Homemade Harissa Paste

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There are a few reasons you may want to make your own harissa paste at home. Maybe you received a bag of dried peppers in a gift swap and you have no idea how to use them. Or, you tried a jar of the Trader Joe’s harissa paste, fell in love, and they discontinued it before you could get your hands on another.

Homemade harissa paste

Whatever your reasons may be, our homemade harissa paste recipe is full of flavor and comes together very quickly.

We don’t make harissa paste on a regular basis in our house. But, it’s a great way to use up a bag of dried chili peppers if you’re looking to add complex, deep flavor to your meals. It’s also very simple and quick to make (after the peppers are done rehydrating).

What is harissa paste?

Homemade harissa paste closeup on spoon

Native to North Africa, harissa paste is a spicy red chili paste used to add a smoky flavor to a variety of dishes. Typically, it consists of dried chili peppers, roasted peppers, garlic, vinegar, spices, and oil. Not only does harissa paste add incredible flavor to your food – it also imparts a beautiful deep red color and enhances visual appeal.

The final flavor is a dark and smoky pepper taste with a hint of citrus and tang. It’s slightly addictive and we always find ourselves using a little extra when it comes to recipe measurements.

Tip: If you love this flavor profile, try our homemade enchilada sauce which also uses dried chili peppers.

How to make harissa paste

If you’ve stumbled upon a recipe that calls for harissa paste, you may want to try making your own in the kitchen. We’ve had no issue finding the ingredients at our local market, but you can also check online or a specialty market if time allows.

The first step to making homemade harissa paste is re-hydrating your dried peppers. We use dried guajillo peppers for this recipe, but you can also use dried ancho chiles. De-stem and de-seed the dried peppers. You can do also do this after soaking.

Place them in a bowl with hot water and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes or until they are soft and rehydrated.

Dried chile peppers soaking

Transfer the drained chiles to a food processor and give them a few pulses to chop them up. Add the rest of the ingredients.

Homemade harissa paste ingredients

Process until you reach a desired paste-like consistency. You can add additional olive oil by the tablespoon if needed to thin the paste.

Homemade harissa paste blended

Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add salt if necessary to bring out all the flavors. Store in a sealed airtight container in the fridge and use within 1-2 weeks.

How to use harissa paste

Harissa paste isn’t exactly as versatile as hot sauce in the kitchen. We wouldn’t recommend dabbing it on your food in large quantities and taking a big bite. Being a paste, the flavor is much more intense, and it works better as a marinade. Here are some of our favorite ways to use harissa paste in the kitchen.

  • Use it to marinate chicken breast, chicken thighs, lamb, or seafood.
  • Harissa paste tastes great with chickpeas. Mix with chickpeas and desired spices before air frying or roasting. Or, add it to hummus.
  • Use it to season potatoes, eggs or root veggies before cooking.
  • Add it to soups or pasta sauces to add complex flavor.
  • Mix a small amount into mayonnaise for spicy sandwiches or salads.

Homemade harissa paste tips

Homemade harissa paste

Follow our tips to make the best batch of harissa paste at home.

  • You may need to whizz your food processor for longer than expected to truly blend up the dried chili peppers. Do not skip the soaking period, as it is necessary for the paste to form.
  • Toasting the caraway seeds in a dry pan adds additional complexity to this recipe. It only takes a few minutes and it’s well worth the effort!
  • Be mindful of the roasted red peppers you are using. Some jarred varieties have additional salt added. If this is the case, you may want to scale back the salt in the recipe and adjust according to your taste.
  • The best thing about homemade sauces and pastes is the ability to adjust the heat level. Add more roasted red peppers and less dried peppers to control the flavor and spice level more.

If you tried making your own homemade harissa paste, let us know how it turned out and what recipes you used it in. And, be sure to leave a star rating if you love our variation of this spicy red chili paste.

Homemade harissa paste

Homemade Harissa Paste

This homemade harissa paste comes together with minimal effort. It's perfectly smoky and complex with many culinary uses.
Print Pin Rate
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Soaking time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8 oz


  • 6 dried Guajillo chili peppers destemmed and deseeded
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers drained
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds dry toasted
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar or apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¾ tsp salt more to taste


  • Remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers. Place the chili peppers in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soak the peppers for at least 30 minutes, until they are rehydrated. Drain.
  • Transfer the chilis to a food processor and give them a few pulses to chop them up. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and process until you reach the desired paste-like consistency.
  • Taste and adjust for seasoning.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.


  • Make sure you blend the ingredients for long enough to fully chop up the chili peppers into small pieces. Otherwise, the paste may not properly form and chunks of pepper will be left in the harissa paste.
  • For best taste, allow the harissa paste to sit in the fridge for 1 or 2 days before using.

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