Mediterranean Lamb and Harissa Chili

Mediterranean Lamb and Harissa Chili

The weather has finally begun to cool off, and that means it’s chili season around here. We attended a chili cook-off this past weekend and so I made a large batch of chili with lamb. Lamb seems to be a somewhat controversial meat choice – everyone in my family loves it, but I also realise most Americans don’t eat lamb particularly often, and many are averse to it. If that is the case with you, or if it’s simply not economical for your family, you can easily substitute the lamb with beef, or even with a vegan substitute (I like Upton’s Naturals chorizo style seitan for this recipe, as it holds its shape and texture well). Similarly, if you’re like my husband and don’t like beans they can easily be omitted from the recipe as well.

The one thing that makes this chili special is the kamounet seasoning, usually used in Middle Eastern kibbeh recipes, and the North African harissa paste (I used NY Shuk, but I also like Mina or Dea) – which give the chili the slightest Mediterranean twist. The warm spices pair perfectly in this cold weather dish. Feel free to adjust the actual spicy peppers added (as well as the harissa) to your spice preferences. Our family is a fan of spicy food, but when you’re cooking for your family sometimes things need to be dialed-down a bit. You can always serve with extra harissa (or even zhug!) on the side.

Mediterranean Lamb and Harissa Chili
This hearty lamb chili incorporates North African harissa for a Mediterranean twist on the traditional American chili. Beans are optional.

We like this served with rice with vermicelli (like a traditional Middle Eastern fasoulia), but it can also be served American style with cornbread or crushed tortilla chips and all the traditional chili fixings.

Mediterranean Lamb and Harissa Chili

Traditional American style chili incorporates North African flavours with lamb and harissa paste.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 20 minutes
Course: Dinner, Soup
Cuisine: American, North African, Spanish
Keyword: chili, harissa, harissa chili, kamouneh, kamounet, lamb, lamb chili
Servings: 8 people
Author: The Elegant Economist


  • 5qt+ Dutch oven, slow cooker, or Instant Pot.


  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper (any colour)
  • 2 spicy peppers (such as serrano, jalapeno, or fresno, depending on heat preference), finely diced
  • 2 lbs ground lamb (1kg)
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp kamounet spice (or 2 Tbsp ground cumin, ½ Tbsp cinnamon, ½ Tbsp marjoram or oregano)
  • ½ Tbsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp urfa biber chili (optional)
  • 1 cup lamb or beef broth
  • 2-4 Tbsp harissa paste depending on spice preference
  • 28 ounces crushed, fire roasted tomatoes (tinned) (750g)
  • 15 ounces pinto beans (tinned), drained and rinsed Optional, leave out if you don't like beans.
  • salt to taste


  • In a large pan or Dutch oven, add olive oil and cook your onions over medium heat until caramelised. About 15-20 minutes. Add your garlic and the chopped peppers. Once all are softened slightly, remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.
  • In the same pan add your lamb and brown over medium-high heat. Drain any excess fat. Turn down the heat to medium, add your spices, and cook for another 2 minutes. Deglaze your pan with the broth, then place into your slow cooker or other slow-cooking vessel. Add your harissa paste, crushed tomatoes, and beans (if desired) and salt to taste.
  • Cook on low heat in your slow cooker or Instant Pot for at least three hours for the flavour to come together, or in the oven at 325° for at least three hours.


Feel free to omit the beans if you don’t like beans in your chili. You can also use beef, bison, or vegetarian ground (I recommend Upton’s Naturals Chorizo Seitan) in this recipe if lamb is not economical or available.
This recipe freezes well. 
October 4, 2019
October 10, 2019



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