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cherry tomato sauce in skillet
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5 from 9 votes

Spicy Cherry Tomato Sauce

Sweet cherry tomatoes and Moroccan spices come together in 20 minutes to make a rich, rustic, spicy cherry tomato sauce that you just want to put on everything!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: North African, Vegetarian
Servings (change as needed): 2 -4 depending on use
Author: Cheryl


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 tsp
  • 1/2 jalapeno chili, seeded, ribs removed, Note 1 (or less if you want less spicy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon harissa paste Note 2 (or 1 tsp or more if you like it spicier)
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste plus a pinch of sugar
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (1 pint) (about 3/4 lb)
  • 1/4 cup water or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro


  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika I use half and half
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  • SAUTE: Heat oil in medium pan with 3 inch sides (or large pan) to medium high. Saute onions for 4-6 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Add garlic, seasonings, tomato paste (with a pinch of sugar) and harissa. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
  • ADD CHERRY TOMATOES, JALAPENO AND WATER. Bring to boil. Then lower heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally. The total time for cooking sauce (this step and the next) will be about 6-8 minutes, After 5 minutes, help burst tomatoes by gently pressing with spatula or large spoon to burst them (careful not to squirt yourself).
  • FINISH SAUCE: Stir in cilantro. Continue cooking until tomatoes form a sauce the consistency you like. More cooking will make it thicker. Add more water to thin it out if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings e.g. more salt, sugar, harissa, cilantro. See Note 3 for suggestions on ways to use the spicy tomato sauce.


  1. Chili options:
    • Instead of a jalapeno, use a cubanelle pepper (mild) or anaheim (mild-medium) for less heat. Or skip the jalapeno altogether.
  2. Harissa options: You can use sriracha or chili garlic sauce instead. Or even red dried chili flakes.
  3. Ways to use the cherry tomato sauce (more details in the post above):
    • On pasta, fish or chicken
    • Drizzled over grilled or roasted vegetables or scrambled eggs. 
    • Tossed with meatballs
    • As a dip. Cook the sauce a little longer to thicken it more. Serve with homemade naan, crackers or crostini.
    • As a topping for crackers and ricotta.
  4. Make Ahead: Cool the cherry tomato sauce and store it in the fridge for 3-4 days in a sealed container or zipper bag. Or freeze it for 3-4 months.
Nutrition values are estimates based on two large portions of spicy cherry tomato sauce to use e.g. on pasta, fish or chicken. 
Calories: 113kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 956mg | Potassium: 446mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1162IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg