How to make harissa sauce, a smoky, spicy, creamy chili sauce, and the ultimate condiment for heat-lovers. Even better, this harissa paste can be made with fresh or dried chiles, adapted to preferred spice levels, and stored in the fridge or freezer for weeks of deliciousness!
Start by spreading the pepper, chilies, garlic, and onion across a lightly oiled tray. Drizzle a bit of oil over the peppers as well. Then roast in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes at 400ºF/200ºC.Optionally you can broil (grill) them for a few minutes to lightly char the skins and add extra "smoky" flavor.I roast everything whole and skin on as it’s easily removable after roasting and stops the onion and garlic from burning. Feel free to peel/prepare everything before roasting, though, if preferred.
Step 2: Prepare the spices
Meanwhile, optionally lightly toast the dried spices in a large skillet until fragrant (this only takes 1-2 minutes but adds tons of extra flavor).
Once ready, crush the spices into a powder, You can do this using a small coffee/spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle.
Step 3: Blend the harissa sauce
Once the veggies are roasted, peel the onion and garlic, remove the chili stems, and remove some or all the chili seeds to adjust how spicy the harissa paste will be. I only remove a part of them.
Add the roasted veggies to a food processor and process them into a paste.
Step 4: Reduce the harissa paste
Add the olive oil to the skillet. Once heated, add the tomato paste, and mix a little. Then add the chili mixture and stir.
Add the ground spices, salt, and lemon and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. During this time, it will cook down and become a thicker paste.
Meanwhile, sterilize the jar you plan to store the harissa paste in.
Once thickened, give the harissa sauce a taste and adjust any of the flavors if needed.
BONUS: How to make harissa paste from powder?
Making harissa paste from harissa powder is super simple. All you need to do is combine the harissa powder with oil and garlic (raw or roasted) until you achieve a thick paste.Allow the paste to rest and the flavors to ‘meld’ in the refrigerator for several hours (overnight if possible) and then you can use it when needed over the next two weeks.
How to Store Harissa Paste
Fridge: Store the harissa paste in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator and cover it with a thin layer of olive oil to help increase the shelf-life for longer. This way, it should last several weeks (or even months!). Just make sure to top up the oil each time to make sure the paste is always covered.Freeze: I recommend adding the harissa to an ice-cube tray and freezing until solid, then transferring to a freezer-safe bag/container. Freeze for up to two months.You can then add the harissa cubes directly to hot dishes like soups, stews, and grains.
Allow the paste to rest: While it’s edible immediately after making it, allowing it to rest for 1-2 days in the refrigerator for the flavors to develop is super worth it!
Wear gloves: It’s best to wear gloves when handling any hot chilies as the residue can stay on your hands even after washing them (multiple times!)
Experiment with the ratio of peppers: I like to use lots of hotter chiles with just one or two mild ones. However, feel free to do this the other way around or anything in-between to find your perfect level. Add just one smoked chili for added depth without overwhelming smokiness.
Use a combination of chilies: Based on what’s available- using a combination of fresh, dried, and smoked chilies will help create a harissa paste with tons of flavor dimension.
Optional add-ins and variations:
Lemon juice: To add fresh flavor and depth to the harissa sauce. Preserved lemon is another popular addition. Alternatively, you could add a bit of vinegar like apple cider vinegar.
Other spices: Smoked paprika (or hot smoked paprika) is a particular favorite addition of mine. Cayenne pepper can be added to increase the spice further.
Fresh herbs: Cilantro, parsley, or even mint could be added for extra flavor.