What Is Harissa And How Do You Use It?

A classic North African and Middle Eastern condiment according to The Kitchn, harissa is an fragrant chili paste that works well in a variety of dishes. While it might not be your standard hot sauce in a bottle, the nuanced flavors in harissa add to its versatility. Although harissa recipes change depending on location, most contain ground red chilis, garlic, spices like coriander and cumin, and olive oil. While harissa is considered to have a bold flavor, it is not extremely scorching compared to other hot sauces. According to Food and Wine, harissa packs a heat similar to that of a jalapeño. Thinking about that level of spice, the belief is that the red condiment can add a nice flavor to a dish, yet not entirely overpower it.

Though many enjoy harissa simply as a flavor enhancer, some people believe that there are health benefits to the bold chili paste. Time called it one of the "healthiest foods of all time" due to the capsaicin from the chili peppers, which is believed to help with pain relief and may even protect against cancer. Whatever the reason for trying harissa, it should be pretty easy to find these days. The Kitchn says many brands can be found in the international foods section of grocery stores. With various tubes, jars, and containers on the shelf, it's best to taste a few to find a version that fits your personal preference.

Tasty uses for harissa

Once you're ready to take that flavor journey, a question is on the table. How do you use harissa? While some people might search for a North African inspired recipe, like this Moroccan harissa spiced lamb from Epicurious, the reality is that harissa can be used on basically anything. For example, Bon Appétit recommends using harissa similar to how you would any hot sauce or chili paste. Although the flavors are common to North African foods, this condiment can easily be adapted to many recipes. Whether it is a simple plate of eggs or fried chicken, the aromatic ingredient can add nuance to almost any dish.

One word of caution, The Kitchen says it is best to use harissa judiciously. The whole idea is to enhance a dish's flavor, not to overpower it. Just like any recipe is the sum of its parts, this chili paste is only one component of a successful dish. Whether you're combining harissa with a little ketchup to top a hamburger or adding a drizzle to pizza, experimenting with harissa's bold, slightly spicy flavor is sure to please.