Unlike harissa pastes, this dry spice blend does not require toasting and grinding multiple types of dried chile peppers or blending wet ingredients. Rather, a base of 5 key harissa spices and an original blend of rose, chili and sumac is mixed for an easy homemade harissa spice blend that tastes like the familiar harissa paste and is incredibly versatile.


homemade harissa dry spice blend.

Above: Flecks of ground rose petals can be seen in Sofa’s homemade harissa spice blend

What is harissa paste?

Harissa paste is a chile pepper condiment from North Africa (Tunisia/Morocco) that can be store bought. The paste is based on rehydrated chile peppers blended with some key other spices, tomato paste and/or roasted red peppers for a smoky, spicy hit of flavor and can be used in a multitude of ways. It usually costs over $10 per 6-8 oz jar. There is a cheaper version that is straight up chili pepper paste that is burning hot, and I’ve bought other brands that are more “gourmet”, pricey and vary in level of heat.

overhead view of harissa seasonings includes 5 spices.

Above: The five spices that form the foundation of the harissa spice blend are cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and ground caraway!

What does this substitute for harissa paste taste like?

  • Dried rose petals- I took a cue from Yotam Ottolenghi’s version of Harissa Paste and included rose petals for sweetness. (they can be optional as their effect is subtle). 
  • Sumac- I included sumac to replace the tang of tomato/roasted red peppers.
  • Mild heat but customizable- I’ve used equal parts of all the spices. Dial back or dial up the chili powder to suit your desire for heat, and do the same with any others.
  • Smoky- from the smoked paprika and chili powder.
  • Sweet- If you can’t get your hands on dried rose petals the recipe won’t miss them too much as their flavor is subtle.
  • Nuttiness- from caraway, which is key, I feel, to the unique flavor profile of traditional harissa.

Why this recipe works

  • Easier to store-since it’s a spice blend and not a wet harissa paste, it lasts in your pantry like other spices and you get all the flavor and none of the hassle of using up an expensive jar of spicy chile pepper paste before it goes bad.
  • Easier to make- most recipes call for large dried chile peppers. I replaced the hard to find large dried chile peppers that require toasting and grinding, with chili powder. 
  • Less spicy than many harissa pastes-whereas some harissa pastes are downright knock your socks off spicy, and burn more than taste of any spices, this blend magically melds all the key flavor components of smokiness, slightly sweet, the classic cumin/coriander flavor, garlic, tang, and the unique nuttiness of the caraway.
  • More economical- 8 tablespoons of dry spices that can be used in up to 8 different recipes is far cheaper than paying upwards of $10 for a jar that is either used up with maybe 2 uses or goes bad in between uses.
  • Can be turned into a paste if needed- easy to mix a tablespoon with a can of tomato paste for harissa paste called for in recipes
  • Dry spices are versatile-can be used in many ways such as sprinkling, rubbing, mixing into a variety of wet ingredients for a dip or dressing.
rose, sumac and chili powder.

Above: Chili powder, ground rose petals and sumac are an original trio of spices I use to round out the flavor of this harissa spice blend and make it easier to pull together (no purchasing of large dried chiles that need to be toasted and ground).

Homemade harissa spice blend ingredients

  • Five key spices- cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and ground caraway, form the basis of this powder. In traditional harissa paste the garlic would be fresh. I’ve substituted garlic powder to make this spice blend easier to make and store. The cumin, coriander and caraway are bought in whole spice form, roasted and then ground. Feel free to use already ground cumin and coriander, but I’ve never seen caraway seeds sold as a powder and the caraway flavor adds a key nuttiness to the blend.
  • Three more spices– added to round out harissa flavor- chili powder, ground rose petals and sumac are an original trio of spices added to the blend. The chili powder replaces large dried chile peppers that are usually seeded, toasted and ground up (and I chose chipotle chili powder to enhance the smokiness of the paprika). The ground rose petals are used in some varieties of harissa pastes to add a subtle sweetness, and the sumac I’ve added to make up for the lack of tomato/roasted pepper flavor- it adds a tang.
roasting cumin, coriander and caraway seeds.

Step-by-step instructions

If you are using the rose petals then you should place them in a coffee grinder and blend them into a powder.

After that, heat a skillet (I love my cast iron skillet) to medium for 5 minutes and then add the caraway, cumin and coriander seeds to toast, moving constantly for about 2 minutes until you can smell the fragrance. Take care not to toast too long or they will burn. Pour out of pan, cool and then grind in coffee grinder.

Measure out the other ground spices (garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, and sumac).

Mix all the spices together in a bowl with a whisk and you are done!

pouring harissa spice blend into bowl after mixing.

Ways to use this harissa spice blend

  • Recipes calling for harissa paste- mix 1-2 tablespoons of this spice blend into a partial or full can of tomato paste to create a homemade, less expensive but even tastier version of store bought harissa paste.
  • Harissa popcorn- with this spice blend sitting in your pantry, you can whip up a delectable flavored popcorn at a moment’s notice by melting two tablespoons of salted butter, stirring in 1 tablespoon of the blend, and toasting it a bit in the butter, then tossing with the popcorn. So good.
  • Roasting vegetables- this blend has such a wonderful well rounded flavor with just the slightest of heat and lots of smokiness, it really dresses up a pan of roasted veggies. Below you can see it used for my Whole Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner, with all the ingredients tossed in it and ready for roasting.
  • Harissa wings- these chicken wings couldn’t be easier to make, with a drizzle of olive oil rubbed all over and a tablespoon of the harissa spice per pound of wings, they roast up in 40 minutes and again, the flavor is so satisfying.
bowl of harissa popcorn made with harissa spices and butter.
overhead view of all of the sheet pan ingredients on sheet pan.
harissa chicken wings coated in a dry rub of homemade harissa spice blend.

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homemade harissa dry spice blend.

Easy Homemade Harissa Spice Blend

Prep Time10 minutes
Toasting & Grinding Spices (optional): 5 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Servings8
Calories126
Unlike other homemade harissa seasonings and pastes, this recipe does not require toasting and grinding multiple types of dried chile peppers or blending wet ingredients. Rather, a base of 5 key harissa spices is blended with an original blend of rose, chili and sumac for an easy homemade harissa spice blend that is incredibly versatile.
Kitchen Tools
  • coffee or spice grinder, optional
  • skillet, to toast whole spices-optional

Ingredients
 

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds (can sub ground cumin)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds (can sub ground coriander)
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds (I have never found ground caraway but can sub if you can find it)
  • 1 tbsp dried rose petals (found with bulk spices often or online)
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (I use chipotle chile powder for smokiness but use whatever blend you like.)

Method:  

  • Toast the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds in a warm skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes until fragrant, taking care not to burn. Cool then grind in coffee/spice grinder. Can use mortar and pestle or other hand grinder.
  • Grind dried rose petals with method of choice from above step.
  • Measure out the rest of the spices and mix with a whisk until blended then store in a small container in pantry.

Notes

Makes 1/2 cup of spice blend.

Nutrition (an estimate)

Calories: 126kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 154mg | Potassium: 663mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 181mg | Iron: 9mg | Magnesium: 84mg | Net Carbohydrates: 11g
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