Tunisian Harissa Paste

Known for its use in Moroccan cooking this versatile condiment originates in Tunisia. Dried chillies are re-hydrated and ground into a coarse paste. Purists add salt and at most a little oilive oil. The Moroccan take is rather more aromatic with the addition of caraway, corander, cumin, mint and garlic, plus lemon juice and good amonts of olive oil. Occasionally you’ll find tomato purée added – I think this is just a bulking agent and has no place in harissa proper. Neither am I keen on the over-vinegary brands sold in European supermarkets chains. But it’s all a matter of taste.

For something special try the exquisitely perfumed rose-harissa. Follow the recipe below with the addition of a teaspoon of dried rose petals or a TINY drop of otto of rose. A spoonful of this in a Mexican mole will lift the dish to unprecedented heights.

Harissa can be used to flavour any number of north African tagines, soups, stews, as a topping for pizza and pasta, and wherever you’d use ketchup. I spread it on bread where others would use butter.

Tunisian Harissa condiment


The trick to good harissa is to grind it fairly coarsely. A hand-mincer or hand-mill (like the ones used for grinding corn) is the favoured method in Tunisian kitchens, though it's likely more people will use a food processor than they'll admit. Mortar and pestle grinding is inefficient, laborious and worst of all messy
Prep Time 5 mins
soaking time 20 mins
Course condiment
Cuisine Moroccan, north African, Tunisian


  • 1 tsp caraway seed
  • 2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp dried mint or 2 tsp of fresh
  • lemon jouice to taste
  • good glug of high quality olive oil
  • 15-20 medium-hot dried chillies Guajillo And Kasmiri are good candidates - bright red and just medium hot


  • Soak the de-stemmed chillies in hot water for 20 mins
  • Meanwhile lightly toast the whole spices on a heavy bottomed pan until they release their aroma without browning. Grind them in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder
  • Drain the chillies squeezing them to get rid of excess water. You can further dry the chillies with paper ktchen towel
  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse, adding oilive to obtain a coarse but soft paste
  • Keep the harissa in a sealed jar covered with a centimeter of olive oil. Refrigerate and keep for up to a month, topping up the oil as needed



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