Easy DIY Harissa Paste

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Bowl of our Harissa Paste recipe on a metal tray with garlic in the background

Have you ever seen a recipe that called for “harissa paste,” but weren’t sure what it was? I’ve been there.

In my earlier days of cooking I used to either skip it altogether, or substitute with whatever hot sauce I had on hand.

Fast forward to now, and I use harissa paste — a North African spicy red sauce — all the time. It consists of simple ingredients like red chilies, garlic, vinegar, and spices, and is perfect for adding smokiness and heat to dishes like hummus, lentil chili, pasta sauce, and more.

I typically buy harissa at the store, but recently have wanted to make my own so I could control the spice level — some can be quite hot, which throttles how much you can add to your meal. Let me show you how easy it is to make fresh harissa paste (and adjust the heat to your liking) at home in just 30 minutes!

Cutting board with dried chiles, spices, garlic, oil, and lemon

What is Harissa Paste?

Harissa is a hot chili paste that originated in Tunisia, North Africa. It is commonly used as a dip or marinade, or to add to dishes like stews to add vibrant red color and heat. Chili peppers were originally imported to Tunisia in the 16th century during the Spanish occupation, and shortly thereafter harissa quickly became a staple part of Tunisian (and Middle Eastern) cuisine (source).

What is Harissa Paste Made Of?

The ingredients for harissa paste are pretty simple- red chilies, garlic, oil, an acid (we used vinegar & lemon juice), and spices.

The two ingredients you may not have on hand are dried chilies — which most grocery stores carry, and are easy to find online (links below) — and caraway seeds, which add a mild licorice flavor. Caraway seeds are a common ingredient in harissa paste, but if you don’t have them, fret not — simply leave them out or compensate with more of the other spices.

How to Make Harissa Paste

First, rehydrate your chilies in hot water, then remove the stems and seeds. While that’s happening, toast your whole cumin and coriander seeds and grind in a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, simply add to a food processor to blend later.

Showing how to remove the seeds from soaked peppers
Overhead image of smoked paprika being shaken into a grey mortar and pestle

Next you’ll add smoked paprika, salt, and garlic, and mix again, before adding lemon juice and vinegar and mixing into a paste.

Whole spices being ground in a mortar and pestle for making Harissa Paste

Once all of your ingredients are added to the food processor, blend into a smooth paste. Add olive oil near the end to create a creamy, smooth sauce. If avoiding oil, either omit or sub water for a similar effect.

Overhead image of soaked deseeded peppers in a food processor
Food processor filled with our freshly blended Harissa Paste

We hope you LOVE this sauce! It’s:

& Incredibly delicious

Harissa can be added to dishes like my Moroccan-Spiced Eggplant & Tomato Stew, Saucy Moroccan-Spiced Lentils, and Smoky Harissa Eggplant Dip. But it’s great for adding depth of flavor, nuance, and smoky spice to just about any dish, including hummus, salad dressings, pasta sauce, soups, and more!

More DIY Sauces and Spices

If you’re into DIY sauces and spices, you’ll also love our Hummus from Scratch, Easy Green Curry Paste, Easy Red Curry Paste, Easy Oil-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing, and DIY Curry Powder!

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Stirring a bowl of Harissa Paste on a cutting board next to ingredients used to make it

Easy DIY Harissa Paste

How to make harissa paste in less than 30 minutes! Enjoy using this North African spicy red sauce to add heat to dressings, sauces, soups, and more!
Author Minimalist Baker
Tray with a bowl of Easy DIY Harissa Paste
4.86 from 27 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 (2-Tbsp Servings)
Course Sauce
Cuisine Gluten-Free, North African-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 2 Months
Does it keep? 1 Month


  • 10 dried New Mexico chiles (or other large dried chile with mild-to-medium spiciness)
  • 7 dried chiles de arbol (increase for more heat, decrease for less heat)
  • 1 Tbsp (heaping) cumin seeds (or sub slightly less ground // if using ground, skip the toasting step)
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds (or sub slightly less ground // if using ground, skip the toasting step)
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds (not essential, but added to most traditional harissa)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste (or sub finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (if avoiding oil, sub water or omit)


  • Add dried chilies to a mixing bowl or measuring cup and cover with hot water. (We used a mix of mild New Mexico chiles and hot peppers (chiles de arbol). Adjust the ratio to preferred spice level.) Once submerged, cover and steam for 15-20 minutes to rehydrate. Set aside.
  • In the meantime, add cumin and coriander seeds to a small skillet and toast over medium heat for a few minutes, or until fragrant and they start to pop. Then transfer to a mortar and pestle (if you don’t own one, just add to a food processor to mix later), and crush into a fine powder.
  • Next add caraway seeds, minced garlic, smoked paprika, and salt, and mix. Then add lemon juice and vinegar and mix again until you’ve achieved a paste. Transfer paste to food processor and add the tomato paste. Set aside.
  • Once chiles are rehydrated, drain and remove the stems and seeds (I recommend wearing gloves to protect your hands), then add to food processor. At this point, all ingredients (besides olive oil) should be in the food processor.
  • Blend for 1-2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed until a smooth paste is achieved. Then stream in 1/4 cup olive oil while blending to create a saucier consistency (see photo). (Add more oil (or water) as needed until desired consistency is achieved.)
  • Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lemon or vinegar for acidity, paprika for smokiness, tomato paste for depth of flavor, or salt to taste. If it’s not spicy enough at this point, you can either add more chiles de arbol (rehydrated and seeds removed) or cayenne pepper to taste.
  • Scoop paste into a jar to store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. If storing in the freezer, we recommend scooping into an ice cube tray, freezing, and storing in a freezer-safe container up to 2 months. Add cubes directly to warm foods (like stews or cooked sauces). If adding to cold foods (like dressings or dips), let thaw before adding.



*Adapted from Bon Appetit. Find a more traditional version here!
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 8 servings)

Serving: 1 two-Tbsp servings Calories: 123 Carbohydrates: 9.8 g Protein: 1.8 g Fat: 8.3 g Saturated Fat: 1 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.8 g Monounsaturated Fat: 5.1 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 266 mg Potassium: 52 mg Fiber: 4.2 g Sugar: 2.9 g Vitamin A: 11500 IU Vitamin C: 3.3 mg Calcium: 20 mg Iron: 1.3 mg

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My Rating:

  1. ASLI says

    Doubled the recipe, then wondered how I’d get through so much harissa but it was so delicious I already need to make another batch :) thank you!

  2. Barbara P says

    Made this with 1.5 roasted and skinned red bell peppers and a few seeded pickled jalapeño slices. Skipped the oil; used a bit of water instead. Tasted a bit harsh at first. I added more lemon juice, more tomato paste, a bit more salt, and about 1.5 teaspoons of brown sugar. These tweaks seemed to help a lot, and it is now certifiably yummy. Thanks!

  3. Steve says

    Doubled the contents(need to make a lot of lamb merguez sausages and buying harissa is far more costly, and it doesn’t have the character), but this recipe is absolutely amazing for taste, heat and value. I only adapted it in roasting the caraway,cumin and chopped fresh hot chillies( to bring more of the heat and flavour out)together in a skillet, this is so adaptable to an endless amount of recipes, amazing, without doubt the best paste/sauce recipe I’ve found in 10yrs.

  4. dots says

    thank you for the recipe. tasty and full of flavour. i did not have smoked paprika so i used liquid smoke and also substituted one roasted tomato for tomato paste.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review. We are so glad you enjoyed it! Next time, would you mind leaving a star rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! xo

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Sharon, the flavor will be slightly different but you can simply omit the coriander. Hope this helps!

  5. Nancy says

    Delicious! I’m so relieved to find a harissa recipe that doesn’t (incorrectly) use bell peppers and I can’t wait to try it. If it has bell peppers, the flavor is completely ruined and is something other than harissa.

    • Abby says

      Hi! I notice in your tahini harissa recipe you say to use harissa sauce not paste.

      Can this be made into the sauce version somehow?

      Adding more water?


      • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

        We think so! Perhaps if you combined the harissa paste with ingredients in harissa sauce (mainly red peppers, olive oil, vinegar) it could work? Hope that helps!

  6. Pete says

    I’m allergic to cumin, but have a prepared jar of harissa that does not contain cumin and used it to make a vegetarian version of a tagine. I wanted to make harissa for other diners that can eat cumin and this one turned out better than the prepared jar I had. What I made was a very scaled down version and since I didn’t have dried chilies on hand I used powdered chili powder. Chili de arbor, guajillo and ancho chili’s with scaled down other ingredients. People that tasted my prepared harissa all said this one was way better!

    • Pete says

      My scaled down version consisted of:
      1 teaspoon Ancho powder
      1/2 teaspoon guajillo powder
      5 drops of chili de arbor
      1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
      1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
      1/4 teaspoon caraway seed
      1/2 teaspoon asafetida a.k.a. Hing (for a diner allergic to alliums)
      1 scant teaspoon smoked paprika (the one I have is very mild)
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1 scant tablespoon fresh lemon juice
      1 splash about 1-2 teaspoons of white vinegar
      2 teaspoons tomato paste
      About 1/4 cup water just enough to activate the small vitamin bowl.

      I then reduced the the mixture over heat to the correct consistency and this was a hit with the two people who tasted it! I will be making more of this for sure!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! We love to hear this. Thanks so much for the great review and for sharing your experience, Pete!

  7. Ernesto says

    I believe the chile proportions are wrong. Harissa is supposed to be spicy but not throat burning. 7 chiles de árbol is way too much; 2 árbol for 10 New Mexico is more reasonable.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Ernesto, did you give it a try? We find the heat level is perfect as only a little bit of the paste is used in cooking, but you’re welcome to reduce to your preferred spice level!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Gauri, we haven’t tried with fresh, but we think it would work! Let us know if you give it a try!

  8. Christopher Akroyd says

    Very impressed with this recipe.
    I roasted two sweet and some general supermarket peppers and used these instead of the dried ones as they’re not so easy to find in the UK
    I’ve had harissa in Tunisia and Morocco as well as the stuff in a jar
    This is easily as good as any I’ve had before and probably better
    I did leave the seeds in the hotter peppers which did make mine nuclear hot, but it’s still brilliant and my mistake and not the recipe
    Lesson learned for the next batch!!!!
    Great recipe a new firm favourite

      • Jon says

        Once made what is the shelf life for this? We use this all the time but buy the jarred stuff which I know isn’t great and I’d love make it myself. Just wondering on batch size, in addition can I freeze it?

  9. Monika says

    This is like the second best harissa i’ve ever eate! the first one was made by tunisian mother of my friend, from homegrown ingredents (even olive oil), with no electronic equipment ;) I’ve tried for a long time to recreate the taste (store bought were nowhere near) and i feel this one is closest. Now i’m gonna eat sandwich with harissa ;)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Wow, that sounds incredible! We’re honored you enjoyed this one too =) Thanks for sharing, Monika!

  10. Justin says

    Great recipe! It’s so delicious! I made this using hot New Mexico dried chile pods. So I only used those as I didn’t need the Arbols for heat. Came out very delicious! I wanted let people know for a bit of a time saver you can cut the stems and dump out the seeds before you soak your chiles. In New Mexico this is how we make our red Chile sauces. We de-stem and seed before soaking the chiles in hot water. Just a small tip. Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Mark says

    I made this using a variety of chilies at hand but mostly conforming to the quantity and types in the recipe. I did add two rehydrated chipotle peppers to increase smokiness (in addition to the smoked paprika). The result was excellent—much better than whaat I was able to order on-line. Thanks for a great recipe for a hard to find ingredient.

  12. Anna Sansom says

    Just made this using a mix of dried hot chillies (no idea what ones) & Chipotle chillies. Also added half a red onion. Absolutely delicious & easy to adjust the heat.

  13. LisaBP says

    I love this recipe and always have this on hand to make “One Pan Harissa Chicken.” I freeze what I don’t use, which doesn’t happen often! Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Sonia says

    I made this last night and it was absolutely delicious! I just want to check because I think I misunderstood the “(2-Tbsp Servings)” next to the servings calculator (and I made too little); is a single serving = 2 tbsp harissa paste?

  15. Cindy Chin Sang says

    Wowsers! This is so delicious! Thanks so much for the recipe. I only had some Indian dried whole chillies, and limes so used those and it tastes amazing. I have just been eating it straight out of the blender!

  16. Heather Hankinson says

    I don’t know how you feel about posting other recipes, but I used this sauce with this chicken Shawarma recipe and this tzatziki sauce. Absolutely incredible ❤️

  17. Heather Hankinson says

    I made this with no modifications other than adding more lemon juice and smoked paprika to taste. Question though. Is there enough acidity in this recipe to home can this in a water bath? Or would I need to increase the vinegar, add sugar and tomatoes? I saw a similar recipe that didn’t look as good as this one for home canning, but I like this version better and would want to send it to friends.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Heather, we haven’t tried canning, so we’re not sure! Let us know if you try it!

      • Heather Hankinson says

        I have learned that I cannot water Beth can this recipe, but I CAN pressure can it!!

        So I bought a pressure canner. I’ve been water bath canning only so far, but am inspired by this flavor to take my canning game to the next level.

  18. Holly A Dodson says

    I made your Harissa recipe and oh my gosh it ROCKS!!! I had no idea what Harissa was supposed to taste like but this blew my socks off!! How can I have gone my whole life and never had these flavors in my mouth!!! I am dying to try this on EVERYTHING. Thank you so much!! My taste buds applaud!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad you enjoy it, Holly! Thanks so much for the lovely review!

  19. R says

    Hi Dana,

    I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    A quick question – can I leave the seeds in the dried chillies or should I absolutely get rid of them?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We recommend removing them, but it might be okay if you don’t. Let us know if you try it!

  20. Chau Nguyen says

    I did not have any whole dry chilies at home, so substituted them with dry chilies flakes. It turned out really well. I am looking forward to making it again with the “real deal chilies”. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Chau. We are so glad you enjoyed it! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

  21. Purvi says

    This recipe is legit! I was looking for a Harissa paste recipe because it’s not always easy for us to find it in store and Amazon hasn’t been consistent in sending what we’ve liked in the past. Anyway, we followed this to a tee – and added more tomato paste, vinegar and lemon juice as indicated to achieve the right consistency. This upgraded our homemade falafel night 100%. Thank you!

  22. Pam Vojtas says

    We’re under ‘lock down’, but I have a recipe that calls for Harissa Paste. A have all of the spices, but only have dried Japones (super spicy chili peppers). Any ideas on how to adjust the recipe so I don’t catch fire :) ?

  23. Jessica Chavez says

    Thank you, this was perfect I’m in New
    Mexico so I used the fresh red chili’s wE are known for and this recipe came out perfect!

    Also, FYI the oil you use at the end is for freshness!! You can make this paste and keep it in the fridge up to a Month, IF you use the oil, so with substituting water I would say only sub. If you don’t plan on saving any of it…

  24. Noah says

    Holy smokes – this harissa is delicious! I’ve never had it before, but it’s so good I kept dipping my finger in for taste after taste. I needed it as an ingredient for a chicken dish that I was making, but I think this harissa would be great slathered on bread. This recipe was easy to follow, and I’m sure I’ll make it again. Thank you Dana @minimalistbaker for posting this recipe! Now I have to find more uses for this oh-so-tasty paste.
    By the way, I highly recommend using this to make a tagine. I recently bought the cookbook “From Oven to Table” by Diana Henry, and the Chicken with Prunes, Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Harissa recipe was to die for. You’ll need to find or make preserved lemons. I made my own by following Joshua Weissman’s recipe for preserved lemons on YouTube, and they turned out great.

  25. Shari Denker says

    I’m wondering how long will this keep refrigerated or as with chipotle pepper sauce leftovers, can you freeze flat in ziplock? Thanks!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Shari, this will keep about 1 month in the fridge or 2 (or more) months in the freezer. We like to freeze in ice cube trays and then transfer to a sealed container. Hope that helps!

  26. BarbiAnne says

    Question …. after making this and putting it in small mason jars, I was wondering if after using desired amount, are we supposed to top w/ more olive oil to keep it moist like the store bought kind before closing lid and strong in fridge??

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi BarbiAnne, we haven’t tried that, but you could certainly do that to increase freshness!

  27. Mark M Hopkins says

    Thank you, I love food, learned to cook at my mother’s knee, trying more now that I’m retired, never heard of harissa, took me three batches to get it ‘serivable’ with Ack-muk crackers and a Cake Bread Cab Sav!
    Really enjoyed the artical, recipe was difficult but vid really helped, thanks
    Mark Hopkins

  28. Sierra says

    Sooo good! My family doesn’t do heat so I left out the chiles but made the remaining recipe as written. Awesome addition to homemade street cart chicken. I’d been hoping to use the leftovers as a marinade for pork chops but the sauce magically disappeared within 24 hours. Will absolutely make this again, and often! Thanks.

      • Johnny says

        I have made harissa from different recipes before, but this is the best I have had. I was making it for a particular recipe, but am going to have some on my sandwich in a minute!
        I substituted the mild chillis with a mix of cayenetta and jalapeños from my freezer and some dried cayenne. I grow them all myself and store them in different ways.
        I will definitely be making this recipe again.

  29. Rachel says

    I LOVE this recipe. I have now made this several times and it never lasts in our house. We use it for pasta, zoodles, sandwiches and dip. Love it. Wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you so mich for sharing!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Shannon! Stored in the refrigerator, it will last for up to 1 month. If storing in the freezer, we recommend scooping into an ice cube tray, freezing, and storing in a freezer-safe container up to 2 months. Hope this helps!

  30. Amy says

    I would love a quick write up on how you use this in your simple pasta recipe–the one you posted on your Instagram story! Thank you!

  31. Heather Taylor says

    Hi Dana,
    This recipe looks really interesting but my family don’t really like spicy, hot food, is it possible to make this with red bell peppers?
    Many thanks

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Heather,

      We are not sure this would work with fresh bell peppers as the recipe uses the dried form of chilies. If you could find dried bell peppers, there’s a better chance it could work, but we haven’t tried it. If you decide to give it a try, we would love to hear how it goes!