Fiery Harissa Paste for Moroccan Cooking

Post date:


harissa paste relish cookbook sonia cabano blog eatdrinkcapetown
Fiery harissa paste. Photo by Sean Calitz from Relish: Easy Sauces, Seasonings and Condiments published by RHS

I first learnt to make this version of hot-hot-hot harissa paste many moons ago, when I was cook/presenter of a TV cookery series. Our guest for one episode whipped up some harissa and chermoula in her kitchen while her home-made bread was baking in the oven. I can’t remember what else was on the menu that day, because one lick of this voluptuous, seductive and very fiery spice paste, and I was hooked. Hooked with a capital H.

I’d always thought harissa was Moroccan, but it’s actually of Tunisian origin. The versions I’d encountered in Westbourne Grove during my years in London were altogether simpler and more basic than this recipe, which gives a lot more depth and subtlety due to the inclusion of fresh coriander and mint. It’s simply magnificent. Use it in cooking – as in any of the recipes featured in Persiana – or spread it as a condiment in sarmies, or mix with a little oil and use as a baste on meat and chicken before braaing.

In my experience, harissa tends to get more potent the longer it stands. If you cook with chillies regularly, you’ll have a fairly good idea which chillies and what level of fire you prefer. I once made harissa with small, dried birds’ eye chillies and it nearly blew my skull off. So beware. Start with the milder stuff before you progress to the extreme end of the scale. You can leave out the fresh herbs if you want.

Some recipes use up to 500g sweet red peppers, I use only 1. You can leave it out if you want to, you’ll end up with less paste and less of a sweet taste.


Harissa is hot, hot, hot. Commonly served with Moroccan or Tunisian tagines and couscous, a little goes a long way. You could also mix it with some oil and yoghurt for a barbecue marinade with quite some kick. Otherwise use as you would any chilli sauce.

Makes about 300ml


1 sweet red pepper, roasted in a hot oven or over gas flame until charred. Peel, scrape seeds out and chop roughly

225g fresh red chillies, deseeded and coarsely chopped

1-2 T (15-30ml) crushed garlic

½ T (7.5  ml) ground coriander

1 T (15 ml) ground caraway seeds

3 T (45ml) chopped fresh coriander

1 T (15 ml) dried mint or 2 T (30 ml) fresh mint, chopped

1 T (15 ml) salt

1 T (15 ml) tomato paste

1 t (5 ml) castor sugar

2-3 T (30-45 ml) olive oil to moisten


  1. Process all the ingredients except the oil to a smooth paste, drizzling olive oil into the bowl while the blade is running to moisten the harissa just enough to form a paste. It musn’t be runny!
  2. Spoon into a sterilised glass jar and drizzle more olive oil on top to seal the surface. Refrigerate for up to a month.






[td_block_social_counter style="style10 td-social-boxed td-social-colored" facebook="eatdrinkcapetown" youtube="channel/UCm5dqHXUdqC25-M-WYSoKfQ" twitter="lusciousct" custom_title="STAY CONNECTED" block_template_id="td_block_template_9" instagram="eatdrinkcapetown_"]


Error decoding the Instagram API json
Celebrating life with food, wine, friends & happiness! Writer, cook and blogger. Author of four cookbooks. Passionately South African, proudly Capetonian.