Better Homemade: Harissa Paste at Home

August 20, 2018 Updated: October 8, 2018

Justin Kingsley Hall, executive chef at The Kitchen at Atomic in Las Vegas, makes his own harissa paste.

What’s something you always make from scratch? Harissa paste. It’s a North African pepper paste that’s very floral with a smokiness from the toasted and dried spices. I find it in a lot of stores these days.

When did you start? About six years ago, when I was using a bottled product at a restaurant I worked for in Los Angeles. I liked aspects of the harissa but thought we could do it ourselves and make it unique for our menu. I read books and asked some kitchen staff that had African and Middle Eastern heritage about the treatment of the spices as well as how they used it at home or any other kitchens.

Why? The main reason I make most things at home is because I can adjust the flavors to what we like best, while also controlling factors like sodium and preservatives. But I also prefer to make things at home because cooking from scratch is what I love to do, and being able to share that time with others or just enjoy peaceful privacy.

It very easy to do yourself and not very time-consuming. Just make sure you’re using good quality spices and ingredients.

Harissa Paste

  • 1 cup garlic
  • 6 roasted red peppers
  • 12 dried Guajillo peppers (this can be substituted for various dried peppers from the market)
  • 1 1/3 cup toasted coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon toasted green cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Juice and zest of 2 large oranges

Toast the Guajillo peppers in the oven at 400F for 3 minutes.

Place wet ingredients in a blender with half the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients slowly until all ingredients are combined to make a smooth paste. Add a small amount of water if needed to loosen paste to blend more easily.