-minute recipe into a 30-minutes meal or less.
For the all of the ingredients, measurements and directions, go to the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post.
- Dried ancho chiles - I purchase them in bags since I add them to a lot of things, including when I cook dried chickpeas.
- Dried chiles de arbol - I purchase these in bags too, and use them when cooking dried beans, and crumble them up to toss with roasted veggies.
- Dried chipotle chile - these dried chiles are also great for adding to the pot when cooking dried beans to add a smoky flavor to the beans.
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Coriander seed
- Caraway seed
- Sherry wine vinegar
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💡Ideas for Possible Variations
My version of harissa is a little less spicy since I use mostly mild ancho dried peppers, roasted tomatoes and carrots.
I add a few chiles d’arbol for heat, and dried chipotle pepper for smoke, but you can eliminate either or both of these and substitute a couple additional dried ancho chilies if you prefer.
👩🍳 Ways to Use Harissa
Add to soups and stews, pasta and vegetable casseroles. Especially if they have some combination of chickpeas, tomatoes and eggplant, like this chickpea stew.
Use as a marinade or rub. I've done this with lamb for a dinner party by mixing it with yogurt. And it's fabulous on carrots and corn that you grill.
If you have a favorite eggplant dip, stir a little of this harissa into it for a depth of flavor that's smoky, spicy and slightly sweet (from the carrots).
- 21 ounces medium-sized tomatoes
- 2 large carrots
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- 10 dried ancho chiles
- 3 dried chiles de arbol
- 1 dried chipotle chile
- 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon caraway seed
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the tomatoes in half and place them on the baking sheet, cut side facing up. Drizzle a little olive oil over them, and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 2 hours or until the top surface of the tomatoes is puckered and somewhat dry. Remove and set aside.
- Increase the oven temperature to 425˚ F. Slice off the tops of the carrots, and quarter them lengthwise. Toss them in a little olive oil, lightly sprinkle with salt, and lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the carrots over and roast for another 15 minutes. The carrots should be slightly caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Bring one quart of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Remove from the heat, and add all of the dried chiles to the hot water. Cover the pot and let the chiles soak for one hour, or until softened. Remove from the water, tear off the tops and remove the seeds. Set aside.
- Combine the dried tomatoes (if using), coriander seed, caraway seed and kosher salt in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle and grind to a coarse powder.
- Combine the roasted tomatoes, carrots, softened chiles, and ground spices in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade and whirl like crazy until a thick paste develops. Add the vinegar, olive oil and water and whirl again until completely incorporated.
- Store in an airtight jar, topped with a little olive oil in the refrigerator
Mmmm....I have never had this...but I do believe I must try it!
How clever! Ive never even though to make my own harissa!Great idea! Love the idea of home made gifts, I'm enjoying seeing what everyone made!
Oh thank you for sharing this. I love harissa paste and always make sure I have a jar of it in the fridge but I much prefer the idea of making it myself.
I'm seriously thinking about making this as a gift to myself. It sounds so wonderful and just the type of condiment I love.
Paula @ Vintage Kitchen
This is such a great condiment and not hard to make at home. I love your recipe, it´s different from others I´ve seen and I think the roasted veggies should add a great layer of flavor! Wonderful gift . Thanks for hosting Susan!
I love harissa, but it is usually a bit on the spicy side for me I love this recipe. What a lovely gift this would make. It's wonderful in just about anything.
Very interesting. I love spicy. I may have to try this recipe out.
I can't do spicy, but it sounds like it would work with out it!
Mmmmm, I love harissa! I can't wait to make it at home! Thank you for hosting such a wonderful #SS!
Now that is cool, never heard of that and I know I would love it. That is a great gift!!
This is so lovely and I really like that it is less spicy! I love the color too, really pops! Thanks for hosting this week Susan!
Nicole @ The Daily Dish
I have never even heard of this before but the recipe sounds amazing. My goodness. I can think of all kinds of ways to use this!
Great recipe and gift idea!
All I can say is.... YOU ROCK what an amazing #SundaySupper event you have put together! Thank you for all your hard work and this truly is one of my absolute favorites!
Thanks so much for sharing this recipe - I have never tried harissa...and now I really want to!
Thank you for sharing the background of Harrisa, indeed interesting and thanks so much for hosting this event with such a wonderful theme!
I never thought about making my own harissa. I have always purchased it. Now I can.
Karen Hartzell (@InTheKitchenKP)
I found a recipe for grilling veggies on the grill with harissa. Now thanks to you, I can make my own! I think my husband will love it!
Harissa is one of those things that has been on my to-make list forever! I love your version...as anchos are my favorite chile! I'm definitely saving your recipe to try soon. Thanks so much for hosting this week and for choosing such a fabulous and fitting theme 🙂
I had to stop reading the directions at 'roast tomatoes for two hours!' That sounds amazing! I have never heard of this but am dying to try it now. The roasted tomatoes sound amazing with all of the other ingredients. Our family does not eat much of anything with spice so I am not sure how much heat I will add.
I love the color and presentation of your gift. Harissa is so delicious. Thank you for sharing and for a fantastic event 🙂
I've always wanted to make harissa. Thanks for sharing this variation. I love the addition of the smoked chiles.
Dorothy at ShockinglyDelicious
Thank you for hosting such a perfect theme! Your harissa looks wonderful!
Pam @ The Meltaways
I first heard of harissa when I watched the Next Food Network Star and Jeffrey Saad was totally obsessed with it. I found a store that was going to stop selling it and I bought like 6 jars of it for less than a dollar each! I LOVED it and haven't found any since - now I can quit looking and make my own! Thanks for hosting a great week!
Megan @ I Run For Wine
I love that you made homemade Harissa! And love even more that your version is less spicy. Thank you for hosting an amazing Sunday Supper.
Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Wow, this sounds delicious and so versatile. I have heard of harissa, but didn't know exactly what was in it. Thanks for hosting such a great event!
I've never tried Harissa, but it sounds like something I would really enjoy 🙂 Love the addition of the chilies and the lovely red color!!Thanks for organizing an amazing event Susan 🙂
I have never had harissa, and I think that has to change. This sounds so flavorful. I love it. Pinned!
Choc Chip Uru
What a delicious paste to try perfect on anything really 🙂
Choc Chip Uru
Your harissa recipe sounds perfect! And I love the way you've presented it for gifts!! Thanks so much for being our hostess this week!!!
OOh this is lovely ! My kind of condiment !! Can imagine it with some pork or grilled salmon. Pinning & Making it ! Thanks for hosting. Such great ideas. Wanna try them all 🙂 !
Sarah Reid, RHNC (@jo_jo_ba)
I love harissa, we still can't get some of the chillies here but the flavour is spectacular
Brandie (@ Home Cooking Memories)
I've never had harissa, but reading the ingredients, I think this is something my husband would really enjoy. I really like the shot you capture of it.
I've heard of harissa but never actually knew what it was. Thanks for the information! Now I'm going to have to try (or you can just, you know, gift it to me 😉 )
When I saw this post last night, I pinned it immediately. Harissa! The name alone has so much charm and personality to it. Loving the ingredients!!! Thank you for introducing us to Harissa! 🙂
This is pure genius. I completely love this. I never thought to make my own. The colour is fabulous.
This looks awesome. I have always thought that harissa was great through pasta. Such a great gift from the home 🙂 well done.
What a beautiful Harissa! Gorgeous color and great list of ingredients!
Wow...this looks so good! I am always amazed how similar cuisines can be around the world...I cook with many of these ingredients when I make Mexican food. Interesting to see the same spices used in Moroccan food!
This is like how all Korean's girls at a young age sit in the kitchen with their mothers and grandmothers to make kimchee. Every family has their own recipe. I don't think I have ever had harissa but I sure would love to try it now.
Gorgeous Harissa. You won't believe it but I salivate over this more than any dessert! 🙂 I might take your recipe and make a jar of my own. Great gifting idea!
Love how vibrant the color is. Great gift idea.
I love this series and can't wait to check out all of the homemade gift ideas so far. I've always wanted to make harissa since it is such a delicious condiment. What a marvelous gift! I am a big spice fan, so I may increase the spicy chiles. Thanks for sharing your recipe!
A wonderful gift idea! Your harissa recipe sounds fantastic, I wlill have to try it, that is for sure 🙂
The Squishy Monster
I feel silly that I just recently discovered the beauty of harissa---BEAUTIFUL! and what a festively colored gift, too!
Karen @ My Pantry Shelf
What a beautiful color this is! I love harissa. One of my favorite soups to make is a North African dish with chickpeas, lentils, and of course the rich flavor of harissa. What a fun gift idea!
Yosef - This American Bite
I love harissa but have never made it myself. I must try this. Thank you for sharing.
I cant wait to try this! I wanted to let you know that I featured this yesterday in my "What I Bookmarked This Week" post - stop by and see.
Cynthia @ Chic Eats
I came over to this recipe from your roasted tomato and harissa grilled cheese. Both dishes sound fantastic! I find myself putting roasted vegetables in just about everything since they add such a nice layer of richness. Definitely going to give both the grilled cheese and harissa a try!
Pakistani Food Recipes
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