Harissa Recipe

Enjoy the bold chile flavor in this paste without scorching the palate. Though milder, hot pepper fans

| May 2019

Photo by Lara Ferroni 

The sixteenth-century arrival of the chile pepper in the North African area known as Maghreb was a game changer in the local cuisine. While harissa is generally thought to have originated in Tunisia, it is part of the broader Maghreb cuisine and varies slightly from region to region. 

This fermented paste is deep crimson, so rich it feels almost opulent. It has a bold chile flavor to match, yet it does not scorch the palate. A milder condiment, it should still please fiery folk because of its robust flavor. Traditionally, harissa is not fermented but preserved with an olive oil seal that is replaced each time the paste is used.


  • 8 dried ancho chiles, seeded
  • 2 dried Anaheim (New Mexico) chiles, seeded
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seed, freshly ground
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seed, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed, freshly ground

Yield: About 3/4 pint


  1. Combine the ancho chiles, Anaheim chiles, garlic, fresh red pepper, roasted red pepper, caraway seed, coriander seed, and cumin in a food processor and process to a paste consistency. The mixture will become moist right away but will not look juicy.
  2. Pack the paste into a jar that is just the right size for your ferment, pressing out any air pockets as you go. Leave about 1 inch of headspace. The thick brine will be hard to distinguish from the rest of the paste.
  3. Press a piece of plastic (or other cartouche) against the surface of the ferment, being careful not to trap any air beneath it. Screw the lid down tightly.
  4. Set the jar in a corner of the kitchen to ferment, and watch for air pockets forming in the paste. If you see any, open the lid and press the paste back down. If the lid starts to bulge, simply open it for a moment to burp the ferment.
  5. Allow to ferment for 14 to 21 days. When it’s ready, the harissa will have a pleasing, subtle acidic smell. It will taste more developed and acidic than it did when fresh.
  6. When it is ready, remove the cartouche and place a clean small round of plastic or parchment paper directly on top of the paste. Tighten the lid, then store in the fridge, where this ferment will keep for 10 to 12 months.


fiery-fermentsThe authors of the best-selling Fermented Vegetables © are back, and this time they’ve brought the heat with them. Whet your appetite with more than 60 recipes for hot sauces, mustards, pickles, chutneys, relishes, and kimchis from around the globe. Chiles take the spotlight, with recipes such as Thai Dragon Mint-Cilantro Paste, but other traditional spices like horseradish, ginger, and peppercorns also make cameo appearances. Dozens of additional recipes for breakfast foods, snacks, entrées, and beverages highlight the many uses for hot ferments.

Excerpted from Fiery Ferments © by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey with photos © by Lara Ferroni. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.



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