Middle East

Pilpelchuma is the new harissa?

Sriracha was the new Tobasco. Harissa is the new Sriracha.  Pilpelchuma will be the new Harissa? I hope so.  A few years ago, my sister gifted me a cookbook that changed my kitchen.  For the first time, it took me to Jerusalem! Jerusalem is a cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi.  Amazing chefs who write amazing books. Towards the end of the cookbook is a section on condiments.  There I found pilpelchuma.  A chile paste made from dried then rehydrated medium hot chiles and powder.  It also has SO much garlic, lots of paprika and cayenne pepper, caraway (which makes it really distinct), and cumin.  You can find his recipe here. Or, better yet, buy Jerusalem!

I actually set out to make this pilpelchuma the other day, but like usual, my cooking is often spontaneous causing me to improvise.  Improvisation for me stems not usually from creativity, but often times from laziness.  I don’t want to go to the store just to buy caraway seeds! What I made was a sort of riff on pilpechuma.  And since I didn’t have caraway seeds, I’m not certain I can call it pilpelchuma.

You’ll like this recipe.  It tastes dangerous without consequences (except garlic breath).

Pilpelchuma (sort of)


Dried Peppers: Arbol, Guajillo, Cascabel (2 of each)

4 Tablespoons Hot Hatch Chile Powder or Hot Paprika

1 Tablespoon smoked Paprika

1 Tablespoon Aleppo Pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

An entire bulb of garlic

1/2-1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

I bought my dried peppers from Penzy’s Spices.

Soak the dried peppers in warm water for about 20-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, break apart the garlic bulb and crack away the cloves from their skin. No need to chop them up.  Use a pestle and mortar to semi-grind your cumin if using whole seeds.  After the chiles have soaked, take them out of the water and reserve the water to use later. Don’t pour it out! It’s got that chile flavor now.  Take the stems off the chiles and cut them into large pieces.  Add the chiles, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and all other ingredients (except the olive oil) to a food processor.  Add just a few spoonfuls of the reserved chile water. Blend, blend, blend. Slowly, pulse in all of the olive oil. Scrape off the sides and blend a little more.  You want it to be a thick paste but not too thick. Add a few more spoonfuls of the water and blend until desires consistency.  Taste it.  I told you it feels dangerous! Add more salt if needed.  Use this chile paste the way you used Sriracha in 2008. I actually smeared it on a cheap breakfast burrito this morning.  My next post will be on roasted chicken thighs and pilpelchuma is amazing smeared on those before and after roasting.  Put your pilpelchuma in a sealed jar and it will keep for a few weeks.  Pour a little olive oil to cover the top every once in a while and that will help preserve it.






1 thought on “Pilpelchuma is the new harissa?”

  1. This is one for me!! Im excited for the next post because I make chicken thighs all the time and LOVE spicey foods. I need to buy a grinder though.


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