Harissa is Arabic in ethnicity and it is a hot chili pepper sauce or paste. It’s native to Tunisia and is very common in North African and Middle Eastern areas of Morocco, Algeria, Libya for cooking. The Arabic word harasa means “to crush or pound”, which makes sense with the paste being made of grinding chiles, olive oil and various spices together.
The main ingredients are usually roasted red peppers, Baklouti peppers, spices, and herbs such as garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, and olive oil. This spicy smoky peppery chili blend is great to add a kick to your meal. It’s usually sold in tubes or jars. The trick is finding the blend that you like best as some may be more, smokier, garlicky, hotter or sweeter than your preference. But that is where you can easily make your own custom blend. Search google among the plethora of homemade recipes to help you create a flavor profile catered to your taste buds. If you decide to make your own it, Harissa will last refrigerated for up to six weeks.
It packs a low-calorie flavor punch a dish adding just the right amount of heat. Harissa is only 46 calories per tablespoon on average and its heat level is generally mild scoring 4,000- 5,000 on the Scoville scale. There is a varying heat levels of Harissa’s available on the market as well as other varieties such as Rose Harissa, yes made from rose petals.
Harissa has a slightly sweet taste as well as smoke, tang, and spice. It works in almost every Mediterranean dish. It’s often substituted with sauces such as Tabasco, Sriracha, Chili bean paste and Gochujang so if you are already cooking with one of these try substituting it with Harissa. Some people are even subbing it for ketchup!
Use it to enhance soups, appetizers, main dishes, stews. It is a good marinade also for fish and meat or can be used as a rub. Try mixing it in powder form with olive oil for dipping bread into. To flavor stews, soups or couscous mix with water or tomato juice. Add extra flavor and dress those Fall root vegetables sides with a touch of Harissa. Mix with yogurt for a spicy dip. But remember a little goes a long way with this spicy paste!
Since you can substitute harissa for any hot sauce the possibilities are endless. Here are some of Food and Wine’s recipe ideas.