Homemade Red Harissa | Component Cooking

If there’s one thing that rules my component cooking, it’s sauce and sauce-like recipes. Making a sauce or two a week can bring all your meals together. I can’t remember how I started making harissa but it’s become a favorite component of mine. The smoky, spicy flavor works well with many different recipe types and is a perfect partner for vegetables and legumes.

Red harissa paste is most prominent in North African and some Middle Eastern cooking. From what I can tell, each region does harissa differently. While I love a traditional harissa, my variation is based on ease of use/what I have on hand most often (roasted red peppers and chipotle peppers). My version is also on the slightly more mild side thanks to a heat-avoiding husband. I recommend trying a few different variations to find which combination of flavors you like best. You can also buy store-bought red harissa but the flavor is not as good as homemade!

Harissa | Component Cooking


  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Category: Component


A slightly spicy version of the classic North African paste using roasted red peppers and chipotles. Yields about 1 cup, depending on pepper size.


  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 clove garlic (see note)
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper
  • 1 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (optional)


  1. Heat a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat. Add the whole cumin and coriander. Toast, shaking the pan often, until the spices are fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar/pestle. Process until ground.
    Place garlic in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times. Add the remaining ingredients, along with with the ground spices, and pulse until well combined and mostly smooth. 
    Alternatively, using a mortar and pestle, smash garlic into a paste. Add the peppers and continue to process. Add the ground spices and remaining ingredients, stirring until well combine. 


Tips & Tricks: ground spices can be used in place of the whole spices. Substitute 1:1.

I like to use roasted garlic if I have it on hand.

Substitute dried or fresh chiles for the chipotles in adobo. Play around with the combination of chiles to find a heat level and taste you like.

The cilantro is non-traditional but I’ve always used it. Leave it out if desired.

Stock up: get the pantry ingredients you will need: peppers, spices, garlic

Nutrition: see the information.

Red Harissa


Traditional: Leave out the cilantro and use dried red chile peppers of your choice. This is my favorite traditional recipe.

Green: Drop the red chili peppers for green. Use jalapeño for a more mild version or spice it up by using seranno. This is my green harissa version.

Chiles: I like using dried chiles because I think they pack a bit more flavor but you could easily use fresh (and cook them). Play around with different varieties and types.

Soups/Polenta: Stir harissa into cooked polenta or use a spoonful on top a vegetable soup. I love harissa stirred into tomato-broth based soups to up the flavor.

Eggs: Spoon harissa on top of scrambled or fried eggs. Harissa is also great added to quiche and frittatas before baking.

Dips: Puree harissa into hummus or other dips for a boost of flavor.

Sandwiches: Spread red harissa onto sandwiches or my favorite, added to grilled cheese sandwiches.

Vegetables: Toss vegetables in harissa before or after roasting.

Dressings: I like make a simple lemon vinaigrette then add a tablespoon or two of harissa to the dressing before using on salads.

Pizza: Mix the harissa with tomato sauce for an easy and flavorful pizza sauce.

Harissa + Egg Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Sweet Corn Soup with Harissa
Harissa Lentils and Cauliflower | @naturallyella
Quinoa Avocado Salad with Harissa Chickpeas