Harissa paste, a chili paste that beautifully blends the flavors of the new world and old world, finds its origins in the heart of North Africa. This fiery and hot condiment is created by mashing chili peppers with garlic and infusing them with a rich blend of aromatic spices.
Once a luxury exclusively enjoyed by the wealthy in ancient times, spices held immense value and were treasured as much as precious metals like gold. The history of the spice trade is intricately intertwined with the defining flavors of Northern Africa.
The inclusion of harissa in everyday staples such as vegetables, grains, bread, meat, and poultry takes these otherwise ordinary dishes to a whole new level of taste and excitement.
Table of Contents
Chronicles of Harissa Paste
Capsicum annuum, originating from the Americas, stands as the most prevalent and extensively cultivated species within the Capsicum genus. This species encompasses a diverse array of shapes, sizes, and levels of spiciness.
Capsicum annuum has been utilized by Native Americans for both culinary and medicinal purposes for over 9000 years. Aztecs referred to it as “chili”. Within the Capsicum family, one can find bell peppers, red peppers, paprika, and pimento. These flavorful hot and mild peppers have long held significance in global cuisine, while their remarkable health benefits find recognition within conventional medicine.
Throughout its journey around the world, Capsicum has made a remarkable impact, conquering various corners of the globe. Presently, there exist over 50,000 distinctive varieties that thrive in different regions worldwide, each with its own unique characteristics and regional significance.
The Baklouti peppers, cultivated in Tunisia, known for their integral role in the creation of harissa paste have contributed to the distinct flavor and culinary traditions of that region.
Special Tools to Use:
- Mortar and pestle
- Food processor or blender
Substitutions and options
- Use roasted bell pepper to mellow the spice heat and intencity.
- Adding tomato paste or sun dry tomatoes will also soften the
How to Make – Step by Step
To make harissa paste it’s best to use whole dried chilies instead of powder. In addition, if you like to smoothen the heat, you can use roasted fresh red bell pepper. It will brighten up the paste color.
Roasting Bell Peppers
Preheat oven to 200 °C/ 400 °F. Arrange the bell pepper on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes until skin is blistered and peppers are soft. Remove the peppers from the oven and set aside to cool before peeling the skin off. Cover the pepper to help the steam loosen their skin for easy peeling.
Break the “whole chilies” open and remove their seeds and stem. Heat a skillet without any oil on medium heat. Quickly dry roast the chilies for 30 seconds on each side. Press them down with a spatula to assist with even roasting. This process may slightly soften the chilies and releases dormant oils. After dry roasting, place the chilies in a bowl and pour over a boiling water. Cover and let them re-hydrate and soften. They should get soft in 30 minutes.
Alternatively you can pop the chilies into a hot oven 200 °C/ 400 °F for 2-3 minutes.
Use the same skillet to toast the spices. Place the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds in a preheated pan and dry-roast briefly for just a minute or two. Grind the spices in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.
Blending everything together
Place the peppers, chilies, garlic, and spices into a blender and give several good pulses, until everything is nicely mushed and blended.
Best Way to Use Harissa paste
Harissa paste will turn bland ordinary food into a striking dish!
Storage and Freezing Suggestion
Place the paste in a jar and store in the fridge for several weeks.
Make a big batch and store in small jars. You can also portion it on a ice cube trays and freeze. Defrost cubes as needed. They will thaw in no time. Alternatively, if you use harissa in small quantities, place in a ziplock bag, flatten and remove the air, and score with the blunt side of a knife into usable portions.
Tips and Wisdom
More Recipes From Cafe Osharak
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and let us know in the comments! We love hearing feedback from our readers and would be thrilled to know that you found the recipe to be delicious and easy to make.
Homemade Fiery Harissa Paste
- 100 gram dried chilies Guajillo, New Mexico, Aleppo
- 1 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Begin by breaking open the whole chilies and removing the seeds and stems.
- Next, heat a skillet over medium heat without adding any oil. Dry roast the chilies for approximately 30 seconds on each side, pressing them down with a spatula to ensure even roasting. This process slightly softens the chilies and releases their dormant oils.
- Transfer the roasted chilies to a glass jar and add hot water to re-hydrate them. Allow them to soak for at least an hour.
- Using the same skillet, toast the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds until fragrant. Once toasted, grind the spices using either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder designated for spices.
- In a blender, combine the re-hydrated chilies, ground spices, garlic, and salt. Add the liquid used to re-hydrate the chilies and pulse the mixture until it forms a paste-like consistency.
- Store the prepared paste in a jar or freeze until you're ready to use it.