Homemade Harissa Recipe

Homemade Harissa

This is one recipe I would feel guilty about plastering a Paleo label on. It would be like throwing a gluten-free label on bottled water. The ingredients used to create this amazing and flavorful paste are already Paleo and gluten-free so we’ll just call it a homemade Harissa recipe instead, even though everything I make is homemade. :p

Truthfully I’d never heard of harissa before we ate it at Picnik Austin. I saw it on the menu and was quite curious. It tasted amazing, like all the food Naomi offers, so I added it to my mental list of things to look into…and forgot all about it, until now!

Homemade HarissaHomemade Harissa

When I remembered I wanted to try harissa, I dug right in to answer my own questions: What is Harissa?how’s it typically made?where does it come from? After doing a little reading and once I felt comfortable enough with the basic answers to those questions, I went straight to the kitchen to make my own homemade harissa.

What Is Harissa?

So what exactly is Harissa? The basic answer: it’s a hot sauce or paste made from chili peppers, paprika, and olive oil. And I actually only used one of the three items I just mentioned. :)

Kind of like mayo or pesto, both have a basic oil consistency and a few extra ingredients used to change the flavors although it seems recipes for harissa can definitely vary.

Where Does Harissa Come From?

Harissa is a basic seasoning paste that comes from Tunisia. It’s served with kebabs and couscous and appears on the table in a small dish. It’s to be used sparingly as a condiment. Harissa is sold ready-made in tubes or small cans and if you look in stores for it, the best is said to come from Tunisia.

How Do You Use Harissa?

Similar in use to ketchup, sugar-free ketchup or sriracha, harissa is just another condiment that can be used to add flavor to any dish or meal.

It pairs incredibly well with lightly seasoned meats such as pulled pork, a simple salt & pepper seasoned grass-fed steak or a tasty lamb shoulder. Use it as a topping for scrambled eggs for breakfast.

When I made this Harissa, I had already thrown a lamb shoulder together to roast. While the lamb was doing it’s thang in the oven, Jeff & I watched this video about filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.

If you’re not sure who Robert Rodriguez is, he wrote, produced, edited, cinematographied, scored, and directed the movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico (actually the entire Mexico Trilogy – El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico) among many other movies. His most recent movie being Spy Kids 4.

After watching that video I got excited to make tacos so I went to the kitchen and whipped out some Paleo tortilla’s (recipe coming soon!) using my 8″ cast-iron skillet and then got started on the homemade harissa.

Why I Used Ancho Chiles

The hotter the chiles you use, the spicier the harissa will be.

Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers and they were the only dried chiles I had on hand. You may be familiar with poblano peppers since they’re regularly used to make chile relleno.

Homemade Harissa

Homemade Harissa

Yield: 1 cup


  • 4oz dried chiles, (I used Ancho)
  • boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced


  1. Add dried chiles to a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and lay something heavy on top to weigh down the chiles so they're all submerged. (I used two glasses.)
  2. Soak the chiles for 30-60 minutes or until rehydrated.
  3. Drain the chiles but set aside 1-2 cups of the chile liquid.
  4. Cut the ends off and deseed the chiles.
  5. Transfer the chiles to a food processor. Add cumin, coriander, garlic and sea salt.
  6. Process the mixture until the blade needs encouragement. Drizzle in a little of the chile liquid and process. Continue to do this until a paste forms.
  7. Add lemon juice and mix to combine. Taste to check if more sea salt is needed.
  8. Transfer Harissa to a glass jar, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  9. Use on scrambled eggs, raw carrots, as a topping for tacos or to eat with a spoon. Be careful though, it may be a little spicy for the latter.
  10. Enjoy! :)