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A Guide To Cooking With Harissa: The Ruby-Red Spice Blend

by Fabian Jackson

5min read

Everything you need to know about the jewel-toned spice paste, which is the crown of many North African and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Harissa’s history 

It’s believed that the name harissa comes from the Arabic word harasa, which means ‘to pound’ or ‘break into pieces’.’ According to Belazu (makers of delicious harissa paste) the fiery and aromatic paste can be traced back to Tunisian spice souks where shoppers could watch their mix being pounded fresh for them on request in the 16th century.  

What is harissa made of?

In its simplest form, harissa is made of chillies, olive oil and salt. Usually, though, these ingredients are blended with a mix of spices like cumin, smoked paprika, fennel and coriander seeds for an elevated and irresistible flavour profile. These are also all ingredients which can be enhanced by red pepper, tomato puree, onion, garlic and lemon juice. 

harissa paste

Photo credits: The Minimalist Baker

Why is rose harissa special? 

A premium variety of the paste is rose harissa – with an additional ingredient of rose petals. Roses have been a staple (albeit an indulgent and expensive) element of Persian and Chinese cuisines for thousands of years since their domestication in those countries as early as 3000 BC. This combination brings a subtle sweetness to the already-aromatic and fiery paste.    

Where to buy harissa 

Whilst a jar of harissa might not be the cheapest item of your supermarket trip, a little does go a long way and your tastebuds will certainly thank you for the investment. Flavours vary between brands, but a few of our favourites include the previously mentioned Belazu (try the apricot harissa for added sweetness), Very Lazy’s harissa pots and Sainsbury’s own brand harissa for a maximum taste with value.

How to make your own harissa paste

If you have half an hour to spare, why not make your own blend? You can experiment to find exactly how you like it, but a good place to start is with this recipe from The Minimalist Baker. It will keep for up to a month sealed in your cupboard or two months in the freezer – time well spent in our opinion.

Top vegan recipes to highlight your harissa 

Now you’ve got your harissa, here’s what to do with it:

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Let us know which of these you love, or if you have any other favourite plant-based recipes to make with harissa in the comments. 

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By Fabian Jackson
Fabian Jackson

Fabian is one of our lovely Content Marketing Assistants who loves writing almost as much as he loves coffee, old episodes of Escape to the Country (no judgement here), and cooking up a storm in his kitchen.

Read more from Fabian


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