This quick and easy harissa dressing is super creamy, healthy and carries such a big punch of amazing flavor. Make it more or less spicy and perfect for meal-prep. We love it over grain bowls, salads and sandwiches, but it also makes for such a tasty dipping sauce for falafel and pita bread. Vegan, dairy-free and naturally gluten-free.
You might already know how much I love a good vegan sauce to drizzle over bowls and salads or as a dip for bread and sandwiches. We make them every week as part of our meal-prep rotation as they come in so handy when short on time during the week to brighten up our meals.
And this harissa dressing was such a hit it made it to our list of our top 5 buddha bowl personal best sauces!
We just couldn’t get enough of it. I actually made more right away to use in different ways during the week, it was so tasty and my husband and I were fighting over the last few drops. It is the kind of sauce you will want to generously drench your veggies or potatoes with.
Because OMG, it is SO packed with flavors! The balance of spicy, sweet, tangy and salty yumminess is absolutely perfect.
I also love how easy it is to prepare: no blender, no cooking and no soaking required, just whisk a few simple ingredients in a bowl and voilà! All done within 5 minutes.
This recipe combines harissa sauce, which brings that delicious mildly spicy and sweet pepper flavor, with creamy tahini paste (see substitutions below), zesty lemon juice and just a touch of sweetener to balance out everything together. I love how this harissa vinaigrette is made without any oil and even though its texture is super rich and creamy, it is also made completely dairy-free!
You can make it more or less spicy (I chose a harissa sauce that's on the sweeter side) and play around with the texture to make more of a pour-able or a spread-able sauce depending on how you want to serve it.
Our favorite way to enjoy it is actually over grain and veggie bowls, as seen in these vegan meatball and rice bowl pictures, but it is also amazing as a salad dressing, over couscous, roasted vegetables, in sandwiches or burgers or even as a flavorful dipping sauce for raw veggie sticks or pita bread.
I hope you give it a try! ❤️
Highlights of this recipe
- Quick and easy
- Versatile sauce
- Great flavor
- Can be made more or less spicy vs sweet
- Made healthier without any added processed oil
- Filled with flavors: perfect to serve over meals that are a little bland and that need to be spiced up a bit
- Vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free
What is harissa?
Harissa paste or sauce is a hot chili pepper condiment that originates from the north African region, such as in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It is also used in Middle Eastern cuisines, such as in Israel or Syria. Harissa paste is traditionally used to make stews, soups, dips for bread, sauces and marinades. I also use it to make harissa pasta!
It is a spicy condiment, although Harissa paste will be more or less spicy depending on where it is made, the ingredients used and different brands too.
Harissa sauce is made out of sweet roasted red pepper, hot Baklouti peppers (which are the chili peppers growing in Tunisia), spices (cumin, paprika, coriander, etc), garlic, herbs and some olive oil, with SO many variants possible!
You can find harissa paste or sauce in most grocery stores, often in the Asian or international section. Or, if it's easier, you can also buy it online.
Harissa sauce tastes a little sweet, thanks to the roasted red pepper, but there is some heat provided from the chili peppers too. You can check on the brand where they will usually mention if the harissa sauce is spicier or milder.
As a side note, harissa sauce simply is a thinner and saucier variation of harissa paste, but both terminology are often used interchangeably. I also noticed that some harissa pastes are made without sweet roasted red pepper.
Ingredients you will need
- Harissa sauce: I used the harissa sauce from the brand Mina that I got at Whole Foods Market. The packaging of this version states that it is spicy, but I thought it wasn't that spicy at all for my taste. If you are worried about the heat, then this harissa sauce is milder and can be found online. It is also quite easy to make your own harissa sauce!
- Tahini: used instead of olive oil for extra healthy fats and a nice creaminess to the sauce. See below for substitutions!
- Lemon: the lemon juice adds extra tanginess to the sauce and makes it taste super fresh too. You can also swap for a little red wine vinegar if you don't have a fresh lemon, just add to taste, 1 teaspoon at the time.
- Sweetener: just a little maple syrup to balance out the flavor. You can also use agave nectar or any liquid sweetener you like.
- Water: you might or might not want to add any water, which will depend on the consistency you are looking for.
How to make harissa dressing
This recipe is so easy, quick and should be all done within 5 minutes!
In a bowl, add the harissa sauce, lemon juice, tahini paste, sweetener and salt.
Whisk well until smooth.
Adjust consistency and serve
Then, check on the consistency to see if you want to add any extra water:
- For a thinner and pour-able sauce, then add 1 tablespoon and whisk again. Repeat until desired texture.
- For a thicker sauce, for example if you want to spread in burgers and sandwiches, then leave it as is without adding any water.
Serve right away or transfer in a container for storage.
Watch how to make it
- If the sauce ends up being too spicy for your taste, then add a little extra sweetener or tahini to dilute the harissa flavor.
- I see some harissa paste made without the sweet roasted red peppers, which I expect would be spicier. Try to aim for a harissa sauce including mild red pepper (just check the label) when making this recipe.
- Do not mistaken harissa paste or sauce for harissa seasoning. You will need the saucy version to make this recipe!
This is such an ideal dressing for healthy buddha or grain bowls! For example, it would go great over this falafel buddha bowl or this tofu buddha bowl, just swap the peanut butter sauce for this harissa vinaigrette.
Also, use it over green salads, kale salads, pasta salads or couscous salads (check out this Israeli couscous vegetable salad for inspiration!). Also amazing drizzled over roasted vegetables, especially baked potatoes and broccoli!
It would also makes for such an amazing spicy spread for sandwiches or burgers. In that case, simply do not add any extra water so it remains a little thicker. Try using this sauce in these vegan chickpea burgers, breaded tofu wraps or these vegan chickpea gyros.
To serve as seen in the pictures, then layer cooked brown rice, cooked leafy greens (I used Yu Choy), jarred roasted red pepper and vegan meatballs in a bowl. Then, drizzle the sauce over and enjoy! You can make your own vegan meatballs or use frozen vegan meatballs (although a little less healthy, we love the frozen jackfruit meatballs from the brand Jack and Annie's for speedy meals once in a while).
You can easily play around with the ingredients to add different flavors depending on how you will serve it and on your taste.
First, adjust the heat to your liking by choosing the right harissa for you (mild vs spicy) and also add more or less of the harissa to your dressing (you can taste test as you go).
Then, you can also include more spices if you want. Good pairing ideas would be cumin, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper or coriander. Dried herbs would also be great in this sauce, such as dried basil or parsley.
Harissa paste already includes some garlic, but for an extra garlicky dressing, then you can also add one crushed clove of garlic.
And if you don't want to use tahini, then swap for vegan yogurt to keep this dressing super creamy!
This sauce stores very well and is perfect to meal-prep ahead of time!
Just keep it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Stir or shake well before serving as it can divide while sitting for a while. If you want, make a double batch recipe as well.
More vegan sauces you might like
- Vegan green goddess dressing with avocado
- Baba ganoush without tahini
- Vegan avocado lime crema
- Broccoli hummus
- Vegan chipotle sauce
- Avocado ranch dressing
- Vegan tzatziki
- Creamy balsamic tahini dressing
- Kimchi hummus
- Gochujang aioli
- Sunshine dressing
- Basil balsamic dressing
I hope you like this harissa dressing recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
- 3 tbsp harissa sauce - I used the Harissa sauce from the brand Mina. Choose mild or spicy. See notes.
- 2 tbsp tahini or vegan yogurt
- 1 tsp maple syrup - or any sweetener, or more to taste
- ½ lemon - juiced
- pinch of salt
- 1-2 tbsp water - optional, to thin out to desired consistency
- In a bowl, combine the harissa sauce, tahini, lemon juice, sweetener and salt. Whisk well until combined. Taste and adjust flavor to your liking.
- Then, you can leave as is (great to spread in burgers and sandwiches or for a dipping sauce) or thin out by adding a little water (1 tablespoon at the time, ideal for a more drizz-able sauce).
- Enjoy right away over green salads, couscous, buddha or grain bowls, roasted vegetables, sandwiches, with potatoes or use as a dipping sauce for pita bread or falafel.
- Great sauce for meal-prep! Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
- You can also make your own harissa sauce!
- Different brands of harissa sauces will have different consistency, flavor and heat level. The harissa I used is a sauce and contains sweet roasted red peppers, but many harissa sauces or pastes do not contain any, meaning they might be spicier and taste different. So, you might need to adjust flavor and consistency to your taste depending on the brand you have and if you are worried with the heat, then start with 2 tablespoons of harissa and add more later if needed.
- This sauce is amazing over a falafel buddha bowl or with vegan meatballs as seen in the pictures. You can make these vegan meatballs (omit the gravy) or use frozen vegan jackfruit meatballs for a speedy weeknight meal.
- Feel-free to add extra seasoning such as cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, coriander, dried herbs, etc. You can also add fresh garlic for a garlicky sauce.