Friday, May 8, 2009

Homemade Harissa

Harissa is a hot chili paste used in North African cooking. The level of heat depends on the dried chilies you use, and whether you leave the seeds in the chilies or not. We like a lot of heat at our house so we use hot chilies and leave in the seeds. If you are less tolerant of heat can always use less of the Harissa, or blend in other mild or sweet peppers to reduce the heat.

The capsaicin in the chili pepper is said to increase the bodies blood clot dissolving system, open up sinuses, and break up mucus in the lungs. Chili peppers are also antibacterial, and high in antioxidants. It has been reported that consuming chili speeds up the bodies metabolism. I eat harissa because I like the taste and the heat. It is nice to know that it is good for me too.

Homemade Harissa
makes about a cup


1 ounce of dried chili peppers
6 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander, toasted and freshly ground
1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and freshly ground
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and freshly ground
additional olive oil to cover Harissa in the jar


Place chili peppers in pan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and put the lid on the pan. Allow the peppers to steep in the hot water for one hour. Drain the water from the peppers and put the peppers in a food processor along with the other ingredients. Process the mixture in a food processor until it is smooth and thoroughly combined. Move the harissa to a glass jar with a lid. Cover the harissa with a little olive oil so that it is not exposed to the air. If the mixture remains covered with a little oil it will last for months in the refrigerator.


I use the harissa for many things. This is another “foundation recipe” at our house. Harissa it good tossed with cooked spaghetti or couscous. Harissa is also good in a marinate for tofu or seitan. I like to add a spoon or two into vegan mayonnaise for a nice spicy sandwich spread or veggie dip. I haven't tried it yet, but I can imagine a little Harissa mixed into the olive oil that is drizzled over the almond feta. Harissa has many uses and I will be adding many recipes for using the harissa in the future.

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