Harissa sauce is a North African & Middle Eastern spicy red sauce that is made using simple ingredients in under 20 minutes. It is vibrant red in color and adds smokiness and heat to whatever it is added to.
About This Recipe
If you know me personally, you will definitely know my love for homemade sauces. My fridge is always packed with a variety of sauces so that it comes in handy whenever I want to whip up a fancy dish.
The latest one that I tried my hands on, is this Harissa Sauce. As spicy sauces are my weakness, this Harissa sauce has definitely made my favorite list. This one gets its spiciness from Fresno chilies and bird’s eye chilies.
Harissa Hot sauce is a North African and Middle Eastern spicy red sauce made using simple ingredients. It comes together in under 30 minutes and is vibrant red in color.
This sauce tastes spicy, sweet, smoky, and tangy all the same time and it’s super versatile. It is sometimes also referred to as Ketchup and Sriracha of North Africa and the Middle East. It adds a nice heat and smokiness to the dishes, which just makes anything so delicious.
Although it’s easily available in the market these days, it’s always best to. make it at home, First being, the homemade one is always fresh and is prepared with high-quality ingredients. Also, they are free of preservatives and artificial colors. And therefore, the taste is also different and authentic. And thirdly, you can control the spice level as per your preference.
Traditionally, this paste was made in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. But, with all our busy schedules, I like making homemade Harissa quickly in a food processor.
This Harissa Paste is,
- Easy to make
Red Bell Pepper – Always pick a fresh one with no marks. Also, the skin of the bell pepper 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. I will share the method below to make the Harissa paste using dry red chilies.
Chilies – This sauce is traditionally made using Fresno chilies. If Fresno chilies are not available, you can use any red chili that is mildly hot.
You will also need bird’s eye chilies which is a very hot variety of chilies. Use any hot chili that is easily available to you.
Oil – Olive oil works best in this sauce. Just make sure you opt for a 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 from the red chilies.
Middle Eastern people add preserved lemons in their Harissa Hot Sauce and it gives a very nice tang to it.
You can even use vinegar instead of lemon juice or the combination of both in this sauce.
Others – Apart from these main ingredients, you will need coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and garlic.
A lot of people add caraway seed in their Harissa Paste recipe but I just choose to skip it. These seeds add a mild licorice flavor to the sauce and are traditionally added.
Adding some smoked paprika gives mild heat and smokiness to this hot sauce.
How to make Harissa Sauce?
Add 1 tsp whole coriander seeds and 1 tsp cumin seeds in a small nonstick pan and dry roast on medium heat until browned and fragrant. Keep stirring continuously and once done, keep aside.
Roast 2 red peppers over direct flame until charred from all sides. Keep rotating while roasting using a tong. You can also roast them in a broiler or use jarred roasted peppers.
Remove the roasted peppers on a plate and let them cool completely. Once cooled, peel off the charred skin.
Discard the seeds and chop them into small pieces.
Add the chopped roasted peppers, 4-5 chopped Fresno chilies, 2-3 bird’s eye chilies, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 5-6 whole garlic cloves, and 2 tsp lemon juice in the medium jar of a grinder.
If Fresno chilies are not available, use any less spicy chilies in their place and you can use any spicy chili in place of bird’s eye chilies.
Blend to make a smooth paste. Harissa sauce is ready.
Frequently Asked Questions
Add some Jalapeno, Scallion, and Cilantro in the main recipe and skip adding the red bell pepper, Fresno chilies, and bird’s eye chilies to make green harissa sauce.
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 flavors 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.
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 are 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. And it can be easily doubled or tripled.
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 Muttabal as well.
A little bit added in pasta sauce or in salad dressings is my fav way to use it.
Add a little in salad dressings like vinaigrettes to add a depth of flavour.
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.
This Harissa Sauce will last in the fridge for about 2 weeks when stored in an airtight container. Top the sauce with 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, you can thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.
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Harissa Sauce Recipe
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 whole red bell peppers
- 4-5 chopped Fresno chilies (any less spicy red chilli will do.)
- 2-3 whole Bird's Eye chilies (any spicy chilli will do.)
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5-6 whole garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- Remove the stalk of the Fresno chilies and cut them into half. Remove the seeds and chop them into small pieces.
- Add coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a small nonstick pan and dry roast on medium heat until browned and fragrant. Keep stirring continuously and once done, keep aside.
- Roast the red peppers over direct flame until charred from all sides. Keep rotating while roasting using a tong. You can also roast them 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 the peppers into small pieces.
- Add all the ingredients including the roasted peppers in the jar of a grinder.
- Blend to make a smooth paste. Harissa sauce is ready.
- Store in a clean jar and use as required.