Join us for an adventure in flavor!

    Harissa (North African Chili Paste)

    Are you ready to add some serious flavor to your table? Then you need to try Harissa!

    It’s a beautiful condiment with exotic taste and a bit of kick (don’t worry, you can adjust the heat).

    This paste is a simple preparation of peppers, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and some other flavor enhancers. Give this one a try, we were blown away by the flavors!

    This North African Harissa is going to add a ton of flavor to your kitchen. Use it as a condiment or flavor enhancing ingredient!

    What is Harissa?

    Harissa is a pepper paste that’s popular in North Africa, and is most associated with Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

    It comes from the Arabic word “harasa”, which means “to pound”, as the peppers traditionally get pounded. We’re going the easy way and using our blender!

    Often used as a condiment, it’s also an ingredient in some popular dishes such as Harissa Chicken, which will be our next post.

    Recently it has started gaining popularity in the west, so much so that jarred harissa is available in many supermarkets. But you know that homemade is always better, right?

    What Does Harissa Taste Like?

    Harissa has a complex flavor, combining smoky, sweet, tangy and spicy, with a notable hint of peppery (as in peppers, not black pepper).

    It’s one of those very unique flavors. Like our chicken paprikash, this one  gave us a surprise, like “wow, that’s something I’ve never tasted before!” 

    If you love new and varied flavors, this one fits the bill.

    This North African Harissa is going to add a ton of flavor to your kitchen. Use it as a condiment or flavor enhancing ingredient!

    How Spicy is Harissa?

    As spicy as you want it. It all depends on the dried chilis you use. This particular recipe is quite mild, as we used Gujaillo and ancho chilis.

    If you want a spicy harissa, add in 4-6 arbol chilis. 


    • Dry Red Chilis – Gujaillo and ancho.
    • Roasted Red Peppers – jarred
    • Garlic
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Lemon Juice 
    • Spices – cumin, coriander powder, smoked paprika, cayenne and salt

    How to Make Harissa

    Soak the dried chili peppers for 30 minutes in hot water to rehydrate them.

    Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste. Scrape down the sides a few times to get a uniform consistency.

    Taste and adjust.

    Finished product in the blender.


    1. Instead of cumin and coriander powder, use seeds and lightly toast them.
    2. Add one teaspoon of caraway seeds, which add a hint of licorice flavor.
    3. An interesting variation is rose harissa. Add two tablespoons each of dried rose petals and rose water.
    4. You can up the smokiness factor by adding 1-2 chipotle chilis.

    How to Use Harissa

    This flavor enhancer is so versatile. Here are just a few ideas:

    • Harissa makes a great condiment for grilled meats or seafood. In fact, it is considered the national condiment of Tunisia.
    • Try it as a marinade for chicken or beef.
    • Mix harissa with mayo for a super flavorful sandwich spread.
    • Add a tablespoon or two to soups or stews for a new flavor profile.
    • It’s the star ingredient for our harissa chicken!
    Serving of harissa chicken.


    Refrigerate leftover harissa in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks.

    If you make a big batch and want to freeze some, freeze in an ice cube tray, then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag. That way you can thaw as much or as little as you want. Each cube equals about one tablespoon.

    Bowl of harissa.

    Bring these exotic flavors to your kitchen. We sure are glad we discovered this beautifully flavorful paste. When you try it, please leave a comment and star rating, I love to hear from you.

    And be sure to subscribe to GypsyPlate, we’re always cooking up tasty new recipes for you! Until next time…

    Harissa, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    Bowl of harissa paste atop the Gypsy Plate.

    Try these other great homemade sauces and condiments!
    Cilantro Mint Chutney
    Sweet and Sour Sauce
    Vindaloo Paste
    Salsa Verde
    Salsa Taquera
    Remoulade Sauce
    Jerk Marinade

    Featured image for harissa post.

    Harissa (North African Chili Paste)

    Yield: about 1.5 cups
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Total Time: 10 minutes

    This North African Harissa is going to add a ton of flavor to your kitchen. Use it as a condiment or flavor enhancing ingredient!


    • 7-8 dried Guajillo chilis
    • 2 dried ancho chilis
    • 2 large roasted red peppers (jarred)
    • 4 garlic cloves
    • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 tsp coriander
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    • salt to taste


    1. Soak the dried chilis in hot water for 30 minutes, until rehydrated. Drain and remove seeds and stems.
    2. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend, occasionally stopping the blender and scraping down the sides, until you have a smooth, uniform consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

    Get griddling! Try these Blackstone Recipes!

    Never miss a recipe!

    Join the GypsyPlate mailing list and get easy dinner recipes right in your mailbox. From homestyle comfort food to exotic dishes from around the world.

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

      Search by Cuisine

      Travel a word of flavors with GypsyPlate. Sort our recpes by regions:

      GypsyPlate logo.
      Skip to Recipe