Harissa paste is a fragrant North African chilli paste. And making harissa paste from powder is the easiest way to make homemade harissa paste in minutes!
With a blend of dried chiles, smoked paprika, garlic powder, toasted spices, and salt, harissa spice powder is the perfect shortcut for a quick and easy harissa paste.
Keep reading for step-by-step instructions, ingredient substitute suggestions to suit your pantry and how to use your harissa paste. Or head straight to the easy harissa paste from powder recipe to get started!
Why make harissa paste from powder?
The North African condiment adds instant flavour to your favourite dishes. But, making it from scratch can be a bit of a hassle.
That’s why I love this easy harissa paste from powder:
- It’s simple: All you need is a bowl and a spoon – no food processor required.
- It’s convenient: You can keep the harissa paste in the fridge – stored in an airtight container – for up to a week. But, the recipe is so easy, I just make small amounts as needed!
- It’s customisable: Use a homemade harissa powder blend or shop-bought. And control the heat level by adding chilli powder to taste. Add a splash of rose water for rose harissa or smoked paprika for a smoky twist.
What is harissa?
Harissa paste is a North African hot chilli paste used in many Moroccan, Tunisian and Middle Eastern dishes.
Harissa is available in three forms:
- Harissa paste: a condiment made from roasted red peppers or rehydrated dried chiles blended with toasted spices, garlic and olive oil.
- Harissa sauce: a fiery ready-to-use sauce.
- Harissa powder: a dry harissa spice blend.
Nowadays, most grocery stores stock jars of harissa paste. But, making your own harissa paste is not only rewarding and delicious but, in this easy harissa recipe, it’s super convenient too. We rehydrate the spicy harissa powder for a traditional harissa paste that takes no time at all!
Ingredients and substitutes
Harissa powder is the key ingredient in this harissa paste recipe. This means there’s no need to soak dried chilli peppers or roast red bell peppers!
But don’t fret if you don’t have shop-bought harissa spice at home. There are plenty of harissa spice alternatives to explore.
You’ll need a few pantry ingredients to make harissa paste from powder:
- Harissa powder: If you don’t have store-bought harissa seasoning, you can make harissa powder from scratch using dried chillies and toasted seeds if you have a spice grinder. Or create a simple spice mix with equal parts of ground cumin, coriander, caraway, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and chilli flakes – I use Aleppo pepper flakes. See more easy substitutes for harissa powder.
- Water: The water rehydrates the ground chilli blend, you can use hot water to speed things up. But I use tap water and give the spice blend a moment longer to absorb it.
- Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar: The acidity extends the shelf life and adds a fresh flavour to the harissa paste.
- Extra virgin olive oil: This gives the harissa a glossy appearance and luscious texture, with the added bonus of great flavour.
- Tomato paste: This is another essential ingredient that adds a beautiful red colour, a deeper, richer flavour and authentic harissa paste texture.
- Chilli powder: Optional, to adjust the heat level. I use Aleppo pepper flakes, but fine cayenne pepper also works perfectly. You can also use hot sauce to add some extra heat.
- Smoked harissa: Add smoked paprika to boost the smokiness of your harissa paste. Or swap the chilli powder for chipotle powder for a spicy, smoky twist.
- Rose harissa: Add a teaspoon of rose water (or ground rose petals) when you add the tomato paste. This delivers a beautiful floral flavour. See this rose harissa paste recipe if you want to make rose harissa from scratch with roasted red bell peppers and garlic cloves.
Balance the flavour with chilli powder, garlic powder, ground cumin and a pinch of sugar for a slightly sweet blend.
How to make harissa paste from powder
This easy harissa paste recipe uses only four ingredients and takes less than 5 minutes to prepare. See the harissa paste recipe card for ingredient measurements.
Step 1: Mix the harissa powder with water in a small bowl. Let the mixture sit for two minutes (or longer) to rehydrate the spices.
Step 2: Add the lemon juice (or vinegar) and olive oil to the paste. Stir until you get a thick paste.
Step 3: Mix in the tomato paste and stir until the paste is glossy with a thick texture. You can add more olive oil until your paste reaches the desired consistency.
Step 4: Taste the harissa paste and add chilli powder if you want a bit more heat. I love a bit of spice, so I typically add another ¼ teaspoon of chilli powder – I use Aleppo pepper for the fruity flavour.
Your harissa paste is ready to use straight away! But it tastes even better the next day.
This harissa paste recipe is gluten-free and plant-based if you use my homemade harissa powder. Always check the ingredients list of store-bought spice blends to ensure they fit your dietary requirements.
Store harissa paste in a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate it for up to a week.
This recipe is so easy that I typically make just enough to use in the recipe without any leftovers. But if you want to store it for longer, you can cover the harissa paste with a thin layer of olive oil. It will keep for up to four weeks in the fridge.
You can also freeze leftover harissa paste in an airtight container for up to two months. Defrost the paste overnight in the refrigerator, then stir to combine. Add a little bit of olive oil if it’s too thick or looking lacklustre.
How to use harissa paste
Harissa paste adds a deliciously fragrant and fiery twist to any meal.
Here are some delicious ways to use harissa paste:
- Drizzle it over roasted vegetables: Drizzle harissa paste over roasted vegetables like sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli or squash for a flavourful and spicy side. Or try this buttery harissa roasted cauliflower or harissa roasted carrots.
- Use it in a dressing or marinade: To make a marinade for grilled chicken or fish, mix harissa paste with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Or make this easy harissa vinaigrette to add to salads.
- Add it to stews and soups: Add a spoonful of harissa paste to stews and soups for a spicy kick. I love this harissa red lentil soup for a bowl of aromatic comfort food.
- Spice up your hummus: Swirl a spoonful of harissa paste into your hummus for a delicious and spicy dip. See this harissa hummus recipe for step-by-step instructions.
Let me know in the comments below how you like to use your homemade harissa paste!
Frequently asked questions
To make harissa paste, mix harissa powder with water and olive oil. You can also add tomato paste for improved consistency and lemon juice for acidity. Then balance your harissa paste with sugar and kosher salt.
No, harissa powder is a dried spice blend usually containing chillies, garlic, cumin, coriander, and other spices. When combined with liquid, the powder transforms into harissa paste. And harissa sauce has a thinner saucy consistency.
If you don’t have harissa paste, rehydrate a spice blend of dried chilli flakes and ground cumin (or use harissa spice for a more complex flavour) with water. Then add olive oil, lemon juice (or vinegar), tomato paste and kosher salt until you reach the desired consistency.
Harissa dry seasoning adds a spicy, smoky flavour to dishes. Sprinkle the fine powder on roasted vegetables (especially roasted potatoes) or cooked eggs. Use it as a dry rub for fish and meat, or stir it into soups and stews. You can also use it to make easy harissa paste from powder or add it to marinades, dressings and sauces.
- 4 teaspoons harissa powder *
- 2 teaspoon water
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice , or apple cider vinegar
- 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- chilli powder , to taste (optional)
- Mix the harissa powder and water in a small bowl. Let the mixture sit to rehydrate for 2 minutes (or longer).
- Next, mix in the lemon juice (or vinegar) and olive oil. Stir until you have a thick paste.
- Finally, add in the tomato paste. The harissa paste should be glossy with a thick texture.
- Have a small taste. For more heat, add chilli powder to taste – one pinch at a time. I typically add another ¼ teaspoon of chilli powder (Aleppo pepper).
- Use right away or transfer the harissa paste to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.