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Harissa Eggplant Sandwich

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

I love harissa. It is in my opinion one of the great condiments that enhances everything, and it is just great in a sandwich. I wanted to share this home recipe of a Moroccan style harissa that includes fire roasted bell peppers. It's a star on my "So Hungry..." best sandwich list.

  • click on picture above to see Harissa Eggplant Sandwich video recipe + story


Harissa. So who came up with this king of condiments?

Well, the answer is never simple and really depends on which 'side of the river' you are standing. One thing is certain and void of debates, Harissa was discovered in North Africa, made itself a comfortable home in Tunisia, and then... well then it gets complicated.

There are many versions to harissa that differ not just between countries and regions, but between neighbors, friends and families as well. Every home has a different version with a 'secret' twist. The Tunisian version generally consists of a mix of dry chillies which are later grounded into a paste. The Moroccan version calls for more lemon and fire roasted red peppers which adds some smokiness and sweetness, which adds to balance the sharpness of the chillies well.

Morocco also holds the thrown as the place of birth for yet another great condiment, Chermoula paste, another favorite of my'n, which I enjoy greatly especially with fish and seafood.

The recipe introduced here, is based on a teenage memory of my'n, where there was this small sandwich shack, just around the corner from my high school, that served only one item, Harissa Eggplant sandwich. You could either have it with hummus or for a small extra charge, combine it with fresh and pungent sheep's milk feta cheese, served on a daily fresh soft baguette. It was heavenly and for a time, it was the only reason that kept me going back to school.

A short note about spices. It became apparent to me that some, not too many people but a respectable number, think that spices have no expiration date. Well, I never like to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately they do. Actually most brands out there, especially those you find in supermarkets including our beloved 'Costco', are not worth much and are of a lower quality.

Your safest bet would be to find a Middle Eastern or Indian market place in your area and purchase your spices there. Depending on the heat, humidity and spice type, spices should keep their aroma and flavor profile for upto one year (some may even longer), but personally, I tend to keep my spices for no longer than 6 months.


Finally, Black pepper and Mortar and Pestle vs coffee grinder.

This is for all you powdered ground black pepper users out there. Yes you, I see you, no use in hiding. So, let’s get this one thing out in the open once and for all, using pre-grounded black pepper is no bueno! the flavor, essence and oils extracted from the spice you use, are gone to waist after a short time (few days at most), once black peppercorns are grounded to a powder. To release these oils, you must crack the husk that keeps the treasured aromas from escaping and evaporating. That is also why you see restaurants using black pepper mills, making sure the black pepper is freshly grounded, falling on their designated dish like black angels determined to lift that bite you are about to take to a different level.

Using powdered, pre-grounded black pepper makes me sad, because I know what you are missing, I know your level of enjoyment could be exponentially higher, just by a simple quick turn of the mill. So please, please use fresh black pepper corns and a mill or mortal and pestle.

And yes, I prefer mortal and pestle for the same reason vs using a coffee grinder, unless, I know I am in need of a large quantity of a certain spice and it is to be used immediately.

Okay, I’m ranting which means I’m hungry. So let’s get to the Sandwich.


Harissa Paste

Serving 2 cups = 16 oz

Course Condiments

Cuisine Gluten free

Freezer(ish)? No.

Good for Upto 2 - 3 weeks



  • 6 Guajillo dry chilies

  • 2-4 (depending on spiciness level) Japanese dry chillies 

  • 2 small-medium size Red bell peppers

  • 1 Tbs Cumin seeds

  • 1 Tbs Caraway seeds

  • 1 Tsp Coriander seeds

  • 1 head of garlic or 6-8 cloves

  • 1 Tsp Lemon salt *

  • 1/4 cup Neutral oil (grape seed), you may use olive oil if you choose 


How to

  • Remove seeds from chillies using kitchen shears. 

  • Rehydrate the chillies by soaking them  in room temp water for 1 hr (not less than 30min if you're in a hurry). Make sure chillies are fully covered with water. (use a pan or heavy plate).

  • While chillies are soaking in water, heat a small saucepan under medium-low heat, and slightly dry toast the seeds, releasing their oils. 2-3 minutes or until you start to smell the seed's oils.

  • remove from fire immediately and set aside to cool (be careful not to burn the seeds as this will turn them bitter).

  • Using a mortar and pestle, blend seeds together until you are left with a fine coarse blend. Chillies should be ready b y now. Drain the chillies and pat them dry.

  • In the video and here in the recipe we use a food processor, but if you have a meat grinder it is highly recommended to use that versus the food processor for best result.

  • I recommend grinding the chillies twice (If using the meat grinder).

  • Drizzle red peppers with oil, and roast in a preheated oven set for 450 F (230 C) for 12-15 minutes, until the peppers are charred but not burned. (You may also use a grill for a more smokier flavor).

  • Once peppers are charred, set aside to cool, covering the peppers with plastic film helps with peeling-off the peppers skin later when cooled down.

  • Peel off peppers skin, cut off peppers stem and clean it from all its seeds and veins. (save the liquid which you can add later to the Harissa or use it for a vinaigrette).

  • In a food processor, combine chillies, red pepper, lemon salt and garlic. Pulse to a coarse paste. 

  • Remove the lid, and scrap the sides trying to concentrate the paste in the center of the food processor.

  • Cover back with the lid, and turn the food processor to low, add the oil in a slow drizzle to the paste.

  • Increase food processor speed to medium and let it run for another 2 minutes, watching the paste closely. We are looking for a slightly coarse harissa paste rather than a smooth one.

  • Turn the food processor off, remove the lid and taste for seasoning. Add S+P if needed according to taste.

  • Transfer harissa into a jar, and refrigerate for up to 2-3 weeks. 


Lemon Salt

  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt

  • Zest of one lemon

  • Combine and mix well in a bowl. Spread it in a tray and dry it in the oven at 125‘F for 5 to 7 hours (time may vary depending on oven and other factors) what you’re looking for is a dried mixture at the end. Place in a sealed jar and use as needed.

  • l*Why I don't call for lemon juice Lemon juice goes wonderful with harissa and adds a tone of flavor and acidity. However, I find that adding lemon juice turns the harissa color to a somewhat orange, due to a chemical effect (which you may learn further about in this Article

  • Also I choose to mix the oil with a spoon by hand after I pulsed The Harissa mixture in the food processor. First, for visual reasons, the emulsion created while Adding the oil to the harissa mixture dramatically changes the color. Second, It is best this way to control the quantity of oil added and for flavor profile as well.


The Sandwich

Use Harissa in sauces, dressings, with fish, meat, as a condiment and of course sandwiches. Harissa will enhance anything you add it to, making your dish that more delicious. We chose to make a roasted eggplant, feta cheese, rocket and poached egg yolk sandwich.



  • 4 oz Harissa

  • 1 medium size eggplant 

  • 2 oz Feta cheese (preferably sheep's milk)

  • 4 oz rocket, wild arugula, kale or butter lettuce.

  • 1 poached egg yolk, sunny side egg, or other egg of your choice.

  • Fresh Thyme

  • 1 TBS crushed red chillies

  • 2 TBS Evoo (Extra vergine olive oil)

  • Toasted burger bun or fresh baguette


How to

  • Cut eggplant into thick, 1/4 inch thick pieces.

  • Set eggplant on a tray sprinkle with salt and set aside for 15 min. (Th