Harissa: How To Make Armenian Harissa Dish

Harissa is an Armenian, Ararat plain dish. It is a thick korkot (dried or roasted crushed wheat) porridge with fat-rich meat, usually chicken or lamb. When Armenian holy days involved fasting and penance, herbs were substituted for meat in harissa. 

The extraordinarily long cycle of cooking is an integral part of harissa culture. The time taken to prepare the dish is part of its valued importance. This is similar to many other ritual dishes around the world. Stories vary about the dish’s roots. Armenia’s patron saint Gregory the Illuminator, gave a meal of love and kindness to the poor, according to Armenian legend. There weren’t enough sheep to feed the crowds, so they added wheat to the pans.

The wheat is soaked overnight and then cooked with meat and butter, or sheep tail fat, in broth. The residual liquid is filtered. Cinnamon, sugar, and clarified butter can be used to garnish the harees or harissa.

Armenian Harissa Dish

  • Author: Romae Chanice Marquez
  • Recipe Category: Main Dish / Soup / Appetizer
  • Cuisine: Armenian

The whole preparation and cooking time is 3 hours. This recipe is suitable for at least six servings. 

Image source: rima.tours

Armenian Harissa Dish Ingredients

  • 600g pearl barley, soaked overnight
  • 2kg whole chicken
  • 2 tablespoon ground cumin, plus extra, to serve
  • 160g butter, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons berbere, spice blend

Armenian Harissa Dish Instructions

Step 1: Drain and rinse the pearl barley under cold running water.

Step 2: Put in a large saucepan, cover with 2 1/2 liters of water, and bring to boil.

Step 3: Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 1/2 hours or until water is absorbed and barley is very soft. Do not stir too much because this may cause barley to stick to the saucepan.

Step 4: Place the chicken in a stockpot and cover with water halfway through the cooking of pearl barley. Bring to the boil, skim any impurities that come to the surface, then reduce to medium heat and cook for 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through and starts to fall apart.

Step 5: Remove the chicken from the water and store 1 1/2 liters (11/2 qt) away. When chicken is cool enough to treat, finely shred the meat with your fingers and cut and discard the skin and bones.

Step 6: To the cooked pearl barley, add shredded chicken and 1 liter (1 qt) of reserved chicken stock. Place the pan over low heat and cook until thick, occasionally stirring, for 20 minutes.

Step 7: Mix with a handheld blender until fine porridge consistency; if appropriate, add more of the reserved 500ml (1 pint) stock to achieve the desired consistency. Season with cinnamon, cumin, and white pepper.

Step 8: Melt butter in a small pan just before serving and cook until it has a nut-brown color. Serve with extra cumin, and sprinkled the berbere over the top.

Armenian Harissa Dish Additional Information

  • Per serving, this recipe has 46 calories, 4g of fat, 228mg of sodium, 148mg of potassium
  • It will take 3 hours to prepare this dish.
  • This recipe will make enough to serve 6 people.
  • Harissa is also very popular in Lebanese villages throughout its numerous ethnic groups, where it is usually cooked in a big pot in a village gathering on religious occasions. Furthermore, the Assyrians use Harissa as a dish on Eeda Zoora, Christmas, and Eeda Gura, Easter.
  • Harissa is very similar to a common dish made of meat and finely ground wheat among Persian Gulf Arab countries known as harees.

Image source: armgeo.am

About Armenian Harissa Dish

Harissa is still considered a charity meal to this day and is traditionally cooked for Easter each year, as well as commemorating the resistance of the Musa Ler during the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

There are two divergent opinions about the preparation method; one argues that stirring harissa is forbidden until it is cooked, while the other maintains that it should be stirred as soon as the wheat is half-cooked.


The finished meal is served in bowls, buttered on top, and combined with a side of pickled vegetables and flatbread. For more international recipes, click here.

Featured Image: harees-1.jpg / Image 1, http://atelierchristine.com / Image 2