Recipe: Harissa


From the Vitality Food Feature ‘FIRE UP YOUR WINTER MEALS‘.

A key flavouring and condiment in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, Harissa is never far from a Moroccan, Libyan, Algerian, Turkish, or Tunisian table. In fact, it is the go-to seasoning for many cooks in the region. Often it is added to soup, stew and curry dishes or tagines, used with meatballs, or rubbed into kebabs and other meats before grilling.

The main ingredient is cayenne (or other hot chile peppers) and while it is easy to make from fresh or dried hot chiles, it is also widely available in cans or tubes, or freshly prepared in tubs in Middle Eastern or North African markets.

Dairy products (in particular yogurt), and the starch in pastas and couscous, help to dial the heat down and so they are often paired with harissa and other hot chile dishes.
(Makes 1/2 cup)


  • 12 cayenne, serano, or jalapeno chile peppers, fresh or dried
  • 3/4 cup boiled water
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 piece (2-inch) cinnamon, crushed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1) Discard stems and seeds from the chiles. Using kitchen scissors, cut chiles crosswise into thin strips, letting them fall into a bowl. Pour water over top and soak for 30 minutes or until softened.

2) Meanwhile, in a small, heavy pan or spice wok, over medium heat, dry-fry cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, and fenugreek seeds (optional) for three minutes, or until fragrant and light brown. Set aside to cool.

3) Using a small food processor or blender, chop the garlic with the salt. Drain chiles, discarding the soaking water (or reserving it for another use later). Add chiles to garlic and process until smooth. Add toasted spices and process to incorporate them into the mixture.

4) With the motor running, gradually drizzle in the oil through the opening in the lid, processing the mixture until the sauce is well blended to a consistency of mayonnaise.

Pat Crocker Pat's mission in life is to write with insight and experience, cook with playful abandon, and eat parsley with gusto. Author of 24 cookbooks, Crocker holds a degree in Food, Nutrition, Consumer, and Family Studies (Ryerson University, Toronto) and is a culinary herbalist with more than 1.25 million books in print and several translated into over 11 languages. She was honored twice by the International Herb Association’s Professional Award, and also received the 2009 Gertrude H. Foster award from the Herb Society of America for Excellence in Herbal Literature. Her books, The Juicing Bible and The Vegan Cook’s Bible (both published by Robert Rose) have won “Best in the World” awards from the International Gourmand Culinary Guild. Read all about parsley and over forty other herbs in Pat’s latest book, The Herbalist’s Kitchen (Sterling Epicure) now available in bookstores everywhere and on her website.

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