Rose Harissa – Floral Notes Enliven this Smoky Spicy Condiment

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If you’re a fan of North African flavors, spicy heat, and/or Ottolenghi cookbooks, you’ll love this easy-to-make rose harissa recipe. Rose harissa is hard to find in stores but, luckily, it’s easy to make at home. Want to learn more about Middle Eastern ingredients? Read our other Tasting Jerusalem ingredient posts. 

close up of rose harissa on burlap in brown bowl

What is the Difference between Harissa and Rose Harissa?

Harissa is a spice sauce of Tunisian (North African) origin. There are many variations to the recipe, but the basic building blocks are spicy dried or fresh peppers, caraway, cumin, garlic, olive oil and an acid – usually lemon juice. There are ground harissa spice blends, too, for sprinkling on dishes.

Rose harissa includes dried rose petals and/or rosewater to both soften the kick of the chilies and add an unexpected floral counterbalance to the spicy, smoky peppers.

rose harissa ingredients in white bowls on wooden cutting board

Everything you need to make rose harissa except for the bottle of rose water and the olive oil

Where can I Buy the Rose-infused Version?

When Chef Yotam Ottolenghi suggested rose harissa as one of his 10 must-have ingredients in his 2018 cookbook Simple, it created a bit of a stir in parts of the world where this sauce is not readily available and, quite frankly, is unknown.

Use this recipe as a much easier (and cost-effective) way to get your hands on rose harissa. It’s the easy solution to avoid ordering from the UK on Amazon or through the Ottolenghi store.

How Should I use my Harissa with Rose?

Murad Lahlou likens harissa to sriracha in his New Moroccan cookbook and suggests it be used as a finishing touch to dishes – soups, stews, grains, proteins. Other ideas:

  • Mix it with some preserved lemons, rub it on chicken and bake it – it’s fantastic.
  • Roast carrots and chickpeas with the rose harissa – no need to even add extra oil.
  • Or how about the spice in a Bloody Mary?
  • The kick in a tomato sauce
  • Or a topping for Sunday brunch scrambled eggs or omelettes
  • Or on top of store-bought or homemade hummus

Store the harissa with rose in the fridge topped with a bit of olive oil and some more rose petals if you like.

Are Harissa and Rose Harissa Interchangeable in Recipes?

Yes, but… harissa adds a spicy zing to recipes. With the addition of the rose flavor, the harissa becomes more prominent in dishes—because rose is a less common flavor. So your palate picks it up more.

Take that into consideration when adding the rose to this recipe or using the spicy mixture in a dish you’re preparing. We actually like to use rose harissa in recipes that call for traditional harissa because it gives dishes that extra dimension of flavor.

How Long will this Homemade Version Last in the Refrigerator?

When you make it, be sure to use a sterilized glass jar for storage to help extend the life. You’ll use it up before it will spoil, but the refrigerated shelf life is probably about two weeks. You can also freeze it in one or two tablespoon amounts for a quick spice infusion anytime you need it.

What can I Substitute for Harissa if I’m out?

Use your favorite spicy red paste such as sriracha, Chinese chili-garlic paste, Korean gochujang, Southeast Asian sambal oelek. If you have any of these, add some preserved lemons to give it a North African flair.

Ottolenghi Preserved Lemons top down view of split lemons filled with salt on bamboo cutting board

Make some preserved lemons too – a wonderful match with rose harissa

Is there a Shortcut Method to Make Rose Harissa?

If you have a jar of store-bought or homemade harissa in the house, add some rose water or dried rose petals or both to add the rose flavor. Remember to add rose water in small increments – ½ teaspoon or less at a time. Too much is not a good thing. (Think soapy.)

For store-bought harissa, we like Trader Joe’s, though note that it’s spicier than some store-bought versions.

Steps to Making this Rosy Spicy Paste

collage showing steps of preparation for this rose-infused harissa

1.     Gather and measure all of your ingredients. This recipe is pretty simple but having everything ready will make it even easier. The dried chilies need about 20 minutes to rehydrate.

2.     Pan fry the spices in a touch of olive oil, let cool and grind them up in an old coffee grinder, small food processor or mortar and pestle with the dried rose petals. Then add in the smoked paprika.

3.     In the same pan you used for the spices, sauté your shallots, garlic, and peppers.

4.     Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend/process until well combined. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt or rose water as needed.

5.     Put in a sterilized jar, top with olive oil, and store in the refrigerator.

angle shot of harissa in brown bowl on burlap

Recipes to Try with Rose Harissa

Shakshuka – an easy egg dish for brunch or any meal of the day

White bean hummus-style dip

Squash Soup

Lahmajoun – a vegan version of a traditional Armenian flatbread

Ottolenghi’s pappardelle with rose harissa

Want to learn more about Middle Eastern ingredients? I co-lead a cooking group where we do just that! Follow the Facebook page and join the Facebook group – we’d love to have you learn with us.

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Supplies for Making Harissa with Rose

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close up of rose harissa on burlap in brown bowl
5 from 3 votes

Rose Harissa

This brick red spice paste mellowed by a touch of rose will become your favorite kitchen condiment. And if you have Ottolenghi's SIMPLE cookbook, now you can find one of his must-have ingredients - rose harissa.

Course Condiment
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Keyword condiment, North African cuisine, spice sauce
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 32 kcal


  • 4 Dried chili de arbol rehydrated
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil divided use
  • 2 serrano chilies chopped and seeded (preferable to use Fresno Chilies if you can find them)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon rose petals
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons shallot rough chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic rough chopped
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Fry coriander, cumin, caraway in 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Remove spices and reserve oil. Grind spices with rose petals with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Add smoked paprika.

    spices in mortar and pestle
  2. Heat reserved olive oil and 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same skillet until very hot. Add shallot, garlic and Serrano or Fresno chilis and hydrated chili de arbol. Saute until golden.

  3. Place sauteed mixture, remaining olive oil, spices, tomato paste, lemon juice, rose water and salt in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Add additional salt and rose water, if needed.
    angle shot of harissa in brown bowl on burlap
  4. Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a layer of olive oil
    poured over the top, if desired.

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14 Responses to Rose Harissa – Floral Notes Enliven this Smoky Spicy Condiment

  1. April J Harris July 8, 2019 at 8:52 am #

    5 stars
    I love Rose Harissa but have always bought ready made. I’m so pleased to have this wonderful homemade recipe!

    • Beth Lee July 8, 2019 at 12:11 pm #

      In my biased opinion, it beats store bought by a long shot!

  2. Nancy June 23, 2019 at 2:26 pm #

    could or would you use more rose water if you do not have dried petals?

    • Beth Lee June 23, 2019 at 4:45 pm #

      I would but in a very small increment – can’t take it away but you can always add. Rose water is wonderful in the right dose but tastes soapy if you over do it. So maybe an extra 1/4 tsp and see how it tastes. Then add more if you need it!

  3. Leigh Olson June 23, 2019 at 1:50 pm #

    We use harissa as a base for our breakfast pizza then add smoked cottage bacon, mozzarella and eggs.

    I can’t wait to try it with rose harissa!

    • Beth Lee June 23, 2019 at 4:44 pm #

      OMG! That sounds so good Leigh!

  4. Sandi June 22, 2019 at 8:55 pm #

    5 stars
    This is a gorgeous recipe. The flavors are beckoning me to give it a try…

    • Beth Lee June 23, 2019 at 7:18 am #

      Would be a great flavor accompaniment to your summer grilling and all of your egg dishes!

  5. Rosemary Mark June 22, 2019 at 1:10 pm #

    What an interesting post! My daughter is traveling to Tunisia today (she lives in Ghana). Maybe she can bring me some Rose Harissa, otherwise, I must try your recipe 🙂

    • Beth Lee June 22, 2019 at 1:44 pm #

      Oh I bet she’ll love the food! Let me know what she finds!

  6. Jenni June 22, 2019 at 7:45 am #

    5 stars
    I have been waiting and waiting for this recipe! I am so excited it is here! And thanks for such a detailed post. So much info and so easy to follow. Huzzah!

    • Beth Lee June 22, 2019 at 1:43 pm #

      If anyone will think of an inventive way to use it, you will!

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