Homemade harissa d’espelette—a many splendored condiment

Lately I’ve been into making harissas and sambals and other fiery chile-based condiments. I think the attraction is that they provide a quick and easy way for a busy cook to make rather ordinary soups, seasonal salads, and baked chicken or fish a lot more interesting. Less than an hour in the kitchen on a weekend, with a few simple ingredients and a food processor, yields a jar full of fun recipe ideas to deploy on busier days.

For the harissa I more or less riffed off of this recipe in Saveur, but I used some very special chiles, removed some ingredients, and changed the proportions. The chiles were dried piment d’espelette from Annabelle Lenderink’s La Tercera Farm. I’d been meaning to do something special with them because they have such a bright, fruity, mildly spicy flavor and are so elegant. Plus, hardly anyone grows them outside of Basque country, as far as I know, but you can use any good dried chiles you like.

Makes about 1/2 cup

12 medium sized, medium spicy, fruity dried red chiles, stemmed, seeded and soaked in hot water until soft

1⁄4 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted in adry skillet and ground in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle

1⁄4 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted in a dry skillet and ground in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle

3 cloves garlic, pounded to a paste with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle

Approximately 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Lemon juice to taste

Put the soaked chiles, toasted and ground spices, and pounded garlic in a food processor and pulse until fairly smooth, and blended, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running until you have a smooth paste. Add a little salt and lemon juice and pulse to blend. Taste for balance, adding more salt, lemon juice, or olive oil, as needed. Will keep in small jars in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks, possibly longer.

So once you have the paste, what do you do with it?

1. Stir it into a basic lemon-shallot vinaigrette and use it on potato salad studded with bacon and green onions (above) or any other seasonal vegetable salad (corn, zucchini, green bean, roasted pepper, toasted pumpkinseed salad pictured below)—I plan to post these recipes soon.

2. Whisk together with white wine, fresh chopped herbs, and olive oil and use to marinate chicken before baking.

3. Stir into hummus or baba ghanoush (I’ll post this recipe soon)

4. Stir into a brothy chicken soup with potatoes or rice

5. Use it as a sandwich spread

6. Stir it into scrambled eggs

What are your ideas? Leave a comment and share them.

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This entry was posted in DIY, Food and Drink, entertaining, from the market, healthy, pantry staples and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. a woman called Sam
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    I live in the middle of nowhere, OR. I will be in Berkeley in afew weeks. Do you know where I can buy dried piment d’espelette? Or, failing that where can I get dried peppers tgo substitute and what would you recommend?

    • Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      If you’re going to be in Berkeley on a Saturday La Tercera farm at the Berkeley Saturday farmers market sells them in ristras. (that’s where I got mine) There’s another vendor there called Quetzal farm that sells a huge variety of dried chiles. You’ll want something not smoky with some, but not too much, heat. Espelette chiles are not that easy to find generally, and wouldn’t normally be used for harissa anyway, so try some New Mexico or Guajillo or other medium heat dried chile. You can’t go wrong.

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] achieve this I added just a spoonful of homemade harissa to my basic shallot vinaigrette. I’d made it myself earlier in the week, but you could certainly also use a good store-bought [...]

  2. [...] To achieve this I added just a spoonful of homemade harissa to my basic shallot vinaigrette. I'd made it myself earlier in the week, but you could certainly also use a good store-bought [...]

  3. By Secrets to Great Baba Ghanoush | Vanessa Barrington on November 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    [...] promised to post this recipe after I posted the harissa recipe a few weeks ago. Apologies for my slowness. In the event you still have some eggplant hanging [...]

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