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Learn How To Make Your Own Harissa

Daniel Hautzinger
Harissa, recipe by Christopher Kimball's Milk Street. Photo: Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Photo: Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street airs Saturdays at 4:00 pm beginning September 8.

You've already learned how to make your own pita bread from Christopher Kimball's Milk Street; now try making another staple ingredient that is more often bought than made at home in America. Harissa is a spicy, spiced paste that is one of the main flavoring agents in North African cuisine, and can be used for a wide variety of things, from a rub for grilled or roasted food to a flavor-booster in stews. 


We tried the spices and chilies both toasted in a dry skillet and fried in oil. Both methods heightened their flavors, but oil was best because the ingredients’ flavor compounds are oil-soluble. Adding garlic to the mix mellowed its bite, and leaving the cloves whole ensured they wouldn’t burn (and meant less prep work). For the acid, we favored white balsamic vinegar for its mild acidity and slight sweetness. Lemon juice or white wine vinegar sweetened with a pinch of sugar is a good substitute.

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Makes: 1 1/2 cups


4 dried New Mexico chilies, stemmed, seeded and torn into rough pieces
1/2 cup neutral oil, such as canola, rice bran, or grapeseed
6 large garlic cloves
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup drained roasted red peppers, patted dry
1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Cayenne pepper


In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the chilies, oil, garlic, caraway, and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is light golden brown and the chilies are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the red peppers, tomatoes, vinegar, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Process until smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Season with salt and cayenne to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.