Updated: Mar 10, 2019
Harissa is a puree of red chilli peppers that originated from Tunisia. The peppers are dried in the sun and then ground with spices, cumin, coriander and caraway, not to mention the dried tomatoes.
However, harissa is also prepared with fresh peppers or steamed and mixed peppers. Harissa is usually sold in a tin can, but can also be found in tubes.
The strength of harissa, measured by the Scoville scale, varies from 40,000 to 50,000
There are regional varieties depending on the type of peppers, the taste and the preparation. Thus, the Berber harissa is prepared with dried cayenne pepper, garlic, oil, salt and some spices.
As with the European cuisine, chilli peppers were imported into the Maghreb cuisine via the Columbian Exchange, presumably during the Spanish occupation of Tunisia between 1535 and 1574
The origin of the word comes from the Arabic verb harasa, which literally means "crush", "pound" or "grind".
Harissa has many variants and some of them are less hotter like the harissa Khora; made with sweet dried bell peppers with a small amount of chillies.
Another harissa is the harissa Nablia; the fresh bell peppers and chillies are boiled in water and preserved in olive oil.
There is also a sweet harissa with almonds and sugar syrup, dessert prepared in some Maghreb countries, especially in Tunisia.
Harissa is usually used as a condiment or as an ingredient. It is often used to season dishes, such as couscous or kefteji, and also to prepare sandwiches.
Harissa is a “National sauce" in Tunisia, where it is an important element of local cuisine, particularly in Djerba, in the Sahel region, Cape Bon and in eastern Algeria.
The rural population makes their own harissa, which can also be found in other kitchens in North Africa as well as in Israel, where it was introduced by Tunisian Jews.
Harissa Nablia recipe: 2kg of fresh bell peppers (sweet), 100 grams of fresh red hot peppers (Cayenne chillies), 5 large fresh garlic bulbs., salt and olive oil.
Harissa Khora recipe: 2 kg of sweet dried bell peppers., 200gr of dried red hot peppers (Cayenne chillies)., 5 large dried garlic bulbs., salt and olive oil.
Go to recipe; click here!