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Harissa (Recipe: squash or pumpkin stew with chickpeas and carrots)

First published in November 2007, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. Spicy harissa gives this stew a smoky kick; use more or less, to your taste. If you have a tagine, a Moroccan cooking or serving pot with a conical top, serve this in traditional North African style.

Vegan squash (or pumpkin) stew with carrots, chickpeas, and harissa for a kick.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.

Ilsa didn't go to Rick's Café Americain for the food. In fact, nobody went to Rick's for the food. Drinking, yes. Smoking, of course. Gambling and trading? You betcha. A rousing chorus of La Marseillaise? Absolutely!

But food? Not a bite, and what a shame, because Rick's, the place to see and be seen in the classic film, Casablanca, surely might have had wonderful food, including couscous and tagines with spicy homemade harissa.

Harissa (also spelled harisa, which is more true to its pronounciation: hah REE sah) is the most important condiment used in Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian cooking, yet it is made from chile peppers -- often guajillo, New Mexico, ancho, cayenne or chile de arbol -- which were introduced to the region by explorers returning from the Americas.


From the Arabic word for "to break into pieces," harissa is made by pounding hot chiles in a mortar and then adding salt and sometimes garlic, plus spices such as coriander, cumin, caraway, or fennel; our modern-day mortar, the food processor, makes quick work of what is traditionally a lengthy preparation done by the women of a family.

Harissa is sold in tubes, cans or jars. Tunisian brands are considered the best, but it's easy to make your own. You can make it hot or mild, depending on the chile pepper you choose. In the tube, or covered with olive oil in an airtight container, harissa will keep in the refrigerator for a month or more.

In Morocco, harissa often is served apart from the main dish, for diners to add to their own taste. In Tunisia and Algeria, it's an ingredient in the cooking. In my cooking, harissa often stands in for cayenne pepper, so I always cook it right in the dish.

Rick and Ilsa, and even Captain Renault, would have loved it.

Vegan squash stew with carrots and chickpeas, from The Perfect Pantry.

Squash or pumpkin stew with chickpeas and carrots (marak dar marhzin) {vegan, gluten-free}

From the pantry, you'll need: olive oil, onion, garlic, turmeric, ground ginger, cinnamon, chickpeas, harissa, raisins, honey, lemon.

A marak is a vegetable version of a tagine. Adapt this recipe to whatever root vegetables you prefer. Serves 6.


3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups water
1 lb butternut squash or sugar pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp harissa, or more to taste
3/4 cup raisins or dried cherries
3 tsp honey
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges, for serving
Parsley leaves, for garnish


Make this stew in a Dutch oven or large tagine (with a diffuser, or a tagine that is safe for stove top cooking).

In your pan over low heat, heat the oil and add onions. Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add garlic, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute until the paste becomes slightly aromatic.

Add carrots and water, stir, and cover the pot. Cook on lowest heat for 10 minutes.

Add squash or pumpkin, sweet potato, chickpeas, harissa, raisins and honey, plus 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Stir everything together. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, 20-30 minutes.

Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley leaves, and serve with couscous and lemon wedges to squeeze over the vegetables.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More harissa stews:

Spiced lentils with squash and raisins, from The Perfect Pantry
Roasted chickpeas with raisins, parsley and mint, from The Perfect Pantry
Slow cooker chicken tagine with chickpeas and root vegetables, from Andrea Meyers
Chickpea salad with roasted red pepper and harissa, from Healthy Green Kitchen

A main course squash or pumpkin stew with chickpeas and carrots. #vegan #glutenfree

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I'm ready for this one!

This sounds like a wonderful meat less stew. Do you believe I have never tasted or cooked with harissa (even though I have it in the fridge.) Need to get on that!

Susan, same here!

Kalyn, you're going to love harissa, and pretty soon you'll put a little bit into everything. It grows on you, like Sriracha.

I love this Casablanca write-up, Lydia! And this stew...well, this is one I really want to try for Meatless Monday.

I am going to have to make this! We love Moroccan food and this is reminiscent of the tiny bowls of harissa carrots and chickpeas we get in Moroccan restaurants while we wait for the couscous. Love it! And a great winter meal.

A delicious looking dish that would be very welcome here this time of year in Wintry Scotland! Play it again Sam :)

Cookin' Canuck, thanks so much. You'll love this stew (and I hope the kids like it, too).

Jamie, I do believe that harissa has addictive properties. When I'm lucky enough to find it in the tubes instead of cans or jars, I end up squeezing a little bit into everything.

Emily, play it. Or, cook it!

I made harissa a few years ago and remember it being addicting. It's so expensive in the stores around here, I've been thinking of making some again. Love this meatless stew you made using harissa - I know I would enjoy this.

Jeanette, I've never made my own harissa, believe it or not, and now you've inspired me to look up your recipe!

I have been trying to remember to get this at the store forever and I keep forgetting - but I am going to write it down now!

This looks delicious!

I just wanted to let you know that honey is not vegam and therefore this recipe is for vegetarians as opposed to vegans. Vegans do not eat any animals/insects or animal/insect bi-products.
Awesome recipe though definitely gonna try it out.

Sarah, it's always a tough call for me. I have vegan friends who eat honey, and others who would swap agave nectar in this recipe (I'm sure you'll do that) with great results. Thanks for sharing your point of view.

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