Crafty Harissa

Do you like spicy?  I mean really spicy.  We do! 

This is my version of Harissa which is a North African pepper paste condiment.  A layer of oil on top of the paste preserves it in the fridge for a few months (in my experience).  You will have to add oil to the top almost every time you use it.

This paste is very versatile: add to rice or noodles, spice up soup, make your own sausage flavor, be daring and dip bread into it, serve it on the side of main dishes, add it to marinades, use it alone as a marinade, add to salsa and other sauces, serve with eggs,  spread it on a grilled cheese sandwich, pretty much just add it to anything you want to heat up!


This is very spicy – a little goes a long way.

Wear gloves or wash your hands often and thoroughly when preparing the chilis.  Do not wipe your face or any sensitive skin areas with a hand that has touched the chilis. 

Crafty Harissa

  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro – stems and leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint – stems removed, leaves only
  • 1/2 lb fresh Bird’s Eye chili peppers
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt (sea or kosher)
  • 1/2 – 1+ c olive oil

Toast the cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant and starting to brown – do not burn.

Peel the garlic cloves and remove the stems from the chilis.

Place all of the ingredients in a blender, food processor, or mortar and pestle.  Start processing.

Drizzle in the oil as needed to make a paste.

Scrape the paste into a jar and top with a layer of  olive oil.  Keep refrigerated and add a new layer of oil to the top after each use to preserve the paste.


6 thoughts on “Crafty Harissa

    1. I have seen some recipes that suggest subbing part of the peppers with bell peppers, others use a variety of dried peppers (ancho, guajillo) which can vary in heat. Subbing all the peppers for pablanos would be good, serranos might work as well. With any of the larger peppers, you can easily remove the seeds (not so much with the thai chilis) to tone down the heat too. Does that help? 🙂

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