How to Make Harissa Chili Sauce

Are you a connoisseur of hot sauce? If so, this is the recipe for you to try. Ashley has done an amazing job of not only re-creating a traditional recipe, but making it healthier, too.

Harissa is a spicy, traditionally fermented, chili pepper condiment popular in North African and Middle Eastern cooking.  It’s especially associated with Tunisian, Moroccan and Algerian cooking.  The fiery hot flavor profile blends chilies, garlic, cumin, coriander and caraway.  Some versions also add in mint or rose petals to balance out the more aggressive spices.

Though harissa chili sauce is a traditional accompaniment to couscous, it’s an extremely versatile condiment that makes a great addition to marinades, or can spice up a dip such as hummus.  Soups and stews, especially those featuring Middle Eastern ingredients or themes often benefit from a flavorful dollop.  Even just mixing a small amount into olive oil and using it as a bread dipping appetizer adds an exotic flare to your home table.  In this age of fusion cuisine it’s not hard to imagine a flavorful chili sauce making a transition to spice up even standard American fare.  Try a little of this hot sauce on a hamburger or mixed in to spice up a flavorful aoili.

Commercial versions can sell for as much as $3 per ounce, and you’re never quite sure what you’ll get.  Many contain modified food starches and stabilizers, and most commercial versions of harissa skip the fermentation step all together and just mix chili paste with spices and preservatives, which will never give you the true traditional flavor and zing.

How to Make Harissa Chili Sauce

Yield: 1.5 to 2 cups

Fermentation Time: 1 to 6 weeks


• 2 tsp. cumin seeds

• 2 tsp. coriander seeds

• 1 tsp. caraway seeds

• 1/2 lb. hot chili peppers, chopped (with or without seeds)

• 2 tbsp. sugar

• 1 tsp. mint

• 1 large garlic bulb, crushed

• 1 tbsp. salt

• 3-4 tbsp. water

• olive oil

  1. Begin by roasting the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds in a dry pan over medium heat. It should take about 2 to 3 minutes for them to be fragrant and toasted, but not burned.
  2. Process the whole seeds in a food processor until they become a powder. Traditionally, a mortar and pestle would be used, and it’s a great variation to try if you have one available.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (except olive oil) to the food processor and process until smooth. Depending on your taste, you may choose to leave the paste a bit chunkier, ending the processing sooner. Some variations also create a drier paste, which is done by adding less water or omitting the water all together.  Hotter variations choose chilies with more heat and/or leave in their seeds.  Choose milder chilies and remove their seeds for a milder and more accessible spice.
  4. Pour the mixture into a wide mouth pint Mason jar and attach your Fermentools fermentation lid and air lock.
  5. Ferment at room temperature for 1 to 6 weeks, testing intermittently to find your desired level of fermentation.
  6. Once you’ve determined your ferment has completed to your satisfaction, remove the air lock and Fermentools lid and cover the surface of the sauce with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the refrigerator with a finger tight lid (regular canning lid) for six months or more, being careful not to contaminate your hot sauce with dirty implements, and being sure to replace the thin layer of olive oil at the top after each use.



So, the chili peppers are coming in from the garden faster than you can keep up with them. What’s a fermenter to do? Why buy the 12-pack of Fermentools, that’s what. With the 12-pack you can always handle large quantities of food or have a variety of recipes going all at the same time.


Ashley is an off grid homesteader in central Vermont. She is passionate about fermentation, charcuterie and foraging. Read more about her adventures at

Recipe adapted from The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving

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