Harissa is a North African hot red sauce or paste made from chili peppers (often smoked or dried) and garlic, often with coriander and caraway or cumin and served with olive oil. It may also contain tomatoes. It somewhat resembles sambal and chili sauce. One well-known and expensive variety, "rose harissa," also includes rose petals.
Harissa is used both as a condiment and as an ingredient in recipes. It has been described as an important item in Tunisian cuisine. Harissa is also used in a few recipes of other North African cuisines, namely Morocco, Algeria and Libya , though it is often treated as a condiment to be served on the side. In Morocco, couscous is generally served with Harissa sauce.
In Tunisia, harissa is served at virtually every meal as part of an appetizer along with olives and tuna. It is also used as an ingredient in a meat (goat or lamb) or fish stew with vegetables. Harissa is also used to flavour the sauce for couscous. It is also used for lablabi, a popular chickpea soup usually eaten for breakfast. Lemon juice is sometimes added to offset the richness of the sauce. In Saharan regions, harissa can have a smoky flavor.
The paste (which may vary from one Tunisian region to another) is also sold in tubes, jars and cans, and in the West is eaten with pasta, in sandwiches and on pizza. Harissa paste can be used as a meat or aubergine rub.