Mediterranean Harissa Stew

10th December 2013

It’s already December, can you believe it? It’s hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner! And where have I been?! I’ve been seeing my family that I have not seen in a long time and I’ve been busy with product reviews, recipes, packing, and design projects. Also we leave for Paris in a few days. In the buildup to our trip, I wanted to make a hearty and wintery stew with a bit of spice. Doni suggested a harissa-based stew, an ingredient that fondly reminds him of his time in the South of France.

Mediterranean Harissa Stew with Purple Sweet Potato

Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili sauce made of fiery chili peppers, spices, garlic, herbs and oil and used in North African and Moroccan cooking. It can be used in couscous, vegetables, meat alternative, sandwiches, pizza, tofu, or even as spread or dip. Use it on anything! We used the “DEA” brand Harissa paste in a tube (made in France) for the base of the stew. There are other harissa products we liked, too such as the Mustapha’s Fine Foods of Morocco Harissa.

Vegan Mediterranean Harissa Stew with Purple Sweet Potato, served with crispy vegan lavash strips (lightly salted and lemon zest) from a family-owned artisan flatbread baking bakery, California Lavash.

Frieda's Stokes Purple Sweet Potato

The incredibly kind folks over at Frieda’s Inc sent us a sample of their non-GMO Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes. These mildly sweet potatoes provided a brilliant balance to my spicy stew as well an injection of bold color. Grown in California and in season, through the winter (November & December), the Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes have a low glycemic index (GI) and are high in antioxidants. Click here to learn more about Frieda’s Inc Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes.

Frieda's Stokes Purple Sweet Potato

Where to Purchase Frieda’s Inc Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes

Frieda’s Inc. Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes are available in some U.S. supermarkets. If you don’t see a retailer in your area please send them a note at

To store Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato: keep them in a cool dry place (i.e., pantry) and use within 2 weeks.

Frieda’s Inc. Tip Usage: Scrub external skin and wrap potatoes in aluminum foil. (Rub with olive oil prior to wrapping for extra moist results.) Place wrapped potatoes on a baking tray and bake at 350 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours. The dense flesh of this potato takes a bit longer to cook than most other sweet potatoes, but it’s worth the wait!

Frieda's Stokes Purple Sweet Potato

Frieda's Purple Sweet Potato

ingredients for stew

From left to right: vegan ‘chicken’ broth (Edward & Sons Not-Chick’n Bouillon Cubes), chopped red & yellow bell peppers, chopped carrots, bay leaves (Simply Organic), saffron, tomato paste, ground cumin and cinnamon stick (Red Ape Cinnamon)

ingredients for stew

Clockwise from top left: Curry powder (Morton & Bassett), ground cumin, organic garbanzo beans with sea salt (Trader Joe’s), organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen), minced garlic, harissa (DEA) and tomato paste. You can use fresh and/or regular crushed tomatoes, but the flavor is wonderful with the fire-roasted ones.

Mediterranean Harissa Stew with Purple Sweet Potato

Vegan, GMO-free and organic cinnamon stick from Red Ape Cinnamon, learn more about Red Ape Cinnamon by reading our review here. Do you know that Red Ape Cinnamon donates 5% of all profits from sales to organizations that protect the critically endangered orangutans and their habitat? What a beautiful cause!

Mediterranean Harissa Stew with Purple Sweet Potato

Mediterranean Harissa Stew with Purple Sweet Potato

Mediterranean Harissa Stew with Purple Sweet Potato

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, at room temperature
  • 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder (Morton & Bassett)
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1½ tablespoons harissa* (DEA)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 pound (or 450g) large purple sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, fire roasted
  • 4 cups vegan ‘chicken’ broth Edward & Sons Not-Chick’n Bouillon Cubes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bell pepper (yellow or red), seeded and diced
  • 2 cups cooked Israeli cous cous, farro, orzo or freekeh
  • Handful of Italian parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
  • Finely grated lemon zest, for garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for garnish


Heat a round, heavy skillet or Dutch oven (5½ quart) over medium heat. Melt the coconut oil in the pot. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in ground cumin, ground coriander, curry powder, cinnamon stick, harissa and tomato paste and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

Add the carrots, purple sweet potatoes, salt, black pepper, crushed tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for about a minute, until fragrant, and add the broth and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the sweet potatoes and carrots have cooked down slightly, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, simmer uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the Israeli cous cous or grains, grate lemon rind; chop parsley.

Add the saffron threads and chickpeas to the pot. Reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the yellow bell pepper and cook another 2 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick before serving and add cous cous or your favorite grain. Ladle into bowls and top with chopped parsley (if desired), grated lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.


The stew is moderately spicy. For very spicy, use 2 to 2½ tablespoons harissa. For mildly spicy, use 1 tablespoon harissa.

Purple Sweet Potato substitutions: Any potatoes, squash, pumpkin, turnips, or cauliflower. If you are using winter squashes or butternut, I recommend steaming them and adding them in the end.

Chickpea subsitutions: Use canned Cannellini, Great Northern and Navy beans if you like, but add them at the same time as the sweet potatoes & carrots and the beans will absorb the flavors of spices while cooking.

Mediterranean Harissa Stew with Purple Sweet Potato

What are your favorite recipes using sweet potatoes or harissa? Have you tried purple sweet potatoes before?

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