Harissa | A Most Versatile Hot Sauce


Happy autumn everybody! Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend and brought in fall with some warm and cosy baking. Our introduction to my favourite season was a bit wet and cold, as far from warm and cosy as you can get! We took a drive up to Breckenridge, one of the most lovely mountain resorts and a favourite with skiers during the ski season.

The fall foliage was out in its glory, resplendent in amber, golds and reds. What’s beautiful about autumn in the Rockies, is that the landscape is such a blend of colours. The pines and firs stay their deep evergreen colour but the aspens, maples and oaks are all changing colours around them, dotted in between, forming gold and yellow patches and the occasional fiery red clump of the maples.



It was a nice trip, Breckenridge is about 90 minutes west of Denver, and so the drive was a pleasant one enjoying the colours of the season. As we approached Breckenridge however, we could see ominous clouds looming over the mountains and though it cleared up for us for the time we were there, they soon returned with a vengeance, the skies opened up, the temperature dropped, and we decided it was time to go.


I heard that Breckenridge got a dusting of snow this morning. I would’ve loved snow while we were there instead of the hail that pelted us! It was a wonderful trip despite the weather, but I will take cold over searing heat, every time!



Thank you to everyone who wished Laith well with his game, his team won their game and are now 3-0 for the season! We are all excited for them and hope they get better and better, and keep up their momentum for the rest of the season.

So, I know it’s fall and all, and everyone is posting wonderful baked goods filled with apples, pears and pumpkins, but I decided to go with another early autumn favourite; chillies! If you think about it, the chillies are abundant at this time and are perfect; the sunny and hot temperatures have made them extra spicy. The cooler temperatures coming in will eventually cease the chilli harvest but for now, they are easily available.

It was with this thought that I headed to my farm stand at Isabelle Farm and decided to stock up on my Sriracha chillies and Harissa chillies. I figured, I could prepare them and freeze them, and then I would have them at my disposal during winter. I couldn’t live without my Harissa over the winter and Sriracha is another staple at our house we can’t do without.

farm stand produce

Last week, I made another batch of my Harissa paste and this time, it was perfect! Remember last time I mentioned I wasn’t too happy with it, but this time the blend of chillies and spice was right on. I don’t know how authentic it is but I really like it!

The sweet chillies I used are definitely not native or authentic to North Africa, but they add the right sweetness and flavour. I had never heard of the Jimmy Nardello chillies until I happened upon them at the farm stand. They were labelled as a staff favourite sweet chilli, and that’s exactly what I was looking for, a sweet chilli without a red pepper taste and decided to give them a try.

Jimmy Nardellos

The Jimmy Nardellos are named after the Italian gentleman whose mother brought over these Italian pepper seeds to Connecticut from the village of Ruoti in the Basilicata region of southern Italy in 1887. They are authentic, heritage peppers and I guess, not easily available every where, which is unfortunate because they make a lovely Harissa! In place of them, you could use another sweet chilli pepper, maybe a paprika or cherry.

Harissa Paste

We still need some dried chilli peppers and I used the Mexican dried Arbol chiles, these are spicy! I also added one roasted red bell pepper, to tame the heat and to add another dimension of peppery sweetness, finish off with some garlic, a squirt of lemon juice, cumin, coriander and caraway seeds.

I will say, this Harissa is hot. It’s not a mild by any means and you will feel its kick! If you want a milder one, cut back on the chiles de arbol or increase the sweet peppers. What’s great about Harissa is that you can taste and adjust as you make it.

Harissa Paste


Calories: 595

Fat: 55g

A spicy hot sauce made from a variety of chilli peppers; popular in the North African countries.
  • 6 oz/160g Jimmy Nardello peppers (about 8) or other sweet pepper
  • 0.60 oz/18g dried red peppers, chile de Arbol (about 18)
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 8 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small lemon, juiced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  1. Soak the dried chile de Arbol in hot water for about 2-3 hours.
  2. Roast the Jimmy Nardello peppers, de-seed and chop roughly.
  3. After the arbol chiles have soaked, remove the seeds and ribs from each of the chillies.
  4. Wear gloves to prevent burning!
  5. Do not touch your eyes or lips or face.
  6. In a food processor or blender, place all the peppers and chillies, garlic cloves, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  7. Blend to a thick paste.
  8. Add all the spices and blend to incorporate.
  9. Store in a jar covered with a tablespoon of olive oil.


I hope you try and source the Jimmy Nardellos but even if you can’t, I hope you will try this with a different type of pepper. An interesting fact about the Jimmy Nardellos, apparently the favourite way to eat them in Italy is to dry them and then fry them! I am going to get some more of them this week so I can string them up and dry them. I’ll get back to you after I’ve tried them fried.

Wishing you all a great week ahead. I am looking forward to checking out everyone’s blogs for autumn recipes. I love this season and all the lovely inspiration it brings. Happy baking and cooking everyone!

  1. Pingback: My 13 Favourite Posts for 2013 » Coffee and Crumpets

  2. Such beautiful countryside! Amazing how brightly the Fall colors shine with the skies overhead so gray. Reading that snow has already dusted Breckinridge means it won’t be too long before it dusts us, too. How quickly Summer came and went!
    I am definitely going to pin this harissa recipe, Nazneen. It will take some experimentation to find the right pepper combination and heat level but it is so worth the effort. Thank you for sharing your recipe. πŸ™‚
    ChgoJohn recently posted..Braised Goat in the Moorish StyleMy Profile

  3. The autumn colors are not visible here but rain is falling and I am already feeling a bit cosier and enjoying the weather.This harissa recipe looks real good, spicy enough that I want. I don’t think I ever saw these two peppers that you mentioned but will check.
    Balvinder recently posted..Sauteed bathuaMy Profile

  4. Oh dear Nazneen, there won’t be any Autumn recipes on my blog for a while! I love the look of your harissa and I’ve been meaning to make my own for a while so I’ll use your recipe. Love your harissa image. And your Fall images of Denver and surrounds are stunning – so unlike anything we see here in Oz xx
    Hotly Spiced recently posted..The Burger Shed, MosmanMy Profile

    • Ha, ha, Charlie, after I pressed published, I realised not everyone has autumn right now! Even funnier is that a huge chunk of my friends is from Australia! I must go in and change that sentence πŸ™‚

  5. Well done getting your balance right! If Only I had access to the same exotic chillis to make it with. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, we don’t get much variety when it comes to chillis. I regularly see the hot birdseye chillis, long green and red chillis, banana chillis and habaneros – and that’s about it πŸ™ Never mind, I’ll just have to keep my supplier in business!!
    Jas@AbsolutelyJas recently posted..Reasons why I love Canberra #254My Profile

    • Thanks Jas, yep, it tastes good now! The only reason I was able to source these different chillies is because I went to my local farm. Even our mainstream shops don’t carry a huge variety. For the dried chillies, you can use the ones available at your Indian store. I used them in my first batch and they worked ok. The sweet chilli peppers might be harder to find. Ask your supplier for a sweet chilli pepper, one that is not a red capsicum/ bell pepper. Good luck!

    • Thank you Abbe! Last year we went up too late and all the colours were gone, so yes, they are only here for a short time. This acute however, you can have all year round!

  6. What beautiful photos Nazneen! I am loving the contrast in scenery between us. Your sauce is on the top of my must make list. Your description and photos will entice anyone to make it at home. I keep a store bought version that I use as a marinade for lamb or chicken. Now I can’t wait to make it at home.
    Sugar et al recently posted..Lamb Massaman CurryMy Profile

    • Thanks John! It turned quite well and I am pleased with the flavour but especially the colour? Thanks for the comment John!

    • Thanks Lisa! It’s quite simple really and just getting the chillies and the right mix is the hardest part. Rest is whizzing in the food processor.

  7. I love Harissa but always buy mine. I really hadn’t thought about making it. Although chillies are readily available here it is more along the line of, red chillies, green chillies, small red etc and then scotch bonnets. The only time you really get anything else is in real speciality stores and on line. So I’ll just have to get on line and start ordering. GG xxx
    Glamorous Glutton recently posted..In My Kitchen – September 2013My Profile

    • Scotch bonnets are popular there, but I’m sure you can find some of the common ones. This can work other hot chillies but you do need some dried chillies. Try the dried red ones in the Indian stores. Of course, if you can buy a great ready made one, why not.

  8. I am currently in Spain for sometime and Harissa is available just about everywhere.

    Unfortunately is not really that authentic and can be quite dry and pastey. Your photos show a very delicious looking sauce with the consistency that appeals to me.

    Will try this method very soon, thanks.

    • That’s the problem with some of these sauces and dishes. It’s not always easy to find the ingredients. I guess that’s how new versions get started though, with substitutions.

  9. Goodness…what beautiful pictures. I love fall and this post made me even more excited for the beginning of my favorite season. And this sauce looks so very flavorful. Thank you for sharing!

  10. The colors are beautiful….the picture of the creek you have snapped could have come out of a poster. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

    As for the harissa, want to reach into the screen, grab the bottle and run. This just went into my bucket list of must make sauces.
    Minnie@thelady8home recently posted..Dinner and a…Murder?My Profile

    • Thanks Minnie! The Rockies do give the impression that you are looking at a poster or a photo. They are quite beautiful.

  11. I get very envious of where you live when I see your posts like this. Loving your Harissa too. I go mad with it but we only get in about 100g pots over here so it’s gone in outing.

    I’m going to make a batch like yours and add it to some boring hummus.
    David Crichton recently posted..Raspberry and Almond Slices.My Profile

    • Thank you David. I am very thankful that I live here, I really am very lucky. I am surrounded by natural beauty and every month it’s something new.