Homemade Harissa Paste

About a year ago, I took my first stab at making homemade Harissa paste, using this recipe from The Kitchn. Now that I’m making a few more Moroccan dishes, it was time to make a new batch, and I can confirm, this recipe is great!

The recipes calls for 4 oz of dried chiles, which can be any kind depending on your desired outcome. The first time, I used a mix of ancho, chipotle, and arbol, which resulted in  a dark color and a smoky flavor. The second time, I used a mix of red New Mexico chiles, guajillo, chipotle, and arbol, which resulted in a much brighter red color. I bought most of the chiles from Los Chileros.

First, you soften the chiles by placing them in a heat-proof container, covering with boiling water, and soaking for about 30 minutes. Once they are soft, you stem and de-seed them, reserving some of the chile water in case you need it to thin out the paste later.  The recipe advises to use gloves while handling the chiles; I usually forget to and then always regret it later! Gloves are definitely a good idea.

Meanwhile, you toast 1 tsp dried caraway seeds, 1 tsp dried cumin seeds, and 1 tsp dried coriander seeds, then grind them (I used a mortar and pestle).

Next, combine the chiles, spices, 3-4 garlic cloves, and 1 tsp salt. Slowly blend with 2 tbsp olive oil to make a paste. I used a stick immersion blender, but the recipe calls for a food processor or mortar and pestle. If the paste is too thick, add some of the reserved chile water.

Transfer the paste to an airtight jar and top with a thin layer of olive oil, then store in the refrigerator. Each time you use the paste, add a fresh layer of olive oil to the top.

So far, I’ve enjoyed using harissa paste for a few different recipes, including:

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