Does Harissa Paste Go Bad?


If you love all things spicy, you shouldn’t miss out on the hot sauce of North Africa—Harissa paste. It’s fiery, savory, pungent, and just simply delicious.

Heads up: a little bit of this popular condiment from Tunisia already goes a long way.

Because of this, it will certainly take you a long time to finish a jar of Harissa. But before you store it in your pantry, you may want to know the answer to this question: Does Harissa paste go bad?

Short Answer:

Yes, Harissa paste can go bad, but it can last for a few weeks to months when stored the right way.

But how do you store Harissa? Read this article to find out!

You’ll also learn the answers to these questions:

  • What is harissa paste?
  • How to tell if Harissa paste has gone bad?
  • How to store Harissa paste?
  • Can you freeze Harissa? (and how to do it!)

So are you ready to know the fiery truth? If so, let’s get started!

What is Harissa Paste?

Harissa paste is a red chili paste that originated from Tunisia and is a popular condiment in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine.

The paste is made up of fresh garlic, oil, dry red chilies, roasted red peppers, tomato paste, an acid (lemon juice or vinegar), salt, olive oil, and a few spices (coriander, cumin, caraway seeds, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper).

It’s often used to add heat to a wide range of dishes, including dips, braises, noodles, stews, eggs, and many more.

If you haven’t tried harissa paste before, here’s an idea of what it tastes like: it’s smoky, peppery, and spicy. Heads up, its heat levels will vary depending on the type of pepper used.

Harissa paste is not purely spicy. It also has a garlicky and citrusy flavor that can add a savory touch and refreshing twist to your meals.

Did You Know?

Harissa powder also exists, and it’s a dried version of the pepper and spices used in making harissa paste.

Does Harissa Paste Go Bad?

Yes, Harissa paste can go bad like most condiments on your shelf. This is because it will oxidize when exposed to air for prolonged periods.

How to Tell if Harissa Paste Has Gone Bad?

The oxidation process will cause the quality of the paste to deteriorate, which may cause the following signs:

1. Texture Changes

Exposure to air will cause the paste to dry up, making it less spreadable than usual.

On the other hand, exposure to moisture will cause the paste to become less viscous and take on a thinner consistency. You may also notice that the paste will become a bit watery.

2. Changes in Appearance

Along with textural changes, you’ll also notice that the appearance of the paste will also change. The most noticeable change will be discoloration. In addition, it will either have a darker color (air exposure) or a lighter shade (moisture exposure).

Another common sign of spoilage would be separation. For example, suppose you’ve noticed that the tomato sauce portion of the paste has started to separate from the other ingredients. In that case, it’s one sign that the quality of the paste has already deteriorated.

3. Mold Growth

Yes, harissa paste is also at risk of bacterial and mold contamination, especially if exposed to air and moisture. In addition, the presence of dark spots or white fuzzy growth indicates spoilage.
If this is the case, it’s best that you err on the side of safety and discard the paste right away. (*)

4. Off Smell

Based on its ingredients, Harissa paste smells pungent, garlicky, and citrusy. If it gives off a weird, off, or sour smell, the paste has already gone bad, so you should throw it away immediately.

How Long Does Harissa Paste Last?

The shelf life of Harissa paste will depend on how the paste is stored and whether it has already been opened or not.

If the paste is still unopened, you should check out the printed date on its packaging. Heads up, the printed date is not an expiration date but a best before or best by date. This means that the paste can retain its best quality until the said date. Past it, the quality of the paste may already start to deteriorate, but it’s still safe for consumption as long as it has no signs of spoilage.

For opened or homemade harissa paste, please check out this table:

Type of Harissa PasteStorage MethodShelf Life
Store-bought Harissa Paste (Opened)Refrigerated4 to 6 weeks
Homemade Harissa PasteRefrigerated2 to 3 weeks
Opened Store-bought or Homemade Harissa PasteFrozen3 months

Did You Know?

Since Harissa Powder has no moisture content, it lasts longer than Harissa pastes—about 6 to 12 months.

Please take note that the given shelf life is just an estimate. To ensure that your harissa paste is still safe for consumption, you must inspect it for any signs of spoilage before using it.

The shelf life we’ve shared no longer applies once the paste starts to show any spoilage signs we’ve mentioned.

How to Store Harissa Paste?

Storing Harissa isn’t rocket science. It’s pretty straightforward. Below are some of the Harissa storage tips that you need to know:

1. Store unopened harissa in a dark, dry, and cool place.

As long as Harissa is still unopened, you can store its bottle in a cool, dry, and dark place to keep it away from light, moisture, heat, and air.

With that said, you can easily place harissa in your condiment or spice cabinet. Just make sure that it’s located far from heat sources like your kitchen windows, stove, and oven.

2. Keep opened Harissa paste in the refrigerator.

Once opened, you will have to refrigerate Harissa paste. The cold temperature inside the refrigerator can help delay the paste’s spoilage process.

3. Add a thin layer of olive oil at the top of the paste after every use.

The olive oil layer can protect the paste from oxidation and help keep it fresh for longer.

4. Can You Freeze Harissa Paste? (and How to Do It)

Yes, you can! If you want to extend the shelf life of your paste by a few more months, this is the way to go! Here are some tips on how to freeze Harissa paste:

Use an ice cube tray.

The best way to freeze Harissa paste is to divide it into single-serve portions to thaw it when you need it quickly.

You need to scoop out the harissa paste into each compartment. Make sure to fill up only around 80% of the cube. After that, drizzle olive oil to seal and protect the top layer of your paste.

Wrap the tray with cling film.

If the ice cube tray comes with a cover, put it on, then wrap the entire tray with cling film. This added layer of protection can prevent freezer burn.

Transfer the frozen cubes into a resealable plastic bag.

Once frozen, you can transfer the cubes into a freezer bag. In this way, you can free up your ice cube tray and enjoy more freezer space.

Learn more: Harissa Paste Substitutes

The Bottom Line

Does Harissa Paste go bad? Yes, it can, and it will. This is most especially true if you won’t store it the right way.

Lucky for you, storing harissa paste is pretty easy. You just need to protect it from light, air, heat, and moisture and make sure to coat its top layer with olive oil before storing it. Follow all these tips, and you can enjoy using Harissa for many more months.  

image of Harissa Paste Go Bad

Up Next: The Shelf life of Canned Foods

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