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Test Kitchen video tip: Homemade harissa

December 13, 2012|By Noelle Carter
  • Homemade harissa can add a little heat to soups, salads, steaks and sandwiches.
Homemade harissa can add a little heat to soups, salads, steaks and sandwiches. (Beatrice De Gea / Los Angeles…)

Do you love your food with a little -- or a lot -- of kick to it? If you've never tried harissa, you don't know what you're missing. Harissa is a fiery red hot sauce from North Africa. While the ingredients may vary from region to region, basic recipes typically include dried chiles, a few spices, garlic, olive oil and salt.

Harissa, a thick paste, can be used both as an ingredient and a condiment. Use it to flavor a marinade or a stew. Dollop it onto soups or steaks, or spread it onto a sandwich for a little extra heat. I even add it to salads.

You can buy harissa in jars and tubes, but the best stuff is typically made at home, and it’s so simple to make. Check out the video above for tips and a quick demo. You can find a recipe below.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at


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Basic harissa

Total time: 40 minutes

Servings: Makes 1 cup

Note: You can grind the spices in a spice grinder, a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

4 ounces dried chiles (equal amounts of New Mexico, guajillo and chipotle chiles)

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds, freshly ground

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, freshly ground

2 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, plus extra for storage

1. Place the chiles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain, then remove the seeds and stems from the chiles. Wear latex or rubber gloves when you do this to avoid irritating your skin.

2. Place the seeded and stemmed chiles into the bowl of a food processor with the garlic and pulse a couple of times. Add the salt, caraway and coriander. Process until smooth, pouring the olive oil into the feeding tube on top as you blend. Add a little water if necessary to achieve the right consistency: The harissa should be a thick paste. To store, top off with a thin layer of olive oil and refrigerate.

Each serving: 37 calories; 1 grams protein; 4 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 108 mg. sodium.

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