1. Remove the stems of the chilies using your hands or a paring knife. Place the chilies in a deep container and cover them with hot water. Set a small plate or a weight on top of the chilies. Soak for approximately 30 minutes. 01:00
2. After reconstituting the chilies, place a mesh strainer over another deep container or bowl. Pour the chilies into the strainer and allow the liquid to fall through into the container. Set the liquid aside. 02:20
3. Transfer the strained chilies and a small amount of the soaking liquid into a blender. Place the lid on the blender and begin blending at the lowest speed setting. Remove the lid and place the base of a ladle on top of the chilies. Remove the center of the lid and feed the handle of the ladle through the lid. Secure the lid onto the blender and continue blending on a low speed, using the ladle to push the chilies down towards the blades. 02:50
4. Add the minced garlic to the blender. If using pre-minced garlic, add approximately three heaping tablespoons. Blend to incorporate the garlic. 04:44
5. Add cumin, coriander, caraway, dried parsley, dried oregano, salt and pepper into the blender. Add the olive oil and tomato paste. Place the lid back on the blender and continue blending to combine. 05:43
6. The harissa paste should be thick, shiny, and smooth. Add the lemon juice and blend to combine. If desired, add dried ground cayenne pepper for additional heat. 07:50
7. Taste the harissa paste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Use the paste as desired, or store it in an airtight glass or plastic container. Top the paste with a layer of olive oil and keep it in the refrigerator for three to five months, or up to nine months in the freezer. 08:44
What You'll Need
- Deep container (metal, glass, or ceramic) (2)
- Small plate or weight
- Mesh strainer
- Small metal ladle
- Paring knife (optional)
- Hot water
- African bird’s eye chiles, dried (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- Guajillo chiles, dried (4 to 5)
- Pasillo chiles, dried (3 to 4)
- Ancho chiles, dried (3 to 4)
- Garlic, minced (10 to 15 cloves)
- Caraway, ground (1/2 tablespoon)
- Cumin, ground (1 tablespoon)
- Coriander, ground (1 tablespoon)
- Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon)
- Black pepper (1 teaspoon)
- Dried parsley (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- Dried cilantro (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- Extra virgin olive oil (1/2 cup, plus additional for storage)
- Tomato paste (1/4 cup)
- Lemon juice (1/4 cup)
- Cayenne pepper, ground (optional)
Harissa is a hot, aromatic paste made from chiles and other assorted spices. It is widely used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines as a condiment, marinade, or to flavor stews, soups, or grain dishes. In North Africa, harrisa is also sometimes served in a pool of olive oil and used as a dip for bread.
Harissa recipes vary between countries and regions, but a standard version includes a blend of hot chile peppers (which are often smoked), garlic, olive oil and spices, like cumin, coriander, caraway, and mint. Tomatoes and lemon are also common ingredients.
African brid’s eye chile is also commonly referred to as "piri piri". It comes from South Africa. It is very spicy, but also has a fresh herbal flavor. Guajillo chilies range from mild to hot in spiciness. They are one of the most commonly grown chiles in Mexico. Ancho chiles and pasillo chiles are very similar. Dried ancho chiles come from pobalno peppers whereas pasillo chiles come from chilaca peppers. Both peppers are part of the capsicum annuum family. They have a smoky flavor and a relatively mild spice level. These chiles can be purchased from Mexican markets, international grocers, or online.
Chef Scott recommends purchasing tomato paste in a tube rather than in a can, as it is easier to store any leftover paste after use.
If possible, let the harissa sit for 12 hours before using to allow the flavors to meld and develop further.