Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Home-made Libyan Harissa هريسة منزلية ليبيه

Harissa simply means paste so in different Arab countries it refers to very different recipes, including a semolina dessert more widely known as Basbousa.

In North Africa harissa refers to the regions favourite condment, a chili paste. It is used in dips and marinades and to add a kick to Tajins and stews. In Libya the favourite sandwich filling is harissa mixed with tuna. Tuna and harissa stuffed savoury pastries like Khbaiza are also popular.

This is one of several Libyan harissa recipes, flavored with cumin, coriander and caraway seeds.

Makes about 2 cups of Harissa.
3 cups finely chopped red chili peppers (about 14 chillies)
3-4 large cloves of garlic
1-2 teaspoons cumin
2-3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon pan-roasted coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon pan-roasted caraway seeds (optional)
1 boiled large carrot (optional)

Clean glass jar
Olive oil to cover

To make the harissa less hot,  deseed and de-vein  the chillies.

Process in the food mixer, or finely chop while wearing gloves.

Place the chopped chillies in a pot with  salt, cumin, tomato paste and the pan-roasted coriander and caraway seeds and simmer for half an hour on low heat

When it has cooked down puree the harissa.

Boil and puree a carrot, mix it into the chilli paste. 

Spoon the harissa into a clean glass jar, and cover with a layer of olive oil and keep in the fridge. Harissa also freezes well (spread flat in freezer bags, break off pieces to defrost as needed).


  1. Looks great! I can't imagine eating a tuna sandwich without harissa...

  2. This looks absolutely wonderful!

    Tuna and harissa - yummmm!

  3. Looks very wonderful!
    libyan food very nice.

    I'm doing Turkish food.
    Greetings from Turkey!

  4. Harissa is definitely a must with tuna! Thanks for visiting the blog! :)

  5. I spent a year in Libya in 1992/1993 - most of the time I lived in Gharyan. I have fond memories of eating Bazeen with my local friends and colleagues - Fathi, Mohamed, Radwan and all the others. I wish i could find a way of getting in touch with them again!.

  6. Do you have a recipe for pilpel chuma? It's similar to harissa. My husband is Libyan and always talks about it.

  7. I found this here

    Filfel Chuma

    This is the hot condiment of Libyan Jews, originally prepared from dried sweet and hot peppers. This recipe offers a significant shortcut, provided you can obtain top quality cayenne pepper.

    Ingredients (makes 1 cup)

    10 cloves garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon high quality hot paprika (cayenne pepper)
    4 tablespoons high quality sweet paprika
    1 level teaspoon ground caraway
    1 level teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 cup oil, plus more oil, to cover
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 teaspoon salt

    Mix the ingredients into a smooth paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a sterilized jar, cover with two tablespoons of oil to prevent spoilage, and store in the refrigerator. It keeps for a long time.

  8. Thanks. I have some excellent Moroccan paprika that will go good with this.

  9. Thank you for stepping in there El Patron :) I've been away from the blog for a while and haven't looked at the comments.

  10. I had a Libyan friend in school in the 60's whose mother would send him harissa and he would add a lot of olive oil in it. He made wonderful tuna sandwiches mixing canned tuna with the harissa.
    Recently through the internet got some morroçon harissa made by Al-fez, but the taste(though good) is quite different from what I remember. I think this has too much tomato in it (14%) so I am happy to find your recipe and will try it soon. My only worry is that Indian green chillies will taste different.