Spice Essentials: Homemade Harissa Paste

Andy Anderson !


Harissa is one of those items that you may have heard of, but do not know a lot about. A short definition is that harissa is aromatic chili paste that can be used to enhance everything from soups and stews, to appetizers and main dishes.

You will be surprised at all the ways you can spice up recipes with this versatile paste. I have made a few changes, and given it a more “Western” flavor; however, the main ingredient is still dried chilies.

And, although it is classed as a paste; I would also define it as a condiment.

So, you ready… Let's get into the kitchen.


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30 Min
5 Min
Stove Top



  • 4 oz
    dried chilies, more on this later
  • 1 tsp
    caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp
    coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp
    cumin seeds

  • 1 tsp
    kosher salt, or to taste

  • 3 - 4 clove
    baked garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
  • 1 Tbsp
    lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 Tbsp
    sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • 2 Tbsp
    olive oil, extra virgin variety

How to Make Spice Essentials: Homemade Harissa Paste


  2. Gather your Ingredients (mise en place).
  3. Place the dried chilies into a large bowl, and cover with boiling water.
  4. Let them sit for 30 – 40 minutes.
  5. Chef’s Tip: As you have already figured out, the chilies are the star of this recipe, so care should be taken to choose the right ones. I use a 50/50 blend of hatch, and ancho chilies; however, you could use hotter or milder chilies to suit your own creative tastes. It is totally up to you.
  6. Place the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds into a small pan over medium heat.
  7. Shake the pan, so that the spices do not burn, and stop when they become fragrant, about 2 – 3 minutes.
  8. Remove the spices from the pan, and place into a spice or coffee grinder.
  9. Finely grind the spices.
  10. Chef’s Note: Toasting dry spices is called “blooming,” and it greatly enhances the flavor notes of the individual spices.
  11. Drain the chilies, and reserve the soaking liquid.
  12. Stem and seed the chilies.
  13. Add the chilies, dry spices, lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes, and the baked garlic to a blender or mini-prep.
  14. Give the blender several 1-second pulses, until all the ingredients are thoroughly blended.
  15. With the blender or mini-prep set to medium, slowly add the olive oil.
  16. Chef’s Note: If the resulting paste is thicker than desired, add a bit of the reserved soaking water, a teaspoon at a time, until the desired thickness is achieved. But, remember that this is primarily a paste, and not a sauce.
  17. Stop and adjust the seasoning… Adding a bit more salt, if necessary.
  18. Add to an air-tight container, and drizzle a bit more olive oil over the top.
  19. Store in the fridge, tightly sealed, until ready to use.
  21. Use this versatile paste in soups, stews, or as a spread for a burger… Brush it on a piece of pan-fried fish. Add it to a batch of hummus, or mix some with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and use it for dipping crusty bread. Enjoy.
  22. Here is a really yummy recipe for a spicy wing dipping sauce:
    • 6 tablespoons sweet butter, unsalted
    • 6 tablespoons harissa sauce
    • 1 – 2 pinches cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 cup fresh clover honey

    Mix all the ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer for about 2 minutes, then cool… So yummy.
  23. Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

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