How to Prepare Harissa: A North African Chili Paste

Originally from Tunisia, harissa is a delicious red pepper spice now accepted in Moroccan cuisine.
Harissa is sometimes added with other ingredients during cooking, but most of the time it is offered as a spice.
Serve with tagine by placing a small spoon on the side of the plate; you can spread the bread with chili paste before moving on to meat, sauce, and vegetables.


  • 2 large handfuls (about 3.5 ounces) of dried red peppers
  • 4 cups of boiling water
  • 3 or 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • A pinch of olive oil
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Preparations and Instructions

  1. Dried peppers remove the stems and seeds and place them in a bowl.
  2. Pour boiling water over pepper; Allow the peppers to soften for 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. While the peppers are soaking, heat the pan over medium heat until hot.
  4. Add the whole spices and toast until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and season with a grind and spice grinder. Set aside.
  6. Drain the peppers and gently shake off the excess water with a paper towel.
  7. Grind peppers, garlic, salt, and spices with a mortar and pestle (or blender or mini food processor) to make a paste.
  8. Add the lemon juice and enough olive oil to moisten the harissa to the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  9. Keep unused harissa in a hermetically sealed glass container. For longer storage, lightly coat harissa with a little oil before closing.