All About Harissa (Original Recipe Included)


All About Harissa (Original Recipe Included)

If you love adding a spicy kick to your meals, you’ll love harissa. This hot, aromatic condiment comes from North Africa and is an essential ingredient in Moroccan, Tunisian, Israeli, Algerian, and Libyan cuisine. In Morocco, my birth country, we have jars and jars of Harissa sauce stocked in the kitchen to make sure we never run out of it.

Now that Harissa has become a condiment of choice for many, and rightfully so, you can find it in the ethnic section of many grocery stores or Eastern markets, available as a sauce in jars, cans, as paste in tubes, or as a powder. Harissa comes at all prices, and it’s also very easy to make. The best harissa is made using only natural ingredients. So here’s everything you need to know about this fiery condiment to be able to make it at home, or spot brands that make quality harissa.

What Is Harissa Sauce?

Harissa is a spicy, aromatic condiment made from dried chili peppers, olive oil, spices such as coriander, caraway, cumin, and sometimes garlic. Even though it’s most commonly found and used as a sauce or paste, you can also find it as a powder. Harissa powder can be turned into a paste by mixing it with some garlic and olive oil.

harissa powder


Harissa powder

There are different versions of Harissa sauce, depending on the additions. Some contain roasted fresh chilies, others vinegar, citrus juice, and lots of garlic. You can even find Harrisa paste containing fresh mint.

The best part about this spicy condiment is its incredible versatility. You can stir it into pasta sauces or scrambled eggs, mix it into hummus or yogurt to make a deliciously creamy spread, add it to couscous or soups, spread it on various sandwiches, etc. The possibilities are endless.

What Does Harissa Taste Like?

Harissa sauce has a peppery and smoky flavor that’s deeper than just chili. Even though it’s a hot sauce, you can find different varieties in the levels of heat which depends on the chiles and peppers used.

The condiment can have a strong or mild garlicky flavor, depending on how much garlic is used. Sometimes it’s tangy and sharp from the addition of vinegar or citrus juice. The spices included can also change the way the paste tastes. It all depends on the brand you choose.

How to Use Harissa?

Harissa is remarkably versatile as you can use it to spice up anything from fried eggs to condiments and lamb kebabs.

kofta kafta recipe


To make a delicious Moroccan marinade for olives, you can mix Harissa paste with garlic, lemon, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. You will be blown away! Here is how to make marinated olives like the ones served in the restaurants of Marrakech in Morocco. You can also add it to tagines like this chicken tagine recipe.


Moroccan olives marinated in Harissa and aromatics

How to Spot High-Quality Harissa

You can make your own harissa sauce at home by using harissa powder or mixing chilli peppers with a handful of aromatics. You can also find many store-bought versions to spice up your meals. Unfortunately, not all of them are offering high-quality harissa. Some of them use tomato paste instead of peppers, and you don’t want that.

You want a brand whose ingredients are 100% natural, using pepper instead of tomato sauce and lasting months after opening.

The Original Harissa Recipe

The Original Harissa recipe (Moroccan & Tunisian Version)

Servings: 4 people


  • ½ pound dried red chilies
  • 6 medium garlic gloves grated
  • 2 tbsp carraway seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt adjust quantity to preference


  • Soak the peppers in boiling water for 15 minutes. If they fload, you can immerse them using the weight of a bowl.
  • Open the peppers in half and remove the seeds (be careful not to rub your eyes during the whole time).
  • Add all the ingredients in a mortar or blender and grind until smooth. Taste and adjust salt quantity if needed.
  • Pour the mixture in a clean jar and cover with olive oil. You can keep Harissa in a dry and cool place for 3-5 months.

Safaa, founder of moroccanzest

From design and decor to food and travel, moroccanzest is the space where I share what I loved growing up in Morocco, and more. It’s your destination for everything beautiful, artistic, and made the Moroccan way with love. Learn more about me here.