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A small jar of harissa paste with a spoon of harissa paste on a table.

Harissa Paste

Course Sauce/Dip
Cuisine Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Prep Time 30 minutes
Inactive Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 1 cup
Author Marissa


  • 3-4 ounces dried chile peppers stemmed and deseeded (see notes)
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4-5 garlic cloves peeled
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for storing
  • ½ tablespoon tomato paste optional


  • Place the dried chiles in a heatproof bowl and top with boiling water. Set aside for 30 minutes to rehydrate.
  • While the chiles are rehydrating, add the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds to a small skillet over low-medium heat to toast; shaking occasionally to prevent from burning. Remove from heat and pan when the spices are fragrant (leaving them in the pan may cause them to burn).
  • Using a spice grinder or mortar & pestle, grind the spices. Set aside.
  • Drain the chiles and place them in a food processor. Add in the toasted spices, salt, garlic cloves, olive oil, and tomato paste (if using). Puree until a smooth paste forms, stopping to scrape down the sides when necessary; about two minutes.
  • Transfer the harissa paste to a glass jar or container and top with a thin layer of olive oil, about a ¼ of an inch. Keep refrigerated and top off with more oil after each use. It should keep up to three or four weeks.


  1. Any variety of chiles can be used, but keep in mind that each type has its own flavor. My go-to blend is usually about three ounces of chiles de árbol and half an ounce of chipotles, but it's always fun (and delicious) to mix it up.
  2. I personally find that most dried chiles are easier to de-seed while dry, but if you find it's easier to do after soaking, that works too. Either way, I recommend wearing gloves to protect your hands (and your eyes in case you forget you handled hot peppers and touch your face).