Harissa Paste Uses

Harissa paste is a versatile condiment that can add flavor and heat to many dishes. Originating in North Africa, harissa combines chili peppers, spices, garlic, oil, and sometimes extras like mint or rose petals into a thick, fragrant paste.

Harissa Paste Uses

It has an earthy, smoky flavor with a slow-burn heat. Harissa paste is easy to incorporate into a wide variety of recipes, from marinades to dips to salad dressings.

Read on to learn all about how to use this flavorful ingredient.

Use Harissa As A Protein Marinade

Use Harissa As A Protein Marinade

One of the most popular uses for harissa paste is as a marinade for proteins like chicken, beef, lamb, fish, shrimp, or tofu. Because the paste already contains oil, garlic, and spices, you can marinate proteins directly in the harissa without needing to add anything else. The paste helps infuse the meat with flavor and keeps it moist during cooking.

For example, rub chicken breasts or thighs all over with a few tablespoons of harissa before baking or grilling them. The paste forms a flavorful, spicy crust on the outside while keeping the inside juicy. Similarly, coat lamb chops or steaks with a harissa paste coating before searing them in a pan. Harissa pairs especially well with lamb and brings out the meaty flavor.

You can also thin out harissa paste with some olive oil and lemon juice to make a wet marinade for proteins. Let chicken or fish marinate for 30 minutes up to overnight before cooking. The acid in the lemon juice helps tenderize the meat.

Boost the Flavor Of Roasted Vegetables

Boost the Flavor Of Roasted Vegetables

In addition to meat, harissa paste is amazing with roasted vegetables. It provides a spicy, savory element that complements the natural sweetness of veggies like carrots, cauliflower, squash, eggplant, and Brussels sprouts.

Before roasting, toss vegetable chunks with a drizzle of olive oil and 1-2 tablespoons of harissa paste. Roast at 400°F until browned and tender. The harissa caramelizes onto the veggies, forming a beautiful crust. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

You can also mix harissa paste with plain Greek yogurt to make an easy roasted veggie dipping sauce. The cooling yogurt balances out the heat.

Liven Up Salad Dressings And Dips

Liven Up Salad Dressings And Dips

A little bit of harissa can transform the flavor of dressings, dips, and spreads. For salad dressing, combine harissa with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices like cumin. Drizzle over leafy greens, grains, or roasted veggies. The spicy dressing pairs nicely with cool, creamy ingredients like feta or avocado.

For dips, blend harissa into hummus, baba ganoush, labneh, or Greek yogurt. It adds intrigue to the usual flavors. You can also thin out harissa paste with olive oil for a quick spicy dipping sauce for bread. Add some crumbled feta and greens and you have a tasty harissa crema.

Make A Flavorful Sauce For Grains And Beans

Nutty, hearty grains like couscous, quinoa, and rice benefit from the depth of harissa paste stirred in. Cook the grains as usual, then fold in 1-2 tablespoons of harissa to turn it into a flavorful main dish. Top with veggies, herbs, nuts, and a protein if desired.

Harissa also enhances the flavor of bean and lentil dishes. Add it to simmered chickpeas or lentils to give them a spicy kiss. The paste adds warmth and smokiness that complements the earthiness of beans.

Spice Up Eggs

Looking to add more flavor to breakfast? Harissa paste is fantastic mixed into scrambled eggs, omelets, or frittatas. It provides a tasty kick to wake up your tastebuds. For scrambled eggs, add 1 teaspoon of harissa paste per egg and cook as usual. Top with sliced avocado, cheese, and herbs.

For omelets or frittatas, spread a thin layer of harissa paste over the eggs before filling and folding or baking. The paste infuses the eggs with its flavors. Serve harissa omelets with spinach, tomato, and feta for a tasty breakfast.

Make A Zesty Sauce For Seafood

The bold flavors of harissa complement seafood like shrimp, clams, mussels, and white fish beautifully.

One simple but impressive recipe is broiled shrimp coated in a sauce of beer, olive oil, harissa, and garlic. The sauce picks up lots of flavor as it reduces under the broiler. It forms a lovely glaze over the shrimp.

For clams or mussels, make a quick steaming broth with white wine, harissa, garlic, and herbs. As the broth simmers, it permeates the bivalves with flavor. Serve with crunchy bread to soak up the juices.

Add Heat To Soups And Stews

To add rich, smoky flavor to long-simmered soups and stews, stir in some harissa paste towards the end of cooking. Add it to tomato-based soups like shakshuka, lentil stew, bean soups, or vegetable broths. The heat and seasoning from the harissa take the dish to the next level.

When adding it to soup, start with 1 tablespoon of paste first, then adjust to taste. You can always add more if you want more heat. The slow-building heat from harissa is perfect for complex soups and stews.

Make Spiced Meatballs Or Sliders

Looking for a way to spice up meatballs, meatloaf, or burger patties? Harissa paste is just the ingredient.

Mix 1-2 tablespoons of harissa paste per pound of ground meat like beef, lamb, pork, or turkey. For meatballs or meatloaf, add eggs, breadcrumbs, and herbs as usual. The harissa builds another layer of savory flavor.

For burger patties, mix the harissa paste right into the ground meat before forming patties. Fry up the spiced burgers just like regular burgers, then serve in buns with all your favorite toppings. The harissa adds both flavor and moisture.

Add Heat To Simmered Sauces

Transform tomato sauces and braises by stirring in some harissa towards the end. The paste dissolves into the sauce, adding a warm, earthy heat.

For example, blend 1-2 tablespoons of harissa into marinara sauce, BBQ sauce, or pasta sauce as it simmers. Or fold it into the braising liquid for short ribs, oxtail, or chicken thighs. The lingering heat from the harissa elevates the dish.

A little harissa can make jarred pasta sauce taste like you simmered it all day. It also gives chili a smoky depth.

Whip Up A Fiery Cocktail

Whip Up A Fiery Cocktail

Not just for savory dishes, harissa can also spice up cocktails and mocktails. Its tangy heat complements spirits like tequila, mezcal, and rum. For a harissa-infused cocktail, muddle a spoonful of the paste with citrus juice and simple syrup, then combine with the spirit of your choice. Shake with ice and strain into a glass.

For mocktails, blend harissa with citrus juices and syrups, then top with soda water or ginger beer. The spice level is up to you!

So don't let that jar of harissa paste sit unused in your fridge - incorporate it into marinades, dressings, dips, and more for a flavor boost. A little bit of this versatile, aromatic paste can transform the flavor of many dishes.

In Summary

  • Harissa paste combines chili peppers, spices, garlic, oil, and herbs into a thick, flavorful condiment.
  • It can be used as a marinade or rub for proteins like chicken, fish, beef, and tofu.
  • Mix harissa paste into dressings and dips to add intrigue.
  • The smoky heat enhances roasted vegetables, grains, beans, and eggs.
  • Add it to sauces and simmered dishes for extra depth.
  • Harissa paste also shines in spiced meatballs, cocktails, and more.
  • A small amount of this versatile paste can spice up many recipes.


What kind of chili peppers are used in harissa?

The most common peppers used are varieties of red chili peppers. Some examples are New Mexico, guajillo, arbol, and Morita peppers. The specific types used depend on the desired heat level and flavor profile. Milder harissa may use peppers like New Mexico, while spicier versions use small, hot chilies like arbol.

What's the difference between harissa powder and harissa paste?

Harissa powder is a dried spice blend made from ground chilies, cumin, coriander, caraway, and garlic. Harissa paste has a similar blend of spices but also includes garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil blended into a thick paste. The paste brings richness from the oil and brightness from the lemon.

Can you make vegan harissa paste?

Yes, it's easy to make vegan harissa. To replace the olive oil, use avocado oil or sunflower oil. Swap the garlic for grated onion. And omit any non-vegan spices like caraway. Soak dried chilies, then blend with spices, onion, lemon, and the oil of your choice.

How should you store harissa paste after opening?

Store harissa paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator after opening. The oils in the paste can go rancid if left at room temperature for too long. Properly stored, harissa paste will keep for about 1 month in the fridge.


Harissa paste incorporates the iconic flavors of North African cuisine - chili heat, warm spices, bright citrus, and rich olive oil. This versatile condiment can add intrigue to dishes across the culinary spectrum, from meat to vegetables to sauces and beyond.

A spoonful of harissa is all you need to give a dish a flavorful spike of spicy umami. Keeping a tube or jar of this aromatic paste on hand is a great way to instantly elevate everyday cooking.

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