Homemade Harissa

I think it only appropriate to post my homemade harissa recipe when the previous post includes a tablespoon or two and the next post will as well. As much as I enjoy the taste and convenience of a jar littering in the back of my fridge, I seldom reached for harissa at the grocery store. Maybe it was the brow-raising ingredients or I didn't think I would use it up so it felt wasteful. Making my own I imagined would be complicated, and if you know me at all, you know there is a collection of spicy sauces and dips always available in my fridge. So harissa didn't feel like a need. A generous slather in my pita at the falafel shop was enough to tide me over. Then I came across a recipe and reread it twice to confirm that I had been wrong in my assumptions, and that it was really uncomplicated and something I needed to get on right away. So I did and it joined the crew lining my fridge shelf. It might have even taken center stage for a while, which is likely why it shows up in two recipes in a row. Once you make it, I think you'll understand. 

Harissa has a deep pepper-y taste with a pronounced garlic flavor. My version is spicy, maybe uncomfortably so, but that depends on personal taste. You can easily omit the chile de arbol for a pleasantly mild condiment, but don't ask me what I think of that choice. I've made harissa two ways, one of which was based off this recipe. It came out pleasantly dense, but I felt the tomato-y flavor. I then stripped down the ingredients to a minimum: chile peppers, garlic, oil, spices. I took a liking to it more. I included options for both ways, so you can make your own decision.

Now get a batch going on so you'll be ready for what's coming next.

Homemade Harissa


4oz. dried chile peppers

0.4 oz. chile de arbol

3 sundried tomatoes (optional)

6-8 cloves garlic

1 roasted bell pepper (optional)

1 roasted jalapeño (optional)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for finishing


In a medium bowl, place the peppers and sundried tomatoes, and cover with boiling water. Let sit until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain and transfer to a food processor, along with the garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño, salt, coriander, cumin, and olive oil. Process until a smooth, thick paste forms. If it's still chunky, add a drizzle of oil and continue processing. Transfer to a container and top with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the fridge.


I added the roasted pepper and jalapeno, but truthfully, it didn't the deep, charred taste that I'd imagine. I wouldn't and don't take the extra step to include it, but wrote it down anyway in case you'd like to.