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22 July 2020

This spicy harissa sauce recipe is made with a variety of fresh roasted peppers and the perfect mix of aromatic seasonings, great for rice, meats, veggies and more.

It’s sauce day in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen, my friends, and this is a great one. I’m all about making flavorful sauces, and there are so many you just can’t make without chili peppers. Chili peppers are essential to so many recipes, especially sauces.

This particular sauce uses a mixture of fresh roasted peppers and earthy, aromatic seasonings that combine to make a popular sauce that is bold in flavor and extremely versatile. We’re talking Homemade Harissa Sauce, and you’re going to love it.

Harissa Sauce in a bowl

Harissa is a popular North African chili paste used in African and Middle Eastern cooking. Recipes vary from cook to cook and region to region, but it essentially consists of fresh or dried local peppers combined with a mixture of local seasonings. The paste is used to flavor many dishes, more as a seasoning or rub.

This is a sauce version of harissa that can be used as a flavoring element or a finishing sauce in so many different ways.

Let’s talk about how we make spicy harissa sauce, shall we?

Chili Peppers for making Harissa Sauce

Harissa Sauce Ingredients

  • Chili Peppers. Use 2 red bell peppers as the base, along with some spicy peppers for a hotter version. I use 2 serrano peppers and 1 habanero pepper, though you can use other peppers. See the Recipe Notes & Tips section for more information on the peppers.
  • Seasonings. 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (or use 1/4 tsp ground coriander), 2 teaspoon caraway seeds (or use 1/4 tsp ground caraway), 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (or use 1/4 tsp ground cumin), 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, Salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon or more is good). You can adjust all of these seasonings to your own personal tastes.
  • Garlic. I use 6 cloves garlic, though you can use more or less as desired. I like a lot of garlic.
  • Oil. 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as vegetable oil or canola oil. Olive oil is good to use if desired, though olive oil has a more distinctive flavor.
  • Citrus. Juice from 1/2 to 1 whole lemon, depending on how citrusy you’d like your final harissa sauce. If you greatly enjoy lemon, add in some of the lemon zest, too. Delicious!

Spicy Fresh Homemade Harissa Sauce in a bowl

How to Make Harissa Sauce – the Recipe Method

Roast the Peppers. Preheat oven to broil. Set the peppers onto a baking sheet (aluminum foil will make for easy cleanup), skin sides up, and broil for 5-10 minutes, until the skins are blackened and blistered, turning every few minutes to evenly roast the peppers. Check after 5 minutes and remove the smaller peppers as needed. They will char faster. See my post on How to Roast Peppers for alternate methods. 

Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover them with plastic or a paper towel, or place them into baggies or paper bags to let the skins steam and loosen. Peel away the skins and discard them. 

Set the roasted red peppers into a food processor.

Toast the Seeds. Add the coriander seeds, caraway seeds and cumin seeds to a small skillet and dry toast them in the skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, shaking the pan a bit, until the seeds become fragrant.

Transfer the seeds to a mortar along with the paprika, chili flakes, mint and salt. Grind them down with a pestle. Skip this step if using ground instead of seeds.

Food Processor. Pour the spice mixture into the food processor with the roasted peppers. Add the fresh garlic, oil and lemon juice.

Steps for making Homemade Harissa Sauce

Process until smooth. Adjust for salt to taste.

Harissa Sauce in a food processor

Thin the Sauce as Desired. Adjust for a thinner sauce with a bit more oil or water.

Use immediately, or top with a bit of oil and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Boom! Done! Harissa sauce, my friends! It’s incredibly flavor with a rich and smooth texture, unlike any other sauce out there. This recipe will make you about 2 cups, so plan accordingly.

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Chili Peppers. You have many options when making homemade harissa sauce. Commonly used peppers are roasted red peppers, serrano peppers, and Baklouti peppers, or whatever local peppers you have on hand. You can also use dried pods, like guajillo peppers and pasilla peppers, which I often use for making my own homemade harissa paste. Different peppers will affect your final flavors and heat levels.
  • Additional Ingredients. A few dashes of hot sauce is a nice addition for extra heat and flavor.

Harissa Sauce in a bowl and in a small jar

Uses for Harissa Sauce

Harissa sauce is great for serving as an appetizer alongside warmed naan or pita bread. Serve it as an alternative to your normal dip. I personally love it over grilled meats. It is crucial to recipes like Grilled Harissa Chicken or my Baked Harissa Chicken Breasts. Swirl some into your next batch of hummus for a flavor pop. Use it to flavor soups, stews and ground meats for burgers.

Spooning extra harissa sauce onto my Baked Harissa Chicken Breast

I love it swirled into rice, couscous or other grains as a big flavor booster. I’ve swirled harissa into southern grits and loved it. So many wonderful options.

That’s it, my friends. Time to serve the harissa sauce! I hope you enjoy it. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you.

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Harissa Sauce Recipe
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5 from 1 vote

Harissa Sauce Recipe

This spicy harissa sauce recipe is made with a variety of fresh roasted peppers and a mix of aromatic seasonings, great for rice, meats, veggies and more.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course, sauce
Cuisine: African, American
Keyword: harissa, roasted peppers, spicy
Servings: 8
Calories: 65kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 serrano peppers or other peppers - see recipe notes
  • 1 hot pepper optional - habanero is great for extra heat
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds or use 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoon caraway seeds or use 1/4 tsp ground caraway
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds or use 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • Salt to taste 1/2 teaspoon or more is good
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil vegetable oil, canola oil
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon or more to taste (+ zest, if desired)

Instructions

  • Roast the Peppers. Preheat oven to broil. Set the peppers onto a baking sheet (aluminum foil will make for easy cleanup), skin sides up, and broil for 5-10 minutes, until the skins are blackened and blistered, turning every few minutes to evenly roast the peppers. Check after 5 minutes and remove the smaller peppers as needed. They will char faster.
  • Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover them with plastic or a paper towel, or place them into baggies or paper bags to let the skins steam and loosen. Peel away the skins and discard them.
  • Set the roasted peppers into a food processor.
  • Heat a small pan to medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, caraway seeds and cumin seeds and dry toast them for 1-2 minutes, shaking the pan a bit, until the seeds become fragrant.
  • Transfer the seeds to a mortar along with the paprika, chili flakes, mint and salt. Grind them down with a pestle. Skip this step if using ground instead of seeds.
  • Pour the spice mixture into the food processor with the roasted peppers. Add the fresh garlic, oil and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Adjust for salt to taste.
  • Adjust for a thinner sauce with a bit more oil or water. Use immediately, or top with a bit of oil and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Notes

Makes about 2 cups.

Nutrition

Calories: 65kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 5mg | Potassium: 107mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1159IU | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg
Harissa Sauce
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