From the Pantry: Guajillo Chiles (Harissa Sauce)

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Andrea Meyers - Harissa Sauce

Have you ever seen the bags of dried chiles in the grocery, the ones in the Mexican foods aisle, and wondered what to do with them? There are so many different varieties to choose from, and each has its own flavor profile and heat level which can make experimenting fun and/or painful. We keep several bags on hand for different cooking projects, including guajillo chiles, which are dried mirasol chiles.

Andrea Meyers - Guajillo chiles

Harissa sauce is a traditional condiment from North Africa, and there are many different recipes for it depending on where you go and whom you ask. The basic recipes is dried chiles + cumin seeds + coriander seeds + caraway seeds + garlic + salt + olive oil. Types of chiles and amounts of any of the ingredients is up to your imagination and how much heat you can stand. I like to mix up ancho and guajjillo chiles in my harissa. The mild guajillo chiles give sauces a glorious red color and a bit of mild heat, which combines nicely with the slightly hot and sweet ancho. I’m not a fan of caraway, so we skip it.

Harissa pairs very well with lamb, chicken, beef, fish, couscous, chickpeas, and root vegetables, so let your imagination run wild. And prepare your taste buds for an amazing treat.


Makes about 2 cups.


medium saucepan
8-inch skillet
spice grinder (or repurposed coffee grinder)
food processor
clean 8 to 12-ounce jar with lid


8 guajillo chilies
4 ancho chilies
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
8 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil


1. Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Soak them in boiling water for about 20 minutes, until they are plump and soft. Drain well.

2. While the chilies soak, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in the skillet over medium heat until they are fragrant. Allow to cool, then grind to a fine powder.

3. Add the drained chilies, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt, and olive oil to the work bowl of the food processor, and pulse until the mixture is a smooth paste. Transfer to a clean jar with lid and top off with a little more olive oil. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

More Recipes From the Pantry

Andrea Meyers - From the Pantry: Instant Pectin (Strawberry Freezer Jam with Moscato) Andrea Meyers - From the Pantry: Tamari Soy Sauce (Tamari Almonds) Andrea Meyers - From the Pantry: Korean Citron Tea

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