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Harissa is a thick, smooth red chile paste about the consistency of mayonnaise. It has a hot, spicy taste that isn't apparent at first but which builds in the mouth.

It is made from dried, hot red chiles, garlic, paprika, caraway, coriander seed, cumin seed, and fennel seed.

Some versions have rose petals in them for a more complex taste; others add some mint. Some recipes called for sun-dried tomato, some for onions, some for beet and carrots.

The mixture is bound together with olive oil or water into a paste.

It is used as a condiment in North African cooking, particularly Tunisian, but also in Morocco and Algeria, for dishes such as tagines, salads, brochettes or couscous, or even pasta in Tunisia.

In Tunisia, the peppers commonly used are Nabeul and Gabes peppers. They are relatively hot (though they wouldn't impress anyone from Mexico.) Some people in Tunisia make it from steamed fresh peppers, some from dried red peppers, some from dried red peppers with a few sun-dried tomatoes added. The mixture there is ground in a mortar and pestle.

Harissa started becoming a foodie favourite in the west around 2000, starting in London.

You can buy it tinned or in small glass pots. Commercially-bought blends advise you to store them, once opened, in the fridge and use it up within 6 weeks. It can also be frozen for longer storage.

Some commercial brands list carrots and beets among their ingredients.

Cooking Tips

Use in small amounts as a flavouring condiment in dishes.

Nutrition Facts
Per 100 g (Al'Fez Brand, entire jar)
11.2 g
.9 g
0 g
0 mg
18.2 g
3.4 g
3.2 g
4.0 g
Weight Watchers®
Per 1 tablespoon / 15 ml / 20 g

* PointsPlus™ calculated by CooksInfo.com. Not endorsed by Weight Watchers® International, Inc, which is the owner of the PointsPlus® registered trademark.


1 tablespoon = 15 ml / 20 g / .7 oz (Al'Fez Brand)

Storage Hints

Those who make their own say they store it for up to a year in the fridge, covered in a layer of olive oil and in a sealed jar (though at first blush, there doesn't seem to be any acidity in homemade recipes that would keep it safe from botulism, etc. Commercial versions include citric acid as a preservative.)


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Please share this information with your friends. They may love it.

Also called:

Heriseh; Tunisian Chile Paste


Oulton, Randal. "Harissa." CooksInfo.com. Published 27 June 2004; revised 29 December 2013. Web. Accessed 03/19/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/harissa>.

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Bon mots

"Good cooking is when things taste of what they are."

-- Maurice Edmond Sailland (aka Curnonsky. French gastronome and food writer. 12 October 1872 - 22 July 1956)

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