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Who is Harissa and what does she have to do with my lamb burger?
Well, for starters, harissa is a what and not a who (haha). In fact, originating in Tunisia, it may be described as the flavor of North Africa. Harissa is a robust blend of chilies and spices, most commonly presented as a paste or sauce, but also as a powder or spice blend. So obviously, this vibrant seasoning provides the perfect balance to a rich and fatty lamb burger. The spice blend becomes a blackened crust around the patty and the sauce replaces boring old ketchup any day of the week! Seriously, y’all, it’s exceptionally delicious (drooling right now…like, a lot).
The ingredients in harissa pair very well with lamb
I believe that when working with a strong-flavored protein, like lamb, it is important to match it with equally bold seasoning and other complementary ingredients. You know, combinations that make a statement without being offensive.
Let’s take a look at the spices in harissa, as there are several variations depending on the region in which it is made.
- Dried chilies
- Caraway seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Smoked paprika
- Add olive oil to make a paste
This blend of seasonings creates a fragrant, spicey, and smokey accent to grassy and pungent lamb.
Use store-bought harissa or make your own for this lamb burger
So, umm…as a mom with an energetic, emotionally fickle, and boisterously willful toddler (who I love and adore so very much…because you know we always have to say that part), I didn’t have the time to make my own harissa this time. I got the spice blend from a farmers market and the sauce I used is linked at the end of this post.
But fear not! I have some great resources for you to get your harissa on until I’ve come up with my own recipe to share with you.
For the harissa spice blend, check out these sources. Each recipe is a unique combination of spices that give a kick of flavor:
- Harissa Powder, Allrecipes food site, post by BuckwheatQueen
- Harissa Recipe, Spice-Mixes.com by Jason (he adds cinnamon!)
As for the more popular and traditional paste/sauce version, here are a couple of talented food bloggers and women of color who artfully blend chilies and spices!
- Harissa, My Morrocan Food blog by Nargisse Benkabbou
- Homemade Harissa Paste and vegetables roasted in it, The Veggie Indian blog by Nupur
Pin this Recipe
Here’s another flavor-packed burger recipe (click the pic)
| Smoked Paprika Salmon Burger with Sesame BBQ Aioli
- 1 lb ground lamb (2 patties)
- 2 tsp harissa dried spice blend
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (if the harissa spice blend is unsalted)
- 2 TB Mina Spicy Harissa sauce (product link below this recipe card))
- 2 buns of your choice, sliced and toasted
- 4 slices of feta
- 2 tomato slices
- 2 onion slices
- 2 lettuce leaves
- Mayo (optional)
The following instructions are intended to cook the burger patties to a medium to medium-well doneness.
- Gather and prep the ingredients to make the lamb burger.
- Form and season. Divide the ground lamb in half and form two patties (about 4-5 in. in diameter and 1/2 in. thick.) Season each patty on both sides, dividing the harissa spice blend and salt for each one. Gently pat the seasoning on the patties and their edges.
- Sear and cook. Place a large cast-iron skillet on med-high heat. When the skillet is very hot, place the patties inside. Using a flat spatula and parchment paper, gently smash the burgers to create an even sear. Allow them to cook on one side for about 3-5 minutes, allowing the first side to blacken slightly, before flipping.
- Flip and rest. Flip the burgers onto a clean area in the pan to evenly sear the other sides for another 3-5 minutes. No need to smash them again, because we don't want any juices to escape! Set them aside on a plate when they are done cooking. Let them rest for 2-3 minutes.
- Bun and bite. Grab your buns (hee hee) Layer the bottom buns with the patties, feta, harissa sauce, onion, tomato, and lettuce. Add a little mayo and more harissa sauce to the top bun if you like and then top your burger masterpiece. Great job, enjoy!
- I got the spice blend from a farmers market, but the sauce I use is Mina Spicy Harissa sauce (see product link at the end of the blog post).
- If you want to make your own harissa spice blend and sauce, check out the blog post for some great recipes.
- This recipe makes 2 half-pound burgers (it's a lot, I know...I indulged a bit here), so you can always divide the meat into 4 patties if you are being more mindful of your portion control.
- When cooking the burger patties, don't be afraid to allow the spice to blacken a bit. It will add a depth of flavor and a lovely crust to them.
- Feel free to cook your patties well done if you prefer, just be careful to not overcook them so you are able to keep the juiciness. Burger drippage is good!
- I recommend using good quality rolls instead of processed hamburger buns. I like to split my rolls in half, spray the insides with cooking spray, and toast them in a clean skillet on medium heat until golden brown. Just keep your eye on them because those puppies can quickly burn the second you get distracted. Trust me, I know all too well (smh).
- If you are watching your carbs or eating gluten-free, skip the buns and use large lettuce leaves instead. I recommend using butterhead (Boston or Bibb) or leaf lettuce.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 942Total Fat: 72gSaturated Fat: 32gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 33gCholesterol: 216mgSodium: 1107mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 50g
The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used. I am not a doctor, nor a certified nutritionist and make no claims to the contrary. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. Please consult your personal physician with any questions you may have regarding your own health and diet.
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