Harrisa sauce is a north African chili sauce or paste with red chilies and few simple spices. The spices used in this sauce are warming , along with chilies make for a delicious sauce with smoky flavor and perfect balance of taste.
Once prepared you will find so many uses for this homemade harissa paste. Just a dash of this paste will perk up the flavor and taste of any dish you add it to. Make a batch today and enjoy. Vegan and gluten free!
Homemade sauces and condiments are my all time favorites and I love trying various varieties at home.
This harissa paste or sauce is something I have been making for quite sometime. One of my friends introduced this delicious sauce to me and I liked it very much.
It is hot sauce technically, but it is super flavorful and really delicious as we are adding some complex whole spices to it.
Though this sauce is from African cuisine, the herbs and spices used are pretty simple and easily available in any well stocked pantry.
Also this sauce is made with spices like coriander seeds, caraways seeds so it goes well with Indian recipes too, at least I use it in many Indian recipes 🙂
So are you all set to make harissa sauce at home? All you need are few dried red chilies, some whole spices, garlic, olive oil and few pulses in your food processor 🙂 Let’s go!
About This Recipe
What Is Harissa?
Harissa is a hot chili paste from Tunisia, North Africa. This sauce is considered as the main and staple condiment of that region.
It is apparently used in many recipes from Tunisian cuisine. It is added to marinades, dips, add flavor to stews etc. Basically a dash of this paste can simply brighten and add spice to any dish.
The word harissa is from the Arabic word harassa which means “to pound”. Traditionally this sauce is pounded using a mortar and pestle.
What Is Harissa Sauce Made Of?
The basic ingredients you need to make this sauce are dried red chilies or chili peppers.
Traditionally Fresno chilies are used for this recipe but you can use any dried red chili peppers. You can use any red chilies here. I prefer to use a mix of mild and hot chilies for best balance in flavors. I have not used Fresno chilies in this recipe.
Chilies like New Mexico Chilies, Chilies De Arbor, Chipotle Chilies, Dried Ancho Mulato chilies, but frankly you can use any dried red chilies available. For a very mildly spiced sauce with vibrant color just use Kashmiri red chilies with 2-3 Thai red chilies.
New Mexico Chiles, Chiles de Arbol, Chipotle Chiles, Dried Ancho Mulato chilies, guajillo chiles are available in gourmet stores, specialty grocery stores or online.
Tabil or tabel is a special Tunisian spice blend used to make homemade harissa traditionally. It is a dry mix of coriander seeds, caraway seeds, cumin seeds and crushed red pepper flakes.
Tabel is not a commonly available spice blend so we are just using the whole spices like coriander seeds and caraway seeds.
Other ingredients are salt, lemon juice, paprika, and olive oil. I like to add a very small pinch if brown sugar to round off the taste. You can use kosher salt if you prefer.
Some recipes used roasted red bell peppers but I prefer to add tomato paste. Tomato paste adds a wonderful deep flavor, taste, color and also balances the heat. If you want to make harissa sauce using red bell peppers, I have included a brief recipe in the notes.
Why This Recipe Works
This is the easiest and most practical recipe of harissa paste you will ever find 🙂 Yes, I have kept the recipe real simple and provided alternate for most of the ingredients.
Next this African and middle Eastern spicy red sauce is real simple and super quick to make. It takes less than 10 minutes to make this recipe.
My homemade harissa sauce recipe is not overly spicy like the store bought ones. Most of the harissa paste from stores are just spicy with no other flavors from whole spices, but when we make at home we can bring that perfect balance of spice and flavors.
Having a jar of this spicy red sauce definitely can perk up the flavor of your marinades, salad dressings, soups, stews, noodles, fried rice you see where I am going? Practically in all savory recipes 🙂
Go ahead and make a batch today, it lasts for weeks in refrigerator and comes so handy. This homemade harissa sauce is
full of complex flavor from whole spices
vegan and gluten free.
How To Make Harissa Paste Recipe
To begin making harissa paste pick about 15-20 dried chilies and soak them in hot water for 20 minutes to rehydrate them.
After 20 minutes, drain the chilies in a colander. Remove the stems and seeds and place them in a food processor. You can leave the seed membrane if
Add the other ingredients- 1 teaspoon salt, 4 cloves garlic peeled, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or red chili powder, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, 2 teaspoon coriander seeds, 2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 2 teaspoon cumin seeds and 2 tablespoons tomato paste.
Blend everything into a smooth paste.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a pan for a minute in medium heat and remove from flame. Do not let it smoke.
Add the prepared sauce and mix well. You can add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil now and mix.
Store harissa sauce in airtight jar and refrigerate.
Tips To Make Harissa Sauce
You can vary the quantity of red chile peppers as per taste. If you prefer a very mild sauce you can just add 8 chilies and increase the quantity of tomato paste.
You will need a very good food processor or high power blender to finely blend the spices. You can also first add the spices, powder them and then add the other ingredients.
This recipe makes about 1 cup of sauce and one serving is about 2 tablespoons.
If you don’t have food processor you can use any high power mixer grinder.
Variations With The Recipe
With red bell pepper– if you prefer to make harissa sauce with red bell pepper here are the instructions. Pick one two medium red peppers and 6-7 red dried chiles. Roast the red peppers in a oven or on stove top grill stand until it chars well. See this muhammara recipe for how to roast red bell pepper perfectly.
Peel the red pepper and blend along with other ingredients. Add warm olive oil and mix.
With red onion- Along with garlic cloves you can add 1 small red onion and blend.
Green harissa sauce- Delicious and flavorful, north African chili paste with fresh green herbs is green harissa. To make it add 2-3 jalapeno peppers, 1/2 cup each cilantro and parsley leaves and skip red chilies. Other ingredients are the same.
Oil– If you like to make this recipe oil free, just skip olive oil. Adding warm oil emulsifies the paste and makes it into a smooth sauce. You can just add few drops of extra virgin olive oil while serving. You can also use vegetable oil or avocado oil instead.
Storing This Paste
Once prepared store this harissa sauce in clean dry jar, preferably glass and refrigerate. Always use a clean dry spoon to remove the required quantity.
This sauce keeps well for 2 weeks in refrigerator and a month in freezer.
It is a good idea to make big batch of this sauce as the flavor grows after few days.
How To Use This Sauce?
This sauce is one of the super delicious, flavorful and addictive sauces out there.
As dip– Mix 2 tablespoons harissa paste with some olive oil and serve as dip with momos, spring rolls, pot stickers etc.
As hot sauce– Use 1-2 tablespoons of harissa sauce in noodles, fried rice, curries etc to add some spice and flavor. You can use this in place of hot sauce.
In Marinades– You can use this sauce in any marinade or spice rub for roasting vegetables or meat.
In condiments– A dash of this harissa paste in condiments like hummus or in soups, pasta salads will perk up the flavor of said dish.
As pizza sauce– This may be unconventional, but we are hooked to pizza with harissa paste. I mix 2-3 tablespoons of this sauce with 1 tablespoon olive oil and use it as pizza sauce and it tastes yum, try it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Though the base of this sauce is chili, this sauce is more than a hot sauce. Along with the heat from peppers, it has deep flavor from whole spices, tangy taste from lemon juice and very slight sweet note from sugar with that umami from tomato paste.
Both are spicy sauces and often used as substitute to hot sauce. Sriracha is from Asian cuisine with pronounced garlic flavor while harissa has got more Earthy flavors.
More Homemade Condiments
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Homemade DIY Harissa Sauce
- Food processor
1 CUP = 250 ml
- 15 dried red chilies
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or red chili powder
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds kala jeera
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- To begin making harissa paste pick about 15-20 dried chilies and soak them in hot water for 20 minutes to rehydrate them.
- After 20 minutes, drain the chilies in a colander. Remove the stems and seeds and place them in a food processor. You can leave the seed membrane if
- Add the other ingredients- 1 teaspoon salt, 4 cloves garlic peeled, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or red chili powder, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, 2 teaspoon coriander seeds, 2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 2 teaspoon cumin seeds and 2 tablespoons tomato paste.
- Blend everything into a smooth paste.
- Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a pan for a minute in medium heat and remove from flame. Do not let it smoke.
- Add the prepared sauce and mix well. Store harissa sauce in airtight jar and refrigerate.