Harissa powder is a fiery North African spice blend. And once you have a taste, it’s easy to understand why it’s so rapidly gaining popularity.
The versatile blend adds a rich, smoky flavour and a spicy kick to any recipe. But it works especially well in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.
Add harissa spice to sauces, dips, soups or stews. Use it as a meat rub, or sprinkle it over roasted potatoes.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about harissa powder or go straight to the section that interests you.
- What is harissa powder?
- Harissa powder ingredients
- Best chiles for harissa powder
- How to make harissa powder (step-by-step)
- How to use harissa powder
Or jump straight to the harissa powder recipe card if you’re ready to start making homemade harissa spice.
What is harissa powder?
North African harissa comes in many forms. It is best known as the fragrant harissa paste – a condiment made from red peppers or rehydrated dried chillies. But it is also available in harissa sauce (a fiery ready-to-use sauce) and harissa powder (a dry harissa spice blend also called harissa spice or harissa seasoning).
Harissa powder is a versatile spice blend. It can include cumin, coriander, garlic, caraway seeds, and plenty of dried chiles. And the result is a fiery, smoky, slightly sweet spice blend reminiscent of traditional harissa paste.
You can now find harissa powder in grocery stores, but it’s also super easy to make a delicious homemade harissa spice blend with just a few ingredients.
Harissa powder ingredients & substitutes
Harissa spice typically includes the following ingredients:
- Dried chilli peppers: You can change the hotness of your harissa spice by adjusting the quantity and type of chilli peppers. In the next section, I list the best chiles for harissa powder.
- Cumin seeds: This warming spice adds a nutty, earthy flavour to the blend. You can also use ground cumin or swap it for more caraway or coriander if you don’t have any.
- Caraway seeds: It adds a slightly sweet, anise-like flavour that I adore. But if you don’t have caraway, you can swap it for more cumin seeds.
- Coriander seeds: This earthy spice adds a slightly sweet, citrusy flavour. You can use ground coriander instead.
- Garlic: I use garlic powder, but you can also use dehydrated garlic or granulated garlic flakes. It adds a savouriness to the blend. You can also use onion powder for a sweeter flavour.
- Paprika: Use sweet or smoked paprika to add a beautiful red hue and sweet pepper flavour.
- Salt: You already know salt makes food taste more like itself. Here it helps to balance and highlight the flavours for a ready-to-use seasoning mix – a real one-stop-flavour-shop.
Best chiles for homemade harissa powder
You can use any form of dried chilli pepper – whole chile peppers or red pepper flakes. But your choice of chiles will affect the spiciness and flavour of your spice blend.
I love guajillo chile as my base (also called guajillo chili/chilli, chile guaco or mirasol chile). It is sweet and fruity with mild heat. And then I add chipotle for that beautiful, smoky heat.
If all you have at home is very hot chilli powder (like cayenne pepper), and you worry about having an overly potent harissa powder, add more sweet paprika and less chilli to your spice blend.
Here are a few options that you can use for your harissa powder. The Scoville heat units (SHU) indicate the level of spice. The higher the number, the hotter the chilli.
Red pepper flakes
These crushed red peppers are most often from cayenne-type peppers. And although the heat can vary, they are usually quite hot.
Scoville scale: 30,000 to 50,000 SHU
Chile de árbol
This small Mexican chilli pepper is potent. Use dried chiles with caution.
Scoville scale: 15,000 to 30,000 SHU
The Aleppo pepper is moderately hot, with an earthy cumin-like undertone and some fruitiness. It is very similar to the ancho chile. But it is commonly sold as chilli pepper flakes with oil and salt used in the drying process.
Scoville scale: 10,000 SHU
A chipotle (or chilpotle) is a smoke-dried jalapeño pepper. It is medium hot with an intensely smoky flavour.
Scoville scale: 2,500 to 8,000 SHU
A medium hot dried chilli with a fruity flavour.
The medium heat makes it the perfect base for this harissa spice blend.
Scoville scale: 2,500 to 5,000 SHU
The dried form of the chilaca chilli pepper has a mild heat. Pasilla de Oaxaca is a smoked pasilla chile.
Scoville scale: 1,000 to 3,999 SHU
This mild chile is the dried form of the poblano pepper.
Scoville scale: 1,000 to 1,500 SHU
For mild harissa, use ancho or pasilla chiles as the base of your blend. For medium heat, stick to guajillo chiles as in the recipe card. And to dial up the heat to hot, add some chile de árbol or dried cayenne pepper.
See the Wikipedia list of chilli cultivars to check how hot your favourite chilli peppers are.
Let me know which peppers you chose in the comments below!
How to make harissa powder (step-by-step)
Homemade harissa powder is an easy three-step process that will have your own harissa spice ready in under 10 minutes:
Toasting the spices and chiles before blitzing them into a powder gives us a smoky flavour-packed dry harissa. But if you don’t have a spice grinder, you can make this harissa seasoning substitute that uses only pre-ground spices.
Step 1: Prepare your dried chiles
Remove the stems from your dried chiles and shake out the seeds. Or leave the seeds in for extra hot harissa spice (I leave some, but not all of, the seeds). Roughly chop or break apart the chillies.
If you use dried red pepper flakes instead, use about half a cup, or adjust the heat by swapping some pepper flakes for more paprika.
Step 2: Toast the spices
Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the dried chiles, whole caraway, cumin, and coriander seeds for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant, shaking the pan or stirring with a wooden spoon.
Step 3: Blend into a powder
Transfer the toasted spices and chillies to a plate to cool down. Then add the cooled spices and chillies to a spice grinder. Blitz into a powder.
Add the paprika, garlic powder and salt. Blitz again to mix thoroughly.
Storage instructions: Transfer your harissa powder to a clean airtight container. The spice blend will keep in a dry, dark cupboard for up to 6 months.
How to use harissa powder
Harissa powder adds heat, depth, and complexity of flavour. Use it as a spice rub, in soups and sauces, as a vegetable seasoning, or to make harissa paste.
Harissa spice rub
Harissa powder is a great dry rub for meats such as chicken, lamb, or beef before cooking. Mix it with olive oil to create a paste, then rub it all over the meat. Allow it to marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking to let the flavours penetrate.
Add a spicy kick to sauces, dips, and spreads. Mix it with yoghurt, mayonnaise, or hummus to create a flavourful dip or spread for sandwiches and wraps.
Stir a tablespoon of harissa powder into a cup of lemon hummus for a spicy harissa hummus.
Use harissa spice to season roasted vegetables, soups, stews, and rice dishes. Sprinkle a little harissa powder over your favourite dishes instead of hot sauce for a flavour burst and spicy kick.
How to make harissa paste from harissa powder
Traditional harissa paste is made by blending spices with rehydrated dried chillies or roasted red peppers. In a way, we can rehydrate the harissa powder into harissa paste.
Mix two teaspoons of harissa powder (or use a harissa powder substitute) with one teaspoon of water. Allow the paste to soften for a few minutes – at least 5 minutes. Add two teaspoons of olive oil and mix well.
You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice, a few drops of apple cider vinegar, or tomato paste for more flavour and better texture. For rose harissa paste, add a splash of rose water. See this harissa paste substitute post for a complete recipe for harissa paste made from harissa powder.
Refrigerate leftover harissa paste in an airtight container for up to one week.
Use your harissa paste substitute in these harissa recipes:
- Harissa Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- Shakshuka With Feta (and Rose Harissa)
- Harissa Red Lentil Soup with Coriander Salsa
- Barley Pilaf with Rose Harissa, Tomatoes & Olives
Or learn how to make rose harissa paste from roasted bell peppers.
Frequently asked questions
Harissa seasoning is a blend of spices and dried chillies blended into a powder. In addition to dried chiles, it can contain caraway, cumin, coriander or garlic.
For an easy harissa powder alternative, mix a teaspoon of chilli flakes (like Aleppo pepper) with a teaspoon of ground cumin and a pinch of salt. Or make easy homemade harissa powder from dried chiles.
Harissa spice is a dry rub for meat and seasoning for sauces, soups and grilled vegetables. Sprinkle it over finished dishes in place of hot sauce. Or mix dry harissa spice with water and olive oil for an easy harissa paste.
Harissa powder is a versatile and flavourful spice blend that adds heat and depth of flavour to your favourite dishes. Experiment with different chiles for your unique harissa spice blend. And let me know how you plan to use your harissa powder in the comments below!
Harissa Powder Recipe (North African spice blend)
- spice grinder (see notes if you don't have one)
- skillet (or frying pan)
- 7 dried guajillo chillies*
- 3 dried chipotle peppers*
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Remove the stems from your dried chillies and shake out the seeds. Or leave the seeds in for extra hot harissa spice (I leave some, but not all, of the seeds). Roughly chop or break apart the chillies.
- Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the dried chillies, whole caraway, cumin, and coriander seeds for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant, shaking the pan or stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Transfer the toasted spices and chillies to a plate to cool down. Then add the cooled spices and chillies to a spice grinder. Blitz into a powder.
- Add the paprika, garlic powder and salt. Blitz again to mix thoroughly.
- Transfer your harissa powder to a clean airtight container. The spice blend will keep in a dry, dark cupboard for up to 6 months.
- Play around with the dried chillies. I love the combination of fruity, mild guajillo chiles with smoky chipotle. Find more dried chile options to use for harissa powder.
- If you don’t have a spice grinder, try medium hot chilli flakes (like Aleppo pepper) and pre-ground spices. This harissa powder substitute recipe uses ground spices and hits all the harissa spice flavour spots.
- Substitute the dried chillies with half a cup (roughly 50 grams) of red pepper flakes.
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