What is harissa paste?
Harissa is a chilli paste originating from the Barbary Coast of North Africa (the name comes from the word ‘harasa’ which means ‘to mash or crush’ in Arabic, referring to the way harissa is prepared). The main chilli used to make harissa paste is the Tunisian Baklouti – a slightly sweet, elongated chilli with a fruity flavour and mild heat level. Combined with garlic, lemon, herbs and spices (often coriander, cumin and caraway seeds) it makes an aromatic, peppery paste that can be used as an ingredient in dips such as, hummus, marinades for grilled meat or fish, or used to add depth and interest to slow cooked dishes, such as tagines.
A common variation on harissa is rose harissa, which is made using rose petals and, often, a little rosewater for added floral fragrance.
Harissa is most closely associated with Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Libya. However, it is most deeply rooted in Tunisian cuisine, and is sometimes described as Tunisia’s national condiment.
How do I cook with harissa paste?
Harissa paste is a useful addition to marinades, as it brings the fruity heat of chilli peppers and the complexity and fragrance of warming spices in one ingredient. Try adding a spoonful of harissa paste to a lamb stew, or use to marinate chicken before roasting or barbecuing. Use a slick of fiery harissa in place of ketchup on your burger, or use it to add depth and richness to a tomato sauce for chicken, lamb or goat served with a pilaf.
Harissa also works well with seafood - try adding a teaspoon to your prawn cocktail sauce - or make a simple sauce for fish by combining harissa with melted butter and lemon juice. Liven up a potato salad with a spoonful straight from the jar, or mix with mayonnaise to add a smoky sweetness to sandwiches.
Harissa is also popularly used to flavour couscous – combine a spoonful with a squeeze of lemon juice and some olive oil before stirring through a steaming bowl of couscous with roasted vegetables.
Exciting recipes using harissa paste
Spanish Omelette with Rose Harissa
Harissa Roast Sea Bream
Punchy harissa pairs perfectly with preserved lemons and potatoes in this hearty fish dish. Served with a salsa verde for some acidity. The full sea bream and harissa recipe is available here.
Super-Soft Courgettes with Harissa and Lemon
This recipe is fragrant and fiery when served both hot and cold. The longer you let the flavours marinate the better. View Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage's recipe here.
Spiced Apricot Harrisa Lamb Shanks
What are the different harissa pastes I can buy?
You can buy harissa paste in a variety of forms - as a paste or a spice mix. A variety of aromatic flavourings can also be added to change the flavour.
This is the classic harissa paste that you can add to anything. Made with baklouti peppers, garlic, coriander and caraway seeds, a little goes a long way.
Belazu apricot harissa is a richly spiced, sweet paste with flavours of paprika, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. It is also made with rose petals, which brings a subtle floral character.
Harissa spice can be used as a dry spice rub or combined with olive oil to create a smooth paste.
Still searching? View our range of Harissa products.