Harissa Comes Out of the Closet

Harissa Comes Out of the Closet

Spring Cleaning includes the Pantry. I recently wrote a piece on Nourish Network - Spring Pantry Cleaning Reinvigorates Your Cooking -  that asked readers to submit their suggestions for the item in their pantry that needs to get used but for which inspiration seems gone. Two readers had jars of harissa in their pantries and wondered what to do with them. Check out that post for tips on other pantry items and how to use them.

Harissa closeup

Harissa at My House

I wanted to try my hand at creating harissa from the dried peppers and sun-dried tomatoes I had in my pantry. This is my new favorite condiment. Mixed with mayo (try this fantastic easy homemade version) and slathered on a sandwich or burger it's divine. Mixed with yogurt in a sauce or dip, lovely. I marinated fish in it, then created a sauce by swirling some yogurt into it.

Harissa sole

Harissa adds a powerful flavor punch to mild white fish, to grains, to sauces and dips. Think of it as revved-up ketchup. In fact, you can use harissa much like you would use ketchup, Tabasco or Sriracha: on burgers, over scrambled eggs, in deviled eggs. Thin it with olive oil and roast a chicken with it. I marinated turkey cutlets and chicken kabobs in it for Doc to eat during my IACP conference.

Leather District Gourmet's Harissa

modified from Amy Scattergood’s recipe


  • 4 oz. dried chiles (New Mexico, Guajillo, Chipotle, Ancho, rehydrated)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds, toasted, freshly ground
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted, freshly ground
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 dozen sun-dried tomatoes (Roma) rehydrated, save 2 TBSP liquid
  • 2 medium red bell peppers roasted, peeled


  1. Soak chiles, sun-dried tomatoes in very hot water.
  2. Roast bell pepper under broiler until skin chars and blisters. Place in paper bag to steam, skin will slip off easily after it cools.
  3. Toast caraway and coriander seeds in dry skillet. Cool and buzz in spice blender or grind with mortar and pestle.
  4. Give garlic a rough chop, place in food processor with chiles (after you remove stems and slip most of the seeds off with your fingers.)
  5. Add salt, spices, olive oil, tomatoes, bell peppers.
  6. Pulse until you have thick paste, use soaking liquid to thin out, if necessary.

I used this as a marinade (thin 2 TBSP Harissa with 1/2 C cold water) for 1 1/2 lb MSC Sole Fillets. Marinate for 30 minutes then saute in olive oil. Simmer marinade to thicken slightly, adding yogurt at end to taste. Drizzle over fish and serve.

Typically, cous-cous would accompany the protein, or be the main course in North African meals. Here, I substitute quinoa which has a lovely little crunch that is wonderful foil to the fish.

Harissa Ingredients