Spicy Harissa Sauce

4.58 from 7 votes

Make this African & Middle Eastern Spicy Harissa Sauce at home using a few simple ingredients. It is vibrant red in color and adds smokiness and heat to whatever it is added to (vegan, gluten-free).

Harissa sauce served in a bowl.
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About Harissa Sauce

Harissa Sauce is a North African (esp Morocco) and Middle Eastern spicy red sauce that is spicy, sweet, smoky, and tangy, all at the same time.

This sauce is super versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. It is sometimes also referred to as the Ketchup and Sriracha of North Africa and the Middle East.

Harissa Hot Sauce adds a nice heat and smokiness to the dishes, which just makes anything so delicious.

This spicy, hot and vibrant red sauce comes together in under 30 minutes using a few simple ingredients.

Although Harissa sauce is easily available in the market these days, it’s always best to make it at home.

The homemade one is always fresh and is prepared with high-quality ingredients. It is free of preservatives and artificial colors. The taste of the homemade sauce is also different and authentic. And the best is that you can control the spice level as per your tolerance.

Traditionally, this sauce was made in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. But, with all our busy schedules, I like making homemade Harissa quickly in a blender or a food processor.

Harissa hot sauce is vegan and gluten-free and this recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

Here are some more homemade sauces that you may like

Ingredients

Harissa sauce ingredients

Red Bell Peppers – Always pick a fresh one with no marks. The skin of the bell peppers should be shiny and smooth.

Some people make their Harissa Hot Sauce using dry red chilies in place of red bell peppers. You can do that as well.

Chilies – Traditionally, 1-2 Fresno chilies are added to this recipe. But if they are not available, you can skip adding them.

You will also need bird’s eye chilies which is a very hot variety of chilies. If bird’s eye chilies are not available, then use any hot chili that is easily available to you.

Oil – Extra virgin olive oil works best in this harissa recipe. Make sure to use good-quality olive oil because it really enhances the taste of the sauce.

Lemon Juice – This adds a perfect hint of tanginess to the sauce and also compensates for the spicy taste of the red chilies.

Middle Eastern people add preserved lemons to their Harissa Hot Sauce and it gives a very nice tang to it.

You can replace lemon juice with white vinegar or use a combination of both in this sauce.

Others – You will also need whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and garlic.

A lot of people add caraway seeds to their Harissa Paste recipe. These seeds add a mild licorice flavor to the sauce and are traditionally added. 

Adding some smoked paprika will enhance the smokiness even more.

How To Make Harissa Sauce

Roast The Spices

Add 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds to a small nonstick pan and dry roast on medium heat until browned and fragrant. Keep stirring continuously.

Coriander and cumin added to a pan.

Once done, remove the pan from the heat and keep it aside.

Roasted spices.

Roast The Bell Peppers

Roast 2 red peppers over an open flame until charred from all sides. Keep rotating while roasting using a tong.

Note – You can also roast the peppers in a broiler or use jarred roasted peppers.

Charring the bell peppers on direct flame.

Remove the roasted red peppers to a plate and let them cool completely.

Once cooled, peel off the charred skin.

Charred skin removed.

Discard the seeds and chop them into small pieces.

Chopped bell peppers.

Make The Sauce

Add the chopped roasted peppers, 4-5 chopped Fresno chilies (optional), 2-3 bird’s eye chilies (stalks removed), 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 5-6 whole garlic cloves, and 2 teaspoon lemon juice to the medium jar of a blender.

All the ingredients added to a blander jar.

Blend to make a smooth paste.

Harissa sauce is ready. Transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate. Use as required.

Ready harissa sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to make green harissa sauce?

Add some Jalapeno, scallions,green bell peppers, and cilantro to the main recipe and skip adding the red bell peppers, Fresno chilies, and bird’s eye chilies to make green harissa sauce.

How to make harissa sauce using dry red chilies?

To make this paste using dry red chilies, use a mix of mild and hot dry chilies. 
Using a mix of chilies gives a nice depth of flavor to this harissa paste.

You can use chilies like Chiles De Arbor, New Mexico Chiles, Dried Pasilla Negro Chiles, Chipotle Chiles, and Dried Ancho Mulato Chiles. All of these are available online.

Soak the dry chilies in hot water for 15 minutes. Discard their seeds and stem and add them to a blender along with other ingredients. Blend to make a smooth harissa paste. Do not use red bell pepper, Fresno chilies, and bird’s eye chilies if making this paste using dry chilies.

Is sriracha similar to harissa?

No, they are very different from each other, but as both of them are spicy, they taste a little similar. The consistency of both the sauces is very different and both of them belong to different cuisines.

Harissa has strong earthy and nutty flavors as compared to Sriracha.

Pro Tips By Neha

This sauce tastes the best after a few days of making it. Make and store it in the refrigerator and use it after 1-2 days. The flavor becomes deeper with time.

You can make it using dry red chilies instead of fresh chilies. You can even use different fresh chilies and peppers like Serrano, Jalapeno, or Baklouti to make this sauce.

This recipe makes approximately 2 cups of sauce. One serving is 2 tbsp. The recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

Usage Ideas

This spicy, red, hot Moroccan sauce is very versatile and can be used as a spread on sandwiches, for marination, and even as a topping on your pizzas. I completely enjoy using it and eating it with different combinations.

Chicken breasts or thighs, lamb or fish marinated with this sauce and then grilled to perfection is one of my favorite ways to use this sauce. Shrimps go quite well with the sauce too.

You can add some of it to your traditional Hummus to give a smoky and hot flavor. It goes great in Mutabal as well.

A little bit added in pasta sauce or in salad dressings is my fav way to use it.

You can also add it to stews like this Instant Pot Chicken Stew or soups like Thai Pumpkin Curry Soup.

Add a little in salad dressing like vinaigrettes to add a depth of flavor. 

Roasted veggies, lentil chili, eggplant brushed with this sauce and grilled, mayo spiked with this Moroccan sauce, etc are some other ways to use it.

It can also be used as a dipping sauce for appetizers like Fish Fingers, Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges, Pasta Chips, or Cajun Chicken Wings.

Storage Suggestions

Harissa Sauce will last in the fridge for about 2 weeks when stored in an airtight container. Top the sauce with a thin layer of olive oil to increase its shelf life. Always use a clean and dry spoon, whenever you are using the sauce from the container.

If you have leftover sauce after 2 weeks, freeze it in freezer-safe containers for up to 2 months. To use, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.

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Make this North African & Middle Eastern Spicy Harissa Sauce at home using a few simple ingredients. It is vibrant red in color and adds smokiness and heat to whatever it is added to (vegan, gluten-free).
4.58 from 7 votes

Spicy Harissa Sauce Recipe

Make this North African & Middle Eastern Spicy Harissa Sauce at home using a few simple ingredients. It is vibrant red in color and adds smokiness and heat to whatever it is added to (vegan, gluten-free).
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 people

Ingredients 

  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 whole red bell peppers
  • 2-3 whole Bird's eye chilies (stalks removed, or any spicy chili will do)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5-6 whole garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
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Instructions 

Roast The Spices

  • Add coriander seeds and cumin seeds to a small nonstick pan and dry roast on medium heat until browned and fragrant. Keep stirring continuously.
  • Once done, remove the pan from the heat and keep it aside.

Roast The Bell Peppers

  • Roast red bell peppers over direct flame until charred from all sides. Keep rotating while roasting using a tong.
  • Note – You can also roast the peppers in a broiler or use jarred roasted peppers.
  • Remove the roasted peppers to a plate and let them cool completely.
  • Once cooled, peel off the charred skin.
  • Discard the seeds and chop them into small pieces.

Make The Sauce

  • Add the chopped roasted peppers, bird’s eye chilies, olive oil, salt, garlic cloves, and lemon juice to the medium jar of a blender.
  • Blend to make a smooth paste.
  • Harissa sauce is ready. Transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate. Use as required.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

This sauce tastes the best after a few days of making it. Make and store it in the refrigerator and use it after 1-2 days. The flavor becomes deeper with time.
This recipe makes approximately 2 cups of sauce. One serving is 2 tbsp. The recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.
Traditionally, Fresno chilies are also added to this recipe. But if they are not available, you can skip adding them.

Nutrition

Calories: 73kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 5g, Sodium: 295mg, Potassium: 183mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 1255IU, Vitamin C: 87.5mg, Calcium: 14mg, Iron: 0.8mg
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