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  • Writer's pictureAvni R.

Spicy Harissa

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

When you’re having falafel, you obviously need a spice element somewhere as not much fire anywhere else in there! I personally love spicy food so you can either do with or without this sauce.

This is the most time consuming part of the recipe but still easy, it only takes a while because of all the roasting.

If you don’t feel like making this sauce then you can always substitute with sriracha or any hot sauce of your choice. You can even find ready made harissa at your local grocery sometimes in the international aisle.

I took inspiration from food blogger, Tori Avey. Her recipe had some of the best reviews, so I made some modifications and came to this concoction! Her recipe calls for chipotle peppers as well in addition to a lot more cumin & coriander which I don’t desire as strong of a flavor of. I hope you all enjoy it! It is very spicy!

**Side note: You will need food prep gloves to peel the peppers because the capsaicin will stay in your fingertips and burn, especially if they are dry or chapped! And even worse if you end up touching your eye or rubbing your nose, it will take a while for the stinging/burning sensation to go away. I purchased mine on Amazon, I use them all the time, especially for meat prep (link attached). If you don't have gloves or don't want to purchase any, then I recommend dousing your hands in oil to create a protective barrier.


Spicy Harissa


  • 4 red Fresno chili’s or 3 red serrano peppers; red jalapeño can be used as well but they aren’t as spicy

  • 1 large red bell pepper

  • 6-8 large garlic cloves

  • 1 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice1 tbsp olive oil + a little extra for roasting

  • 1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds

  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds

  • 1/2 tsp salt (adjust to taste)

**Makes about one cup of sauce. You can double if serving more people but I’m only cooking for two!


1. Preheat oven to 375°F. 

2. Wash all the peppers and dry off with paper towel. Take about 1/2 tsp olive oil and drizzle over the peppers and rub all over evenly. Just a thin coat is fine, they don’t have to be super oily. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes along with half of the garlic cloves (the other half will go in raw). Flip peppers and garlic halfway through roasting time. 

3. After the 20 minutes are up, remove the garlic and Fresno chili’s/serrano peppers and place in a bowl with a lid so they can steam. This will make it easier to remove the charred skin later. Turn up oven heat to 425°F and continue roasting bell pepper for an additional 20 minutes (flipping halfway through, total of four flips!). Remove from oven and place in the covered bowl with chili’s and garlic for about 5-10 min.

4. While the peppers steam, roast the cumin and coriander seeds over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until aromatic. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Remove from heat once toasted and place in spice grinder and blend until it’s a smooth powder. Set aside.

5. Back to the peppers! I suggest wearing food prep gloves for this part as peeling the peppers and dealing with seeds bare-handed will burn your skin later and then even worse if you end up rubbing your eyes or nose. I’ve done this before - avoid it, trust me and get the gloves!! Remove charred skin from peppers and discard. Remove stems from all peppers and seeds only from red bell pepper. I left the seeds in my Fresno chili’s as I wanted it to be really spicy. You can remove some or all seeds if you’d like a milder harissa. Roughly chop and place in blender (I didn’t really chop these, just kinda tore them with my hands).

6. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender: roasted garlic, raw garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and cumin-coriander powder - and blend until it is a smooth paste. 

7. Place sauce in an airtight glass container and drizzle just a little more olive oil on top for it to keep. All set for use!

Can be used with falafel or any meats and veggies. Would go great on a burger or kebabs! You can also enjoy this with my Chicken & Rice recipe! Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to tag me (@thecurriedcook) in your Instagram posts!

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