Move Over, Sriracha: Harissa Is Our New Jam

Rachel Tepper Paley
May 5, 2014

Photo credit: One Girl In The Kitchen/Getty

What with Huy Fong Foods’ sriracha factory officially being declared a public nuisance by a California city council last month, we figured it was high time to begin exploring other hot sauce options. (And not put all our hot sauces in one basket, so to speak.)

Enter harissa. You know, the spicy Tunisian paste that pairs so wonderfully with roasted carrots and cool, smooth Greek yogurt. Although you can find the stuff on shelves at Whole Foods and specialty markets, we’re partial to a homemade version we recently sampled at Taïm, a New York City falafel shop owned by chef Einat Admony and her husband, Stefan Nafziger.

Admony’s version has a spicy kick thanks to 10 fat cloves of raw garlic and a liberal amount of hot cayenne pepper. A large roasted red bell pepper contributes a sweet smokiness, while caraway, sweet Hungarian paprika, and cumin add spicy complexity. 

Harissa is wonderful both tucked inside and spooned on top of falafel, as it can be found at Taïm, but it has so much more potential: Spoon a ruby-red dollop of harissa onto your morning eggs. Spice up cinnamon-roasted chicken with a hearty swirl of the stuff. Use it to flavor a vibrantly-colored Moorish paella. Or toss it in any dish that might have previously called on sriracha. 

See? Branching out isn’t so bad.

Courtesy of Taïm and Einat Admony
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

10 garlic cloves
1 large roasted red bell pepper, peeled, cored, and seeded
1 and 1/4 cups canola oil, divided
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup ground cumin
1/3 cup cayenne
1/3 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 cup ground caraway
2 tablespoons kosher salt

1. Combine the garlic, bell pepper, one cup of oil, and tomato paste in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is almost puréed.

2. Add the cumin, cayenne, paprika, caraway, and salt. Pulse briefly to combine. Slowly drizzle in the remaining 1⁄4 cup oil while the machine is running. Keep processing until harissa is completely puréed and all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

3. Store harissa in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.