How to Make Harissa

I remember my first kiss, experienced at an embarrassingly young age. I remember my graduation day and how my mother’s eyes sparkled with tears of joy.

I remember many of the intense moments in my life. And I remember my first spicy food; it must have been an intense moment as well.

Harissa, the chili pepper paste trendy nowadays among chefs on Food Network and everywhere, was how I had my baptism of the heat.

Compared to the feisty Thai green curry I had a few weeks ago (which the waiter described as mild–LOL), harissa is lukewarm at best. Moroccan spicy is more flavorful spicy than hot spicy; and harissa is just that: a very flavorful condiment with a bit of a kick.

I have always considered harissa spicy; but spicy can be very relative, as I discovered when I first moved to the US and swallowed a spoonful of wasabi that I mistook for avocado puree at a Japanese restaurant.

I nearly lost my breath from that. Spicy took a whole new meaning for me that day and I never ceased to discover how relative spicy can be.

I use harissa to spike my tagines, marinades or as a spread on sandwiches, alone or mixed with mayo. I usually buy it at the local Middle Eastern market; but when they don’t have it, I prefer to make it at home rather than drive to the market on the other end of town or wait a couple of days for it to be shipped from Amazon.

It is worth the drive and deserving of the wait, but I can’t wait for the day when it is carried by mainstream grocery stores alongside ketchup and mustard. I know that day will come. Until then, I shall continue making mine.

Harissa Recipe


  • 12 fresh red chili peppers, stems and seeds removed (or 24 dried ones, presoaked in hot water for 1 hour and drained)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander


Step 1: Blend the chili peppers, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor until smooth.

Step 2: Season the harissa paste with salt, cumin, and coriander. Transfer to a jar and top with a layer of olive oil. Close the jar tightly and refrigerate. It will keep for up to 6 weeks.

Jennifer Dumas

My name is Jennifer! Welcome to Dinners and Dreams. My goal here is to encourage you to try out recipes you never thought you could make at home. Furthermore, I also review products that I have used in the past or currently using to make every day buying decisions easier and to ensure you get the best value for your money.

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