food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

rose harissaI don’t know about you, but my spice cupboard{s} runneth over. Like the hall closet we had growing up, when I open the doors to my spice stash something inevitably jumps out. But now, instead of a balled up and rarely used coat falling at my feet, a bottle or jar finds itself in something I am preparing, or manages to maliciously hit me on the head or foot.

Dangerous business being a keen cook.

rose harissaI’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to pain. I’ve never been in a physical fight  – wrestling around with my sister as a child doesn’t really count. And that long-standing motto, ‘no pain no gain’ has never swayed me to do more than is absolutely necessary to maintain fitness. I really should work on the latter.

But hot sauce: we have a whole shelf devoted to these potions of pain.

We have bottles of local hot sauce from any country we visit that has a culture of hot sauces, as well as British-made versions of hot pastes and concoctions from the countries of their ex-pat creators. A certain Bim’s Kitchen in London makes some of the best hot sauces I have ever tasted. We have managed to eke out a bottle of their Fiery African Pepper Sauce for about 2 years since its purchase at Borough Market.

As much as I like high quality bought sauces from small companies {and even bigger ones, like Cholula}, and the spicy fillip they can add to something a bit plain, making your own is something else all together. Harissa is my favourite to make. And as some of my family and friends like it hot too, this is what they are getting from me, as well as a bag of za’atar and a jar of pink peppercorn preserved lemons.  A tag will be affixed listing the ingredients as well as suggestions of how to creatively use this seductively spicy and flavoursome paste. Pomegranate and vanilla vodka made from this recipe over at Ren‘s is also on my list. Must remember to keep some for us!rose harissa

Harissa, the hot pepper paste closely associated with Tunisian cooking, is incredibly rewarding to make. Easy too. The distinct advantage over bought pastes – other than taste – is that you can control the heat.

I use tiny, and magnificently hot, pequins {up to 75,000 Scoville units!} as they are super cheap, readily available in a Middle Eastern shop near me, and a bag of them – quietly getting more fierce as they age – keeps forever. In comparison, Scotch bonnets and birds eye chillies are about 100,000, and jalapeño and guajillo chilli peppers are much milder at 5,000. Chipotles are between 5,000 and 10,000.

For this easy edible gift recipe, if you decide to use fresh chillies aim for three ‘supermarket’ red chillies – tasting the end of one to test for heat.

After blending you may decide to go hotter, in which case blend in some chili flakes or even some hot paprika. Here is a guide to the heat of chillies: useful if you want to gauge the heat of available chillies before making any recipe calling for a quantity of chillies, such as this one.

If you desire a smokier outcome, use dried chipotles or chipotles in adobo sauce, eliminating or reducing drastically the small dried chillies. And btw, smaller chillies aren’t necessarily hotter so do test each batch of chillies you get before using them in any recipe. The variety, the time of year grown, the country it is grown in – all can influence heat and taste.

Next up is a cauliflower cheese dish that you can serve at Christmas. Think cake!

rose harissa

Rose Petal Harissa

  • Servings: 1 jam jar
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

While rose petals and rose water are lovely in this fragrant paste, do leave them out if you can’t get them. Maybe add some fresh and dried mint to go for a completely different vibe. If making for a gift, use small jars – about four. 

To soak

25g dried small chillies, such as pequin or birds eye

2 tbsp culinary grade dried rose petals


To toast

2 tsp each of caraway, coriander and cumin seeds

2 whole star anise

2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1 ½ tsp {mild} paprika – this helps with colour and taste


The rest

2 red mild red peppers {bell peppers}

75 ml {1/3 cup} evoo + extra to top the jar{s}

Handful of semi-dried tomatoes {about 12} OR 3-4 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste {start with 3}

2 stoned Medjool dates OR 1 heaped tsp good honey

1 tsp rose water, more to taste {be careful though as you really just want the faintest hint once you have already swallowed a taste of the paste}

2 tsp lemon juice


Special equipment needed: blender, food processor or commodious and heavy mortar and pestle; sterilized small jars or one jam jar; rubber gloves

1. First of all put on your rubber gloves. I didn’t this time and two days later I am still paying the price. Split and remove the seeds from the dried chillies. Discard the seeds. Disregard this step at your peril…

2. Put the dried chillies and rose petals in a small bowl and pour over enough hot water to soak. Leave for half an hour. Drain and set aside.

3. While the chillies are rehydrating, over a low heat toast the seeds, star anise and garlic slices in a pan for about three minutes, stirring as necessary; add the paprika and just heat through to release the aroma. If you have a spice grinder/coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, pulverize the toasted mix. Stir in the soaked chillies and rose petals.rose harissa

rose harissa4. Put everything in your blender, food processor or mortar and blitz/moosh to a paste. Taste and adjust as needed – maybe a little more sweetness, or more salt. Bear in mind that the flavour will deepen over a few days.

5. Spoon into sterilized jar{s} and top with extra rose petals and enough olive oil to completely cover the paste. Refrigerate and use within three weeks. It also freezes well: dot into an ice cube tray {one you won’t be using for ice as it will taint} and freeze and pop the spicy cubes into a labeled bag to add into stews, etc.

Uses: aside from accompanying North African style dishes such as tagines and couscous, it is terrific as a marinade for any protein {slake with more oil}, mixed into bean or legume dips {think hummus}, to accompany mezze platters, mixed with mayonnaise or mashed avocado as a bread spread, added to salad dressings, stirred into pasta and vegetable bakes, in tacos for a different vibe, tossed through raw vegetables {such as sweet potato} before or after roasting, mixed into tomato sauces or in something like shakshuka, as part of burger mixes {bean or something like lamb}, in scrambled eggs, or mixed with butter to make spicy popcorn – you get the idea. Versatile.

Other Food Gift Ideas on Food To Glow: Preserved Lemons, Sweet and Spicy Munch Mix, Chocolate Almond Butter Bites, Slow-baked Sunflower Seed Butter Granola, Mexican Hot Cocoa Mix and Kids’ Vanilla Cocoa MixHint of Mint Cocoa Brownies, Sour Cherry and Pistachio Chocolate Bark , Sugared Spelt and Olive Oil Biscuits

And my friend Katie at The Muffin Myth has a food blogger collection of healthy edible gifts to peruse, including her Homemade Vanilla Extract – yum!

rose harissa



63 thoughts on “Rose Harissa – A Hot and Fragrant Spice Paste to Liven Up Almost Anything

  1. Love it!!!!! This is different from my recipe – I’ll definitely be trying it out xx

    1. Thanks for your approval. Coming from you, I am especially pleased. 😉

  2. Great recipe 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Mio's hot food.

  4. Urvashi Roe says:

    I was wondering how you got it so vibrant and red. Mine is a deep deep red but I don’t use paprika. Love the addition of the rose. Really works.

    1. And if I don’t add the oil with everything else, and am just patient and stir it in {like I sometimes do}, it is redder still! I think the paprika is a help, for sure.

  5. citycalm says:

    This looks like the chilly sauce from one of my favourite restaurants in London!! Am saving this one and trying it next week 🙂

    1. Ooh, what restaurant?

      1. citycalm says:

        Banana Tree in West Hampstead – their chilli sauce is addictive 🙂

      2. Oh! I tried to get in the one in Battersea when I was last in London {at a conference} and they were chokka. The menu sounds amazing – I wouldn’t be able to choose!

      3. citycalm says:

        Wow really!! Well, next time you’re in London have another go or book ahead it’s really worth it – if only to check out the chilli sauce competition 😉

  6. A Home Cook says:

    What a great use for use rose petals (other than making jam to give away). I think I would be keeping this for myself. Would you mind telling us all exactly why you don’t want the chili seeds: is it flavour or texture?

    1. It would be too fiercely hot if one used the hottest chillies, overwhelming the other flavours. But, freestyling encouraged. Just don’t blame me if you can’t taste your food for a week!

      1. A Home Cook says:

        Okay, maybe it’s worth a dare, although maybe with fewer chillies and some roasted capsicum to take up the flavour. There’s already a family chilli story (something to do with bottling chilli sauce in old beer bottles, leaving them in the fridge …), so maybe I can add to it.

      2. Some recipes do call for roasting the ingredients, but I am just lazy! Getting back to the seeds thing, my chillies are blow your head off hot but it would depend on the tolerance of the end user of the sauce and of course the hotness of the chilli. If you are brave, go for it! I can imagine what the family story is: was swigging involved??

      3. A Home Cook says:

        Swigging was involved. But only one swig.

  7. What an unusual way of using the rose petals, love it!

  8. looks great

  9. wow! I the flavors sound so interesting. Love this recipe.

  10. Kavey says:

    Looks as beautiful as I thought it would when you first mentioned on FB. Lovely gift idea!

    1. Thank you, Kavey. And for the social media love x

  11. beautiful photos and such an original gift…. thanks for the idea!!

    1. You are very welcome. Keep some for yourself 😉

  12. I love the look of this vibrant recipe and love even the idea of rose petals and chilli, must be a winner.

    1. Cheers, Miss Niki. We had some last night in a quick tomato pasta sauce of garlic, olive oil, tinned and fresh tomatoes and lemon thyme. It was fab. 🙂

  13. I bet these would be great gifts for spice lovers. Your photos are gorgeous!

    1. Thank you Anjana. I’m glad you like both the recipe and the images. This time of year is a challenge for Scottish food bloggers – no light!

  14. This looks just lovely, Kellie! Our spice cupboard is a frightening thing to open as well, and yet we keep buying more, always shopping at local spice markets when we travel and bringing home interesting things. The husband has a serious love of hot sauce and the hotter the better. I must bookmark this recipe and make it for him sometime soon, it’d earn me major brownie points (more even than the beetroot brownies!).

  15. narf77 says:

    Magnificent…what a triumph of a recipe! This unctuous dollop would liven up just about everything. Thank you for sharing it with us all 🙂

    1. Thanks, Fran. We dolloped last night in homemade pasta sauce – really good too 🙂

      1. narf77 says:

        I can think of a whole lot of recipes that would be incredibly enhanced using this magnificent stuff. Even simple rice and veggies would be elevated. 🙂

  16. Wow, this sounds really good. Looking forward to trying it!

  17. I can tell just by looking at the ingredients just how amazing this will be. A perfect festive edible gift and I would have to keep lots back for myself too. I hope your friends and family enjoy it too!

  18. chefceaser says:

    Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.

  19. tastasty says:

    Perfect to warm us on a cold day..;) Looks good!

  20. Sally says:

    You describe my spice cupboard – something leaps out every time I open it. We also love a hint of fire and the best bought chilli paste we’ve had it the South Devon Chilli Farm’s Bhut Jolokia paste. Just the tip of a teaspoon in a chilli is enough. I adore this recipe though Kellie and your pictures are beautiful.

    1. I’ve just bought some nuts seasoned with Bhut Jolokia for a relative who really likes it spicy. I am scared of these chillies however. I looked up the scoville rating and thought, ‘no way!’

  21. Great gift idea Kellie, thanks for sharing.

  22. Kellie I love this post.
    The colours in the photos are so pretty, and this paste is incredibly addictive and delicious. I’ve been adding it to almost everything since you gifted me a jar….so yummy, thank you. I will definitely be making some of my own when yours runs out.
    I also have a spice cupboard which throws things at me when I open it…..sometimes I take it as a hint from the gods of kitchen spices and add whatever has tumbled out into the food I’m cooking…….sometimes this turns out well….sometimes not so much 🙂

    1. I don’t believe that for a second, Seonaid! I’m sure everything that you put on the table is gorgeous – minor spice avalanche or not. 😛 I;m super glad you like the harissa.

  23. karen278 says:

    What a wonderful recipe Kellie and something that I use all the time in my kitchen in France! I too make Harissa, and have often added floral notes to it in the past, as it is very Maghreb……but if I received a pot of this in my stocking, it would make my Christmas! LOVELY photos too! Karen

  24. Jhuls says:

    Elaine referred me your Harissa recipe and now I can see why she’s always coming back to your recipe. This one is a winner. I don’t have most of the ingredients, but I will get them to make this. Oh so good! I have Ancho chillies and I think I could use them, too. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Kellie. x

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comment. I make a big batch and divide it up to pop in the freezer. I really hope you like it and end up customising to your own taste as Elaine does. 😊😊😊

      1. Jhuls says:

        Thanks, Kellie! I will let you know for sure. 🙂

  25. Karen says:

    I’m happy to have discovered your recipe. I have one for harissa but it doesn’t have all the wonderful spices that you have used. When the one I have is gone I’m preparing yours so I’ve pinned the paste recipe.

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