What Is Harissa and How Do I Cook with It?

With a jar of harissa on hand, you'll never suffer a bland meal again.

If you're looking to step up your condiment game, then welcoming harissa into your life is a great place to start. This spicy, smoky, peppery red chili paste originally hails from Tunisia, and it is common in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. It can add a spicy kick to just about anything, from eggs to dips to noodles to marinades to braises. Seriously, its potential is limitless. Before you start cooking with it, here are a few things to know that will only strengthen your relationship with this superhero condiment.

What Does Harissa Taste Like?

If you've never tried this fiery sauce before, it has a very peppery, smoky flavor and can range in levels of heat, depending on which peppers and chiles make up the sauce. It also has a strong garlicky flavor that's brightened up with a kick of citrus. Not all harissa pastes are the same, whether they're store-bought or homemade, so you might want to try a few different brands and decide for yourself which flavor and heat level is your favorite. While it has a similar consistency to sriracha, some harissas are smooth while others can be on the chunky side.

Harissa Paste vs. Harissa Powder

In your search for harissa paste, you may have also come across a product called harissa powder. The main difference is that the paste incorporates moisture, whether it be in the form of oil, water, or a combination of the two. If you buy the powder, then you're simply getting a dried version of the peppers and spices. If you choose to cook with the powder, you can use it in the same way you'd cook with any dried spice blend, or you could mix it with oil and water to create a quick harissa paste.

jar of harissa paste

Where to Buy Harissa Paste

If you're ready to try out some harissa for yourself, most grocery stores carry harissa paste, and it is typically located on the global foods aisle near other sauces and condiments. Haven's Kitchen, Mina, and Zamouri Spices all make harissa widely available. Trader Joe's also sells a popular harissa paste. If you can't locate the paste in your local grocery store, you can order a jar online.

Buy It: Mina Harissa Hot Sauce ($10.95, Amazon)

How to Make Harissa

If you want to take matters into your own hands and make it yourself, you totally can. No two harissa recipes will be the same, but Chef John's recipe is an all-time favorite. Regardless of the ingredients, all harissas are made by hydrating dry chiles and pulsing them in a food processor with roasted peppers, warm spices (such as cumin, coriander, and caraway), garlic, citrus, and oil. The advantage to making your own harissa is that you have complete control over the spice level—so you can crank it up or keep it as mild as you like. You can store your homemade harissa in an airtight jar for two to three weeks in the fridge.

How to Use Harissa

Whether you bought harissa or you whipped some up at home, the most important decision is how you're going to use it. There are so many delicious ways that you can put this miracle condiment to use. From marinades and braises to dips and dressings, its applications are seemingly endless. Fold some into soft scrambled eggs, stir a few spoonfuls into your next shakshuka, or drizzle it over your next avocado toast. Want to jazz up some roasted veggies? Toss 'em in some harissa or whip up a harissa yogurt sauce for dipping. Looking for a way to liven up some grilled chicken or steak? Sounds like the perfect canvas for a drizzle of this peppery gold. As long as your kitchen is stocked with a jar of this stuff, you'll never have a bland meal.

Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love