My husband loves harissa and I have to credit him for exposing me to it. Maybe you’ve had it and loved it, maybe you had it and had no idea you had it, or maybe you’ve never heard of it till now. Harissa is, in a nutshell, a spicy, flavorful condiment and can be a nice addition to many things you already eat (at least if you ask my husband). Harissa is simply a hot chile paste which is considered a “basic flavoring agent” of Tunisian cuisine and most don’t realize how extremely versatile it is.

A dollop on eggs, grilled meat or fish, on roasted vegetables, grain dishes of any kind, or soups can spice up anything you already make. Keep in mind, Harissa is supposed to be hot, so don’t kid yourself there, if you don’t like heat at all, skip this post completely.


To clear up some misconception out there, there is an important difference between something that is “hot” and something that is “spicy”. Hot tends to mean heat from chilies which gives food “heat” but not the temperature to which it is served. Spicy is more of a reference to a spice mixture which can (with some Asian cuisines) be complex enough to also add heat. Typically this is a slow building spice/heat that does not overwhelm the palate. But when making your own harissa, there is some wiggle room, the heat can easily be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of chilies in your recipe.


With it’s smoky-spicy flavor, harissa can make any dish more interesting than your average hot sauce. Dried chilies are the main ingredient in this increasingly popular North African condiment and one I have learned to appreciate over the years.  While I love flavor, I don’t tend to love heat. When something has too much heat, the flavor of the dish disappears to me, so balance is important to me when using harissa.

What I mean by that isn a little harissa goes a long way, so serving it on the side is what I recommend. This recipe is my version of hot but not crazy hot harissa, that has a great balance of garlic and smoky flavor. The dried chilies can be found rather easily and although this recipe does not make a huge amount, it’s plenty and keeps in the refrigerator for weeks.


About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

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