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Harissa Recipe - North African Chili Paste Condiment


Photo © Christine Benlafquih

Tunisian in origin, harissa is a delicious chili pepper condiment now accepted as part of Moroccan cuisine. Dried red chili peppers are ground to a paste with garlic and spices. Lemon juice and olive oil are used to moisten and thin the paste. Some Moroccan recipes also include tomato paste or puree.

You can use a small processor or blender to make harissa, but I think this quantity is easiest made in a mehraz, or mortar and pestle.

Add harissa directly to a dish as it's cooking, or offer it on the side.

Yields 3 tablespoons.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes


  • 12 to 15 dried red chili peppers (approx. 1 1/2 oz. or 100 g)
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway seeds (optional)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • olive oil


Remove the seeds from the dried chili peppers and place them in a bowl. Cover them with very hot water and leave to soften for 30 minutes to an hour.

Drain the chili peppers, and gently squeeze out excess water with a paper towel. Using a mortar and pestle (or a blender or mini food processor) grind the chili peppers, garlic, salt and spices to a paste. Add the lemon juice and just enough olive oil to moisten the harissa, or add additional olive oil to thin it.

Store unused harissa in an airtight container in the fridge. For long storage, lightly top the harissa with a little oil before covering.

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