What Is Harissa and How to Find the Right Composition


What Is Harissa and How to Find the Right Composition

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, every family has jars and jars of Harissa sauce stocked in the kitchen to make sure they never run out.

Now that Harissa has become trendy, and rightfully so, you can find it at 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. But, you should be careful not to choose a brand which sells low-quality harissa.

Here’s everything you need to know about this fiery condiment so that you can choose a quality brand and use it to make delicious recipes.

What Is Harissa Sauce?

Harissa is a spicy, aromatic condiment made from dried chili peppers, olive oil, spices such as coriander, caraway, and 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 or citrus juice, third 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 delicious creamy spread, add it to couscous or soups, spread it on various sandwiches, etc. The possibilities are endless.

How to Use Harissa?

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

kofta kafta recipe
Harissa is the perfect condiment to spice up kebabs and grilled meat

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.

Moroccan olives marinated in Harissa and aromatics

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 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.

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.