Moroccan Harissa

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite family traditions is our Christmas dinner. Every year, someone chooses a country or region, and everyone bring a typical dish from that area. This cultural cuisine tradition always leads to some really unexpected – and delicious – results. With fond memories of our Moroccan Christmas, I decided to re-make a few dishes that I really loved. Harissa is a condiment of Tunisian origin, and it is full of strong flavors from chili peppers, garlic, and fresh ground spices.

moroccan harissaI looked at some recipes that started out with fresh chili peppers, but I was concerned about those being too spicy, so the recipe I used includes dried chili peppers. I used one hot pepper variety and one milder variety, and that ended up being perfect, spice-wise.dried peppersThe peppers are de-stemmed and de-seeded, then re-hydrated in hot water.

rehydrating peppersWhile those are hydrating, toast some coriander and cumin seeds – place seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, and give them a toss every so often until they start turning brown. Keep an eye on them, or they’ll burn.

toasted coriander and cuminAfter toasting, grind them up in a spice grinder, or if you’re doing things the hard way, grind them up with a mortar and pestle.

mortar and pestleWhen the spices are well-ground, add in a few cloves are garlic and mash them up to form a paste. Add the salt as well.

garlic and spicesNext add in the peppers and continue mashing everything (or add everything to a food processor).

ground harissa pasteFinally, add some lemon juice and olive oil until the harissa reaches a desired consistency. Now what to do with it? Here are some ideas from thekitchn: “This flavor-packed paste can be used to enhance soups, stews, appetizers and main dishes. Use it has a marinade for meat and fish. Blend it into hummus, or any of your favorite dips. Use it as a spread to liven up your pizza. I love adding a spoonful to a bowl of olive oil…it’s bread dipping heaven.”

Next week I’ll show you how I used the harissa to make a Moroccan appetizer!

Moroccan Harissa

Moroccan Harissa

Harissa is a Moroccan condiment used to flavor many dishes, including use as marinades, flavoring for hummus, a bread dip, and more! Its bold flavors make it an ideal ingredient for appetizers - a little goes a long way.


  • 1 large handful dried red chili peppers
  • 2 - 3 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • olive oil


  1. Heat up water to a simmer (about 4 cups). Remove the seeds and stems from the peppers, then place them in the water for 15 to 30 minutes to hydrate them.
  2. Toast the spice seeds on the stove over medium heat (do not add oil to the pan) for up to 4 minutes. They should be lightly browned and fragrant.
  3. Using a spice grinder or a mortar/pestle, grind the spices well. Grind the garlic and salt into the spices to form a paste. Add the peppers to the mixture and continue grinding to create a uniform paste.
  4. Mix in the lemon juice. Add olive oil to reach desired consistency.

adapted from

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>