Condiment Spotlight: Homemade Harissa


If you are looking for a condiment that multi-tasks while tasting stand-alone delicious, then look no further. I have been making this variation of harissa for years, and it’s positively addicting.

Harissa is a red pepper sauce traditionally found in North African cuisine. Used as a condiment in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, harissa is a paste of hot red peppers combined with other ingredients which vary from home to home and by region. In this version, serrano or red jalapeno chiles are blended with roasted red bell peppers which add smoky sweetness to the fiery chiles.

The beauty of harissa is its versatility. It may be used as a garnish, marinade or dip. Stir it into soups and stews or mix it with couscous and rice. Serve it as an appetizer with veggies for dipping or bread for mopping. It elevates anything it garnishes and is guaranteed to fire up your tastebuds.


The consistency of this harissa will resemble a salsa. Makes about  1 1/2 cups.

2 large red bell peppers
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
2-3 small red serrano or red jalapano chiles, stemmed, minced with seeds
3 garlic cloves
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh coriander and/or mint leaves

Roast the peppers:
If using grill, prepare grill for high heat. Place peppers directly over heat and grill, turning, until evenly charred. Transfer to a plate and cool completely. Peel away skin. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs from the peppers; coarsely chop.
If using oven, preheat broiler. Halve peppers. Discard stems, seeds and ribs. Place skin-side up in one layer on baking tray. Broil until skin is charred. Remove from oven and cool completely. Remove skin. Coarsely chop peppers.

Prepare harissa:
Toast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and caraway seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic, about one minute. Transfer to a mortar with pestle or spice grinder. Grind seeds to a fine powder.
Combine ground seeds, chopped red peppers, chiles, garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil in bowl of food processor. Process until smooth, adding more olive oil, if necessary, to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper. Let sit at least one hour and up to 24 hours before serving. (Refrigerate before use.)
Serve garnished with coriander or mint leaves.

13 thoughts on “Condiment Spotlight: Homemade Harissa

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  2. When our Libian friend mentioned it last week, we all laughed because Harissa is a dessert, a sweet dish also called basbousa .. but for them it means chilli 😀

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