Add Harissa To Your Favorite Soups For A Vibrant Kick Of Spice

Maybe you're familiar with harissa because you grew up on the North African hot-chili-pepper paste. Perhaps you've been introduced to it via less traditional routes, such as the ever-popular Cava menu. This blend of hot peppers, garlic, oil, lemon juice, and spices like cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds can instantly liven up any dish, wrap, falafel, or stew, cranking up the heat and igniting taste buds with an explosion of spicy, smoky, sweet, and tangy flavor.

Harissa originated in Tunisia and is traditionally enjoyed in North African and Middle Eastern cooking as a heat source and a base for soups, stews, and other dishes. You'll also spot it on many tables, as ubiquitous as a bottle of ketchup or sriracha might be in the United States. Whether you're a loyal fan already or never tried it, it's worth keeping a stash of harissa in the fridge when the weather shifts and peak soup season arrives.

No shade to that bottle of hot sauce you've had on your lazy Susan for years, but harissa is a fresh way to brighten soup without adding sodium, fat, or many calories. This soup season, consider harissa for the perfect plant-based, sinus-clearing addition to your favorite cold-weather recipes. A single spoonful stirred into your finished soup does the trick. Or, this condiment can be simmered with veggies and spices while the soup cooks so its heat and smokiness can permeate the entire dish.

What soups benefit from a dose of harissa?

A search for harissa soup yields a traditional Tunisian harissa stew made with stale bread and boiled eggs in the broth — but when we say harissa is excellent for adding flavor to soups, we mean pretty much any soup. For instance, a piping bowl of vegetable soup, a restorative chicken noodle, or a seasonal pumpkin soup. There are precious few (if any) flavors that can't be improved with a dollop of this chili paste alternative. Many soup recipes benefit from a last-minute splash of acid, which wakes up veggies, beans, and flavors in broth. Think of harissa as another enlivening secret weapon for those who like it hot. 

Harissa is commonly paired in recipes featuring hearty meats, veggies, chickpeas, and lentils. But really, the only soups you might want to avoid adding it to would be those that are already super hot (or, at least, tread with caution). Like most fresh, flavorful sauces or condiments, you can find store-bought versions if you're on a time crunch, but a homemade version will always bring the most brightness and flavor. Plus, you're in the driver's seat on the heat levels, the smokiness, and the consistency. Harissa can be watery or thick enough to stick to your spoon, so create yours as you please. 

If cold weather comes with seasonal colds or stuffy sinuses, a spicy, brothy, harissa-spiked hot soup might be precisely what the doctor ordered for comfort by the spoonful.