What is harissa?

This hot, aromatic paste made from chilli and assorted spices and herbs is spicy and fragrant. It's widely used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines as a condiment, or mixed with water or tomato juice to flavour stews, soups or couscous. In North Africa it's also sometimes served in a pool of olive oil, for dipping. As it's strong and pungent, a little goes a long way.

How to prepare harissa

Shop-bought varieties are ready to use straightaway, unless they're the powdered type (see above). It's also possible to make your own with a food processor; a basic recipe includes dried red chillies, garlic, salt, fresh coriander, caraway seeds and olive oil, but you can also add smoked paprika, cumin and mint. If possible, leave to stand for around 12 hours before using, to allow the flavours to develop.

Try making homemade harissa.

How to cook harissa

Add to a marinade or use as a rub; add to soups, pasta sauces or couscous; mix a teaspoon into some olive oil and use to dress roasted root vegetables.

Recipe suggestions:

Use as a marinade for fish in Diana Henry's grilled harissa sardines with fennel & potato salad. Stir through harissa couscous in a quick and easy side dish, flavour aubergine kebabs for a vegetarian BBQ main, or use in a 5-ingredient harissa chicken traybake for a speedy midweek meal. Harissa and honey pair perfectly in a spicy sweet dressing for a halloumi & broccoli tabbouleh.

How to store harissa

Keep in a cool, dry place. Once opened, it should be stored in the fridge and will last for up to six weeks.

Choose the best harissa

You can find it ready-made in jars and cans, and sometimes as a paste, in a tube. It's also available as a powder, to which you add oil and garlic.


Try chilli paste.