Homemade Harissa

Homemade harissa, or Moroccan red pepper paste, is an enticing way to enliven anything. Red peppers, garlic, lemon, cumin, coriander, and caraway come together, waiting to be dipped, slathered and devoured.

Two spoons with homemade harissa on them on a cracked enamel surface.

Harissa is a Moroccan chile paste made with roasted chile peppers and spices and, quite frankly, there’s simply nothing else like it on the planet. Nor is there a substitute for homemade harissa, because once you try it, you’ll never go back to store-bought. You’ll just always keep a stash of it in your fridge so you can slather it on everything and anything whenever the craving arises. The trick is that there are as many ways to make this traditional North African condiment of chiles and garlic as there are home cooks. We quite like this way.–Renee Schettler


If you’re new to harissa, or are simply seeking inspiration for how to use it, here are a few of our favorite things to do with the spicy Moroccan paste…although each day it seems we’re coming up with new ones. Care to let us know in a comment below what you choose to slather with harissa?

  • Spoon it over eggs
  • Stir it into yogurt for a quick dip for crudités or flatbread
  • Add it to soups
  • Use as a marinade for chunks of lamb or chicken cutlets before grilling
  • Blend a spoonful into a batch of hummus
  • Slip under the skin of chicken prior to roasting or smoking
  • Toss it in a stir-fry

Homemade Harissa

Two spoons with homemade harissa on them on a cracked enamel surface.
Homemade harissa, or Moroccan red pepper paste, is an enticing way to enliven anything. Red peppers, garlic, lemon, cumin, coriander, and caraway come together, waiting to be dipped, slathered and devoured.
Diana Henry

Prep 15 mins
Total 45 mins
16 (1-tbsp) servings
49 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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  • 2 1/2 teaspoons whole caraway seeds
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 5 fresh red chiles (such as serrano, Thai, red jalapeño, etc.) stemmed and seeded
  • 5 dried guajillo chiles stemmed, seeded, and soaked in warm water for 30 minutes, then drained (liquid reserved)
  • 8 small garlic cloves or less to taste
  • A few sprigs or 1 small bunch cilantro leaves only
  • Juice of 1 small lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • About 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for covering
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste


  • Toss the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium to medium-low heat and toast until the spices start to release their fragrance, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the spices onto a plate and let cool slightly.
  • Tip the cooled spices into a mortar and pestle and pound until coarsely ground.
  • Add the ground toasted spices, red chiles, guajillo chiles, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a food processor and process until a thick paste forms. If necessary, add a little of the reserved guajillo soaking liquid to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Scrape the harissa into a sterilized 1/2-pint jar and slowly pour enough olive oil over the top of the harissa to completely cover the surface. Put the lid on the jar and stash the harissa in the refrigerator for up to 4 months, making sure after each use to always cover the surface of the harissa with a layer of olive oil.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1tablespoonCalories: 49kcal (2%)Carbohydrates: 2g (1%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 5g (8%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Sodium: 75mg (3%)Potassium: 48mg (1%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 313IU (6%)Vitamin C: 3mg (4%)Calcium: 11mg (1%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

My first experience tasting harissa was at a falafel stand located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The harissa was served as a condiment along with the falafel wrap and it was one of those unforgettable food moments. Fast forward to the present and I am so thankful I’ve found this great recipe as it’s absolutely delicious and takes me right back to the flavors I loved in Paris.

Before soaking the dried guajillo chiles, I removed the stems and seeds (the seeds can easily be removed after the stem by tapping the chile gently). I also toasted the chiles for 1 to 2 minutes along with the spices to lend the resulting harissa a roasted depth of flavor. Then I put the spices in my Vitamix to grind them because I don’t have a mortar and pestle. I found that 1/2 teaspoon salt was the perfect amount for my palate. I didn’t need to use any of the reserved chile soaking liquid as the paste came together quite nicely.

I stored my homemade harissa in a brand new clear plastic deli container. I couldn’t let the remaining harissa that was clinging to my food processor blade and bowl go to waste, so I decided to make a hummus to pick up all of the lovely harissa flavors and it was unbelievably good. I will definitely make hummus with harissa again! (For years, I would make hummus and beg my teenage son to try it and he never would. Since finding this recipe, I now make hummus with a tablespoon harissa and my teen dips right into the hummus and loves it! Who knew?! )

Make it, store it, use it—as a marinade, to spice up hummus, to add to soups and stews. Last night I marinated some cubes of lamb shoulder with the homemade harissa for about 30 minutes and grilled them up on skewers. The lamb was so tender and flavorful, just an extra sprinkle of salt was all it needed other than the harissa—delicious. THIS HOMEMADE HARISSA IS SO GOOD. I LOVE IT!

You had me at chile and garlic with this harissa recipe. I’ve always purchased this type of sauce, but never again. I used 10 hot cherry peppers to make the homemade harissa as they were small and their heat was moderate.

I toasted the spices and put them warm into the mortar and pestle. (I didn't feel the need to allow them to cool before breaking them down.) I pounded them into pieces as small as possible before adding them to the rest of the ingredients in the food processor. I found the resulting paste a little on the thick side for my taste and added about 1/2 cup chile soaking liquid, processing again for another half minute to incorporate it fully. The resulting paste was flavorful without being blow-your-head-off hot. It just had a pleasant heat at the end.

I did stir in a little squeeze of lemon juice (about a tablespoon or so) at the end to brighten the flavor. I used 125-ml (70-mm) jars to send this out as samples for people to taste. I got 3 jars from 1 batch. The results were raves all around. Many said the homemade version had so much more flavor than the store-bought version. Only one person said it wasn't hot enough. I like that I can control the heat without losing flavor simply by changing the type of fresh chili used. So far I’ve used it in a tomato sauce for eggs, added it to a beef stew, even dabbed a little on a spinach pizza, and all were very good. Definitely a do-again recipe.

Originally published January 25, 2017


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