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Easy Homemade Harissa: How to Make Delicious Spicy Harissa Paste at Home

Written by the YesChef staff

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Erez Komarovsky
Teaches his Israeli Cuisine
“Harissa is one of the most important condiments in Israeli cooking,” chef Erez Komarovsky says as he uses his bare hands to massage a thick red chili paste marinade onto fresh chicken breasts. There are many different recipes for this spicy sauce, but the authentic version knows how to add heat, flavor, warm spices, and make you love harissa.
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Erez Komarovsky
Teaches his Israeli Cuisine

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What Is Harissa?

Harissa is a spicy chili paste that is a staple of many North African dishes. Originally from Tunisia in North Africa, harissa sauce hot sauce is a versatile condiment made from chili peppers and olive oil, garlic, and spices.

How Do I Make Harissa Paste?

Israeli chef Erez Komarovsky makes his homemade harissa paste recipe with three types of dried chiles: hot, sweet and shatta peppers, along with extra spices like whole toasted cumin seeds, kosher salt, preserved lemons, and lots of olive oil. After soaking his peppers chef Komarovsky crushes them into a bright red paste. “Wow!” he recently said while admiring his freshly-made harissa. “Pure gold!”

Where to Buy Harissa?

Harissa paste can be store bought in jars at Mediterranean markets and in the international or condiment section of most grocery stores. Also available in some supermarkets is harissa powder, which can be used for harissa seasoning and flavor. This dried harissa spice can also be mixed with oil and water and used as a substitute for harissa sauce. It is similar to chile pastes like sambal oelek, which can replace harissa, as it’s easily available at many Asian grocery stores.

What Kind of Chiles Should I Use for Harissa?

Any type of fresh red chili peppers or dried chillies can be great for making harissa sauce. In Tunisia, the local red baklouti pepper is generally featured, but since that may not be readily available in the Americas, you can substitute for red bell peppers and various Mexican chilis, which are also commonly used. Be sure to choose your chilis wisely based on how spicy you want your harissa. You can also use a combination of spicy and mild chili peppers.

What Should I Cook with Harissa?

Harissa has many uses. It can be added to pasta dishes, soups, salad dressings, and scrambled eggs. It can be substituted for ketchup or used as a condiment on sandwiches. It can be made into harissa hummus or, as Erez fancies it, as a delicious dip for pita or as a peppery marinade to enhance the flavor of falafel, chicken, pork, seafood, or steak. 

In his YesChef lesson, the Israeli chef makes a harissa chicken recipe. He marinates chicken breast in a homemade harissa marinade before grilling it over charcoal and serving alongside a fresh tomato and peach salad dressed in lemon juice.

Harissa Tips and Tricks

  • Without Seeds Please: To temper the heat of the chili peppers, remove all of the seeds. Erez uses scissors which makes seeding the peppers a snap.
  • Get Creative: Try using different types of peppers, such as poblano peppers, for a different twist on harissa.
  • Go Green: Harissa doesn’t have to be red. For a different color and taste, try making green harissa. This can be done by combining jalapeño peppers with herbs such as parsley and cilantro.
  • Harissa Loves Food: There are few savory foods that harissa doesn’t improve. Erez suggests trying it with fish, calamari, steak, shrimp, or pork. In Israel, harissa often accompanies dishes served in pita such as sabich, falafel, shawarma, and a hummus recipe.
  • Tenderizer: Erez teaches how to make Harissa Chicken with Green Tomato and Peach. The acids present in the harissa help tenderize the protein. An overnight marinade gives the chicken an incredible color and flavor, while also ensuring that the chicken breasts stay juicy on the grill.
  • Spice it up: While Erez keeps this spicy condiment simple by seasoning it with cumin, lemon preserves, and garlic, you may want to add more spices to the prepared harissa like hot or smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and toasted coriander.

Harissa Chicken With Green Tomato & Peach Salad

Serves: 6
Hands-on: 10 mins
Total: 2 hrs 15 mins


  • 10 hot dried chili peppers
    stems and seeds removed
  • 10 dried shatta peppers
    seeds removed
  • 10 sweet dried chili peppers
    seeds removed
  • Dried poblano peppers
  • Cold water
  • 20 fresh garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup olive oil
    plus more
  • Salt
  • 1 preserved lemon
    seeds removed and finely chopped



  • 2 bowls
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Meat grinder
    with a meat stomper to push down the peppers
  • Skillet
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Mason jar
    sterilized and with a tight-fitting lid


  1. Rinse your hot dried chili peppers, sweet dried chili peppers, and dried shatta, and soak in cold water for 2 hours.
  2. Squeeze water out of the peppers and grind on a meat grinder together with your garlic cloves.
  3. Return the ground peppers into the grinder for a second time.
  4. To toast the cumin seeds, set a skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add cumin seeds and toast for 3 to 4 minutes, swirling the pan so as not to burn.
  6. Crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle until powdery.
  7. Combine your ground peppers with olive oil, crushed cumin seeds, salt, preserved lemons, and mix into a smooth paste.
  8. Transfer to a tight-lid jar leaving about 3 tablespoons for the chicken marinade.
  9. Drizzle more olive oil over the jar, shake it a little, seal it, and store in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Erez Komarovsky

Renowned chef, baker, and cookbook author celebrated as the “Godfather” of modern Israeli cuisine, Erez Komarovsky takes viewers on a journey to discover the roots of his Middle Eastern cuisine. Starting from the bustling markets of Tel Aviv, Israel to his blissful home in the North Galilee, Erez teaches viewers how to bake his “flowering” Challah and Pita breads, plus his signature dishes including Lamb Kebabs, Hummus Mezze with Falafel, Harissa Chicken, Fish Crudo and more.

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