Fermented Harissa

Spicy, tangy harissa is a delicious Moroccan hot chili pepper paste. Our version uses bird’s eye chiles, home-roasted bell peppers, dried ancho chiles, and a generous amount of garlic. It’s fermented up to 6 weeks for probiotic benefits and flavor development. Use it to dress up vegetables, marinades, in soups, or anywhere you’d like to add a punch of spice and flavor. A little goes a long way!

4 from 1 vote
Fermented Harissa
Fermented Harissa
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

Spicy, tangy harissa is a delicious Moroccan hot chili pepper paste. Our version uses bird's eye chiles, home-roasted bell peppers, dried ancho chiles, and a generous amount of garlic. It's fermented up to 6 weeks for probiotic benefits and flavor development. Use it to dress up vegetables, marinades, in soups, or anywhere you'd like to add a punch of spice and flavor. A little goes a long way!

Course: Base Recipe, Condiment
Cuisine: Moroccan, North African
Servings: 30 2-tbsp servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 bulb garlic , cloves removed and peeled
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 oz bird's eye chiles (Thai peppers) , stems removed (if using dried, only use half this amount - rehydrate with anchos - see instructions)
  • 6 red bell peppers
  • 2 oz dried ancho chiles , stems removed
Finishing Ingredients (add after fermentation)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Instructions
  1. Place an oven rack 4-5" from the broiler element, and preheat broiler to 425F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment. Place whole bell peppers on the sheet on their sides, stems facing sideways.

  2. Let the peppers roast for 5 minutes, then remove the sheet from the oven and turn each pepper one quarter turn. Place back into the oven. Repeat 3 more times, roasting 5 minutes and turning one quarter turn, until you've turned the peppers all the way around. They should be charred and blackened. Total time in the oven should be 20-25 minutes.

  3. Remove the peppers from the oven and place on a large cutting board. Cover with a large mixing bowl and let them steam for 15 minutes (alternatively, you can put them into a large pot and cover with a lid - anything that will trap the steam inside to help the skins loosen).

  4. When the peppers have finished steaming, slice each pepper vertically from the stem to the bottom. Lay the pepper flat, skin side down, exposing the seeds. Pull off and discard the stem and seeds. Turn the peppers over and remove any hard or blackened bits of skin. Set the peppers aside.

  5. In a small dry skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds, stirring frequently, until they become fragrant and begin to brown, about 1-2 minutes (don't let them burn). Grind the toasted seeds in a spice grinder until powdered. Set aside.

  6. Add 2 quarts of water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the de-stemmed dried ancho chiles to the pot and allow to simmer for about 2-4 minutes, until softened and rehydrated. Remove from heat, drain and set aside (saving about 1 cup of the cooking water).

  7. Add the bird's eye chiles, roasted red peppers, rehydrated chiles, garlic cloves, salt, and toasted ground spices to a food processor. Process until the mixture is puréed. If you need a little more liquid to help the processor along, add 1-2 tbsp of the chile cooking liquid (or more as needed).

  8. Scoop the mixture into a large container with a lid (we use a half-gallon mason jar for ferments). Screw on a lid (or otherwise cover) and place in a dark, warm spot, securely wrapped in a towel to keep out light / keep in heat.

  9. Check the ferment every day, and release any pressure from the container by opening, then closing the lid. Let it ferment for at least 1 week and up to 6 weeks - the longer you leave it, the more complex flavors will develop, so hold out as long as you can! 

  10. When your ferment is complete, stir in olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Store your harissa in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Recipe Notes
  • This recipe makes about 1 quart, which is a LOT of harissa. It's perfectly fine to halve the recipe if you think you'll use less.
  • To freeze, place the finished fermented harissa into pint-size mason jar(s), leaving about 1" of headroom. Pour a thin, 1/2" layer of olive oil over the top. Secure with lid and freeze up to 1 year.

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