Move over sriracha and chile paste, harissa is here and ready to challenge for the condiment crown. A fun and flavorful way to spice up your dishes, this versatile flavoring contains a kick of peppers and chiles and is delicious in everything from chicken and burgers to roasted vegetables and hummus. And, bonus: you can make harissa paste at home! Once you’ve made harissa paste from He Needs Food, it’s a snap to make harissa butter, which is fabulous in everything from shellfish to omelets to breads. Cut off the stems off of your Mexican chile peppers, also called arbol chiles, and discard the seeds — unless you are feeling really adventurous and like a lot of heat.
Cut off the stems off of your Mexican chile peppers, also called arbol chiles, and discard the seeds — unless you are feeling really adventurous and like a lot of heat. You may want to consider wearing gloves to protect your skin while chopping chilis and avoid rubbing your eyes (don’t ask how we know that!).
What is great about harissa paste is you can customize the flavor: add a squeeze of lemon or switch up the chiles. Chipotle or anchos are both great options. The harissa paste becomes even more flavorful if allowed to hold and let the flavors meld and develop over a couple days, so this would be great to make in advance.
If you would rather use fresh chiles instead of dried, you’ll need twice as many fresh to get the same flavor as dried chiles. For example, you’d need 20 fresh arbol chiles versus 10 dried chiles.
Harissa butter is terrific for sautéing shrimp or lobster, for cooking eggs or in place of regular butter for corn on the cob or breads. Delicious!
Prepare red peppers for Harissa paste and harissa butter
Blister over a flame until charred black. Cover and steam to loosen skins, then peel completely.
Clean and chop red peppers
Be sure to remove all seeds and membranes.
Soften dried chiles
Pour boiling water over the chiles and the dried chiltepins; the chiltepins give off a delicious smoky aroma and flavor.
While the water works to soften the peppers, get started on your powder
Toast the cinnamon, cumin and caraway seeds in a small pan until they start releasing their aromatic, shaking the pan or stirring frequently to avoid burning. It will smell divine. Then, grind the toasted spices and smoked paprika flakes in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
Place all ingredients in food processor or blender for Harissa paste and harissa butter
Combine the powder with the chiles and charred red pepper, along with the garlic, salt and olive oil, making a paste out of the ingredients using a stick blender or food processor.
Make harissa butter
Once you’ve made the harissa paste, you can easily make butter by mixing your harissa paste along with ground fennel into whipped butter.
Form butter into log
Shape into a four-inch log and keep rolled in plastic wrap in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Look at all that delicious flavor!
Harissa butter can be used in a variety of recipes
*Char the red pepper over a flame or under a grill until the skin is blackened all over. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Rub the blackened skin from the pepper and remove the stem, seeds and inner membranes. Avoid washing the pepper under running water as this will wash away the juices.
Cut the stems off the arbol chiles and discard them. Shake out the seeds and discard.
Pour boiling water over the arbol chillies and chiltepins and set aside for 20 minutes to soften.
Place the cumin, caraway seeds and cinnamon into a small pan over medium heat. Toast until aromatic, being careful not to burn!
Grind the toasted spices and smoked paprika flakes in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. It should be as fine a powder as you can manage.
Place the pepper, drained chiles, ground spices, garlic, salt and oil into a large bowl. Using a stick blender, blend to a paste. Check for seasoning.
Keep refrigerated and use within three weeks, or freeze any excess.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until until light and fluffy.
Add the ground fennel and harissa and continue blending until well-combined.
Scoop the harissa butter onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a four-inch log. Roll tightly into the plastic wrap. Twist the ends to tighten even more.
Refrigerate overnight before using, allowing the flavors to develop.
Alternatively, freeze the butter for up to three months. You can easily cut off chunks as needed while the rest remains frozen.