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
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products and foods I use in my kitchen. This means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. To view my entire storefront of recommended kitchen tools and equipment, check out my shop on Amazon.
💡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