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Harissa Paste without the nasties!

I am on a mission to eventually remove all additives in the food I consume, and this is my most recent change.

I found a recipe that asked for harissa paste and I would usually have a pot in the fridge, but I hadn’t got any. Darn it! What to do? Ahh, Google!

I had most of the ingredients to make it myself, but I did substitute the type of dried chillies suggested. This recipe is quite simple and takes about 30 minutes.

What is Harissa Paste?

Harissa is a hot chili paste that originated in Tunisia, North Africa. It is commonly used as a dip or marinade, or to add to dishes like stews to add vibrant red colour and heat. Chili peppers were originally imported to Tunisia in the 16th century during the Spanish occupation, and shortly thereafter harissa quickly became a staple part of Tunisian (and Middle Eastern) cuisine.

How to Make Harissa Paste


· 17 large dried chillies (increase for more heat, decrease for less heat)

· 1 heaped Tbsp cumin seeds

· 2 tsp coriander seeds

· 1 tsp caraway seeds (not essential, but added to most traditional harissa)

· 4 cloves garlic, crushed

· 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika

· 1 tsp sea salt

· 2 Tbsp lemon juice

· 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

· 1 Tbsp tomato paste (or sub finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes)

· 1/4 cup olive oil (if avoiding oil, sub water or omit)


Add the dried chilies to a mixing bowl or measuring cup and cover with hot water. Adjust the ratio to preferred spice level.) Once submerged, cover and leave for 15-20 minutes to rehydrate. Set aside.

Then add the cumin and coriander seeds to a small pan and toast over medium heat for a few minutes, or until they start to pop. Then transfer to a mortar and pestle (or just add to a food processor to mix later), and crush into a fine powder.

Next add caraway seeds, minced garlic, smoked paprika, and salt to the pestle and mortar and grind. Then add lemon juice and vinegar and mix again until you’ve achieved a paste. Transfer paste to food processor and add the tomato paste. Set aside.

Once the chillies are rehydrated, drain and remove the stems and seeds (I recommend wearing gloves to protect your hands), then add to food processor. At this point, all ingredients (besides olive oil) should be in the food processor.

Blend for 1-2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed until a smooth paste is achieved. Then slowly pour in 1/4 cup olive oil while blending to create a saucier consistency. Add more oil (or water) as needed until desired consistency is achieved.

Taste and adjust the flavour as needed, adding more lemon or vinegar for acidity, paprika for smokiness, tomato paste for depth of flavour, or salt to taste. If it’s not spicy enough at this point, you can either add more rehydrated chillies or cayenne pepper to taste.

Scoop the paste into a jar to store.

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