This easy recipe for Harissa Paste is made with a blend of red peppers and spices to create a spicy paste that is perfect for marinades and sauces.
This amazingly spicy blend of peppers and spices can be used so many different ways. It’s an easy paste that can be turned into a sauce or marinade. It’s perfect for grilled chicken or beef, and can even be added to soups, stews, or chilis to add a deep, rich flavor.
I love making my own sauces, seasonings and marinades. This paste makes a great marinade for Harissa Chicken, and if you like spicy you have to try making some peri peri chicken with homemade peri peri sauce too!
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What’s Harissa Paste?
Harissa is a very popular North African sauce made with the basic ingredients of red peppers, garlic, salt, and oil. It is basically like the North African version of ketchup, or maybe more like Sriracha, only it is packed with even more flavor and lots of spice. It is used as a condiment or as a marinade for simple dishes like our grilled Harissa Chicken, and many others. Sometimes it is even added soups or stews to give it a little extra kick.
It’s similar to our Peri Peri Sauce with a slightly different spice profile. If you like spicy sauces give this one a try too!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Dried chili peppers – We used a mix of Guajillo and Pasilla peppers to give the paste a medium heat.
- Roasted Red Peppers – These add a mild, smokey flavor to the paste and help it to go further without masking the flavor of the dried peppers.
- Tomato Paste – This just rounds out the flavors of the sauce
- Garlic – Everything is better with a little garlic. Feel free to add more if you like a little extra garlic flavor.
- Spices – We used a blend of coriander, caraway, cumin, paprika, and kosher salt. Coriander and caraway give the Harissa paste it’s distinctive North African flavor.
- Lemon juice – A splash of lemon juice brightens up the flavors.
- Olive oil – this mild oil is added to the paste to thin it out as everything comes together in a blender.
What Type of Chilis Should I Use?
There are a lot of different red chili varieties to choose from. You can stick with just one dried pepper or mix and match them to fit your flavor and heat level preferences. Here are some of my favorite pepper varieties.
Ancho – This is a dried poblano pepper that has a mild heat level
Guajillo – This is a dried mirasol chili. It is a very common dried pepper found at most grocery stores. It has a mild heat level.
Pasilla – This is a dried chilaca chili. It has a medium to hot heat level. It also adds a rich, earthy flavor to the chili. They are often used in mole sauces.
New Mexico (Chile Colorado) – This is a popular chili with a mild heat level. It also offers a slightly fruity flavor.
You can find the dried Ancho chili peppers here, New Mexico Chili peppers here, Guajillo peppers here, and pasilla peppers here.
Chili powder is also an option if you don’t have or can’t find dried peppers. You’ll need to substitute using the weight of the chilis. My recipe calls for 2 ounces of dried chilis, so you’ll need to use 2 ounces (or about 4 tablespoons) of chili powder.
You can find Ancho chili powder here, New Mexico Chili Powder here, Guajillo powder here, and Pasilla chili powder here, or if you’re lucky, in your grocery store.
Soak the peppers. Remove the peppers and slice them open. Carefully remove the seeds and throw them away. Place the peppers in a small to medium bowl and pour 2 cups of hot water over them. Soak the peppers for about 30 minutes or until they have fully softened.
Puree the peppers. Put the softened peppers, tomato paste, garlic, spices, and olive oil in a food processor. Set to puree until you have a smooth paste. It should only take about 1 to 2 minutes. You could use a blender instead if you don’t have a food processor. Just make sure you scrape down the sides to make sure all of the peppers are pureed.
Looking for More Sauces and Seasonings:
- Keto Alfredo Sauce
- Peri Peri Sauce
- Keto Tzatziki Sauce
- Easy Chimichurri Sauce Recipe
- How to Make Basil Pesto
- Homemade Taco Seasoning
- Easy Hot Pepper Sauce
- How to Make BBQ Sauce
- More Sauces and Seasonings…
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- 6 Dried red peppers, see post above for red pepper suggestions
- 6 ounces Roasted red peppers
- 1 tablespoon Tomato paste
- 1.5 teaspoon Coriander, see note 1 below
- 1.5 teaspoon Caraway, see note 1 below
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 2 teaspoons Paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 3 tablespoons Lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons Olive oil
- Slice the dried peppers open and carefully remove the seeds and throw them away.
- Place the peppers in a small to medium bowl and pour 2 cups of hot water over them.
- Cover the dish to hold in the steam and soak the peppers for about 30 minutes or until they have fully softened.
- Put the softened peppers, tomato paste, garlic, spices, and olive oil in a food processor.
- Set to puree and blend until you have a smooth paste. It should only take about 1 to 2 minutes.
- If you are using whole spices you’ll need to grind them before adding to the rest of the ingredients to ensure they are fully ground into powder.