Homemade Harissa Paste

June 17, 2016

Harissa paste is so easy and inexpensive to make I never buy it in jars. What I love about making this spicy North African condiment is that I can control the heat of the peppers I use (by both amount and variety) and I can make it as smoky as I like with the addition of smoked paprika. This condiment is so versatile. We liberally use it to robustly flavor our tagines, but we've also brushed it on grilled meats and vegetables, tossed it with mixed nuts and roasted them for a spicy snack, added it to savory vinaigrettes for a punch of flavor, and baked it into cornbread. The options are deliciously endless!

Homemade Harissa Paste
Makes 1 cup

8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
8 dried pequin peppers, stemmed and seeded (or the pepper of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika  
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
A pinch or two of cinnamon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
5 cloves garlic
The juice of one lemon

Place chiles in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water; let sit for about 20 minutes until softened

Heat the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds in small skillet over medium heat. Swirling the skillet constantly, until the spices become very fragrant; about 4 minutes.

Transfer spices to a grinder or mortal and pestle and grind to a powder. Set aside.

Drain the chiles and transfer to a food processor along with the ground spices. Add the olive oil, salt, garlic, and lemon juice. Purée until the paste is smooth, scraping the bowl as needed, about 2 minutes.

Transfer to a small glass jar and fill with oil until covers the ingredients are submerged by about 1/4 inch.  Refrigerate and top with more oil after each use.

The harissa paste will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.