If you’re like most contemporary food-lovers these days, you probably have a growing obsession with Sriracha. It’s been a pantry and dining room staple for me for years. But lately I’ve been exploring other chile sauces and pastes, and have landed on a few that just might earn a regular rotation on my table. Harissa, a dried-chile paste from North Africa, has become one of those favorites. 
Aji peppers

Look! The peppers are spooning! How cute.

Jokes aside, this sauce will vary distinctly depending on what type of dried chile you use. I read that Guajillo peppers are a favorite, which makes sense, but I chose to use what I had on hand, which was ancho, aji, and de arbol chiles. All those are fairly spicy, so be careful how you combine things. I’d recommend steering clear of the ultra-smoky types such as chipotle (although that’d be a great experiment!).

This recipe’s batch size is small–it makes perhaps a half cup, depending on how thin you prefer it. It can easily be doubled, but I like variety and change, so stuck with the small size. These type of pastes also freeze marvelously, so if you find a version you love, go wild with the batch size!

And what to use the sauce on, you might ask? Well, besides adding a dollop to any plate you please (eggs, rice, curries, and more!)?

  • Add a spoonful to chile while cooking. You will be very pleased.
  • Making veggie burgers? This will kick them up a notch or four.
  • Spread it on grilled corn with some lemon and parsley. Yes!
  • Making burgers? Harissa is a classic with lamb or goat meat, but also goes great with beef!
  • Two words: sweet potatoes.

What do you think? Any favorite ways to use harissa in your house?
Harissa paste



Spicy, dark, and earthy North African style chile paste, a great addition to marinades and sauces!

adapted from The Kitchn.


  • 1 oz. dried chiles
  • boiling water to cover
  • 1/4 t. caraway seeds
  • 1/4 t. coriander seeds
  • 1/4 t. cumin seeds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 t. nice quality olive oil
  • 1 t. lemon juice


  1. Bloom the chiles in boiling water, covered, for about 30 minutes or until softened.
  2. Lightly toast the seeds in a dry pan over medium-low heat. Let cool slightly and grind finely in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
  3. Remove the stems and seeds of the chiles, reserving the water, and place chiles in a food processor or blender with the garlic.
  4. Process until fine, adding water tablespoon by tablespoon to make a thick paste.
  5. Add spice mixture, lemon juice, salt, and blend again, adding water if necessary.
  6. Finish with olive oil.
  7. Taste (carefully) and adjust flavors if necessary. All chiles are different!