What Is A Good Substitute For Harissa Paste?

“I’m having difficulties locating harissa, which is called for in a recipe. Any recommendations for a harissa replacement?”

The heat in this red chile paste from North Africa is intense. You can swap one tablespoon of berbere, chile paste, or tabil for every tablespoon of this hot taste (Tunisian spice paste). Of course, you may always use spicy sauce for a bit less spiciness.

The recipe for Harissa Shrimp Fra Diavolo shown on the left shows how this chile paste may lend spiciness to a seafood dish.

Check out our collection of African recipes or enter “harissa” in the recipe search box on the homepage if you’re looking for more dishes that incorporate harissa.

Can I substitute sriracha for harissa?

Despite having a completely different consistency from harissa, Sriracha is a great alternative, especially if you already enjoy spicy meals and already have a bottle of Rooster Sauce in your cabinet. Sriracha’s undertone of garlic blends well with traditional harissa; if you want to add more flavor, you may also add cumin, coriander, and caraway.

The additional spices also thicken the somewhat thin Sriracha sauce, which is a bonus. The technique causes it to become more paste-like, giving it a consistency that is somewhat closer to harissa, albeit not quite paste-like. Use hot paprika if you wish to thicken it even more without adding more of the three spices mentioned above (to avoid overspicing). Sriracha will thicken without losing any of its flavor.

What tastes like harissa spice?

One of the spiciest sauces in the world is difficult to replicate in flavor. In truth, making this selection was a little difficult for us as well. However, we were able to develop the greatest harissa paste replacements that can approximate its flavor the most closely. So let’s begin!

Hot Sauce

Actually, hot sauce is a very common condiment that is visibly present in many households and shops. Hot sauce is one of the top contenders on the list of alternatives to harissa paste, despite having a different consistency because harissa is mostly about heat.

You can use any hot sauce that you have on hand. Additionally, if you intend to purchase it from a store when the original product is out of stock, be sure to verify the heat level first because some hot sauces are far too hotter than harissa.

This hot sauce is available in a variety of flavors and frequently includes hot red chiles, spices, and additional ingredients. You must therefore keep them all in mind when substituting other ingredients for the harissa in your food.

Sriracha Sauce

Another top-of-the-list condiment that can closely mimic the flavor of harissa is sriracha sauce. Similar to hot sauce, there might be variations in consistency. But the spicy and garlicky nuances of Sriracha can go so nicely with harissa.

Basically, it’s a concoction of garlic, chili peppers, salt, sugar, and distilled vinegar. To approximate the flavor of the original product when using this in place of it, it is suggested to add comparable amounts of ground coriander, cumin, and caraway.

Is red pepper paste the same as harissa?

We can easily make roasted red pepper harissa in our own kitchens without the need of additional oil. It is a potent and fiery chili paste with notes of garlic and lemon.

Do you know what harissa is? Red chili paste is what it is. Despite the fact that jars of Thai red curry paste are probably available on the shelves of your local store, this isn’t the same thing.

But since we can manufacture this adaptable paste with a spice scale that works for us, who needs to pay for jars? No additional oil is required when making your own harissa. That is the aim of a plant-based diet.

Harissa is a paste with a particular flavor because to its key spices, which are inspired by Tuscan cuisine. You can always change something to suit your needs.

A mixture of toasted coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds is my preferred starting point. A teaspoon of dried red chili flakes is added since we like it spicy.

Spend a minute toasting the seeds and chili flakes to enhance the flavors and create a smokey flavor. This process is simple. All that is necessary to toast the ingredients is to heat a skillet. To prevent burning, make sure to constantly whisk the ingredients. In case there is any remaining heat, turn off the heat and remove them from the pan.

Red peppers that have been roasted provide even another smokey flavour. The natural sweetness of the peppers is enhanced by roasting. They become softer as a result, making them simple to paste-ify.

Peppers can be roasted directly over an open flame or, if you have a grill, on it. The easiest method for me is to roast mine in the oven. My best tip for roasting in the oven is to make sure that your baking sheet is lined with parchment paper or a baking mat. Bell peppers become sticky and can quickly destroy a baking sheet. My friend, I am speaking from personal experience.

I’ll also give another tip: put the scorching, roasted peppers in a bowl and cover them with plastic wrap. The peppers sweat as a result, loosening their skins and making them simpler to peel. It should take about 10 minutes to sweat and cool.

The objective of preparing harissa paste is to disintegrate the ingredients and produce a paste. It is entirely up to you how smooth. Personally, I prefer it to be a little bit chunky.

Use a pestle and mortar if you want to be completely “old school.” Prior to adding the garlic and red chile, first grind the toasted spices and sumac. Get moving and make a paste with it. Then include the parsley, date paste (if using), lemon juice, and red peppers.

Use a spice grinder to quickly prepare the spices. When it reaches the correct consistency, add the remaining ingredients and combine again.

The pestle and mortar exercise is quite effective. But I frequently favor the more contemporary style out of consideration for time. I got it.

Does harissa resemble paprika?

Although it can sometimes be produced as a powdered spice blend, harissa is most frequently seen in a paste or sauce form. Ground spicy peppers, cayenne pepper, paprika, caraway seeds, coriander, and cumin are used to make the seasoning mixture.

Although it is a dry seasoning blend, it has the same flavor profile as the paste or sauce. The flavor works well as a dry rub on steak or chicken wings. While the paste is ideal for use in marinades for meats like chicken breasts or pork chops.

Simply put, harissa sauce is just harissa paste with more olive oil added to make it thinner than the paste.

What flavor does harissa have?

You’ve almost probably seen us mention harissa if you’ve read Basically or Bon Apptit for even a little period of time. It’s a spicy condiment that we, to put it mildly, quite enjoy. Any one of our employees’ refrigerators would have a jar or two hanging out on the door if you were to sneak a peak inside. But what exactly is this condiment we use so frequently and gratefully called harissa? Great inquiry.

Harissa is a Tunisian-born spice that has since spread to Israel, Morocco, Libya, Algeria, and many other cuisines. A variety of dried chili peppers, ranging in heat from extremely hot to mild, are rehydrated and then combined with olive oil, spices (often toasted for a more powerful taste), and occasionally, garlic to create this chile paste. Harissa is very diverse: It can be smokey from the inclusion of fresh roasted chiles, sharp and tangy from citrus juice and/or vinegar, loose saucy, or thick and pasty at other times.

Harissa is frequently sold at grocery stores, though you may prepare it at home too. But there are a few things to consider before you choose a jar off the shelf. First off, there are hot and mild harissas available from many different brands. You are already aware of the significance of these distinctions: Choose the hot if you desire additional spiciness. Choose the mild if you want peppers with a sweeter, more flowery flavor and less heat.

However, the levels of spice in the hot and mild varieties will vary according on the brand. Harissa’s level of spiciness isn’t measured in a standard way by the food industry. Finding a brand you like and sticking with it only is the greatest strategy for reducing the amount of spice (within reason, of course). To avoid creating a dish that is unacceptably hot (or more mild-mannered than you’d like), taste any unfamiliar brands before adding them to your recipe.

Second, look for products whose first ingredient is peppers. Sometimes, tomato products can be used to cut harissa, which is not what you want. (When in doubt, we use the NY Shuk brand.)

You now have harissa, okay? How in the world do you use it? Short answer: You can use it just like you would fresh chilies, chile paste, or hot sauce.

Longer and more comprehensive response: Add it to scrambled eggs. To marinades, add it. Add sauces with a whisk. For a hot, peppery dip, mix it with yogurt. Add harissa to grilled and roasted veggies, or spread some over hummus. It is then mixed with softened butter and spread over cooked corn. It can be put on sandwiches. Replace it with ketchup!

The possibilities are as endless as our adoration for that lovely, spicy flavor.

Sriracha or harissa, which is hotter?

In terms of the heat they add to foods, harissa and sriracha are comparable, but their other flavors are very different. When using harissa blends in place of sriracha, some may be more potent than others.

Although sriracha and harissa are frequently (but not always) used as dipping sauces, harissa lacks the sriracha’s pungent acidity. As a result, when utilized in some particular applications, you could find it wanting. Similar to how some of the items that harissa is typically served with could be overpowered by sriracha’s acidity.

Homemade Harissa Paste

The best option to swap out pre-made paste is to make your own harissa. For individuals who want to change the paste’s level of heat or who can’t locate it in their local store, this version is a great substitute.

Red chili peppers that have been diced, coriander, cumin, caraway, olive oil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice are the main components in this dish. To make a paste that pleases your palate, you can, however, add extra spices such smoked hot paprika or hot chili pepper powder.

Making your own paste enables you to enjoy harissa with the smoother or chunkier texture that you choose. Any recipe that asks for store-bought paste can be modified to include this paste.

Making your own harissa involves extra steps and preparation time for recipes. Additionally, you might need to order or buy additional items if your spice rack is empty. If you’re short on time and can’t go to the grocery store, this is not a good substitute.

cooking advice

Harissa Sauce

Another kind of harissa paste is harissa sauce. This sauce has a thinner consistency, which makes it simpler to use as a condiment. The sauce is an excellent alternative to harissa because it will taste similar but be a little less intense.

You could have trouble finding this sauce at your local grocery shop, so you should probably order it online before making your desired dish.

Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is a great alternative to harissa if you’re trying to replicate its flavor and color. This condiment, which you probably have in your pantry or refrigerator, will give recipes a comparable kick of heat.

Use spicy sauce in recipes with meat, vegetables, and marinades. When used in food, hot sauce will also impart a similar color.

This substitute is thinner than harissa. Only employ this choice as a flavoring ingredient and in moderation.

Start with a little amount of hot sauce and add more as necessary. Depending on the hot sauce you use, this amount may change.

Caraway Seeds + Chili Powder

This is an excellent technique to imitate the flavor of harissa because caraway seeds are in it. Caraway seeds give food an earthy, nutty, licorice flavor.

Chili powder aids in simulating the heat of the chili peppers used in harissa. Some flavor elements like tanginess will be absent because this combination lacks the other ingredients present in harissa.

Any recipe that calls for harissa, whether it be paste, powder, or sauce, should use this mix.

You’ll need to use olive oil and lemon juice if you want to replicate the paste or sauce version’s texture. With this modification, the recipe now has a new step.

To combine chile powder and ground caraway seeds, start with a 1:1 ratio. Then substitute harissa with this mixture in a 1:1 ratio.

Chili Oil

Chili oil is a great alternative to harissa since it offers the same richness from the oil and spice from the chili flakes as harissa sauce. But because it will be oilier, you might have to change the recipe and add a stage to the procedure.

Compared to harissa, chili oil is simpler to buy at grocery stores. Use this substitution as a seasoning, marinade, or flavoring.

Some chili oils have other components such star anise, cinnamon bark, and ginger, which gives dishes a distinctive flavor. Due to these modifications, combining chili oil with a dish can be difficult because different chili oils may pair better with particular foods than others.

Ras El Hanout

You can substitute the spice mixture ras el hanout for harissa powder in a variety of recipes. It offers a similar level of heat and hue to recipes that traditionally call for harissa. Harissa-like flavors can be found in several of the ras el hanout’s ingredients.

However, this spice blend has more than 12 spices in it, giving it a significantly richer flavor. Using ras el hanout in place of harissa will be evident in recipes.

Ras el hanout must be combined with liquid to form a paste-like consistency. A great alternative that can help you replicate the acidity of harissa is apple cider vinegar. Unless your neighborhood grocery shop has a sizable international area, it’s difficult to find this swap.

Once combined with apple cider vinegar, start with half the amount needed and make adjustments as necessary.


A Korean hot sauce/barbecue sauce with a similar texture and heat to harissa is called gochujang. For marinating meats and veggies, it works wonderfully. When seeking for a dipping sauce, it makes a great substitute for harissa.

This sauce has a similar flavor profile to harissa because it is sweet, hot, and sour. It does, however, also provide an acidity that harissa does not.

As gochujang’s popularity increases, it is getting easier to find, yet certain regions may have problems finding a bottle at their neighborhood grocery shop.

Chili Paste

Sambal oelek, often known as chili paste, is a fantastic alternative to harissa. It contains chili peppers, garlic, and lime juice, which replicate the spiciness, flavor, and acidity of harissa. Harissa doesn’t have a fishy flavor, but sambal oelek does since it contains shrimp paste.

Another switch that some people might have trouble finding is this one. The flavor of sambal oelek can overpower foods, so it’s better to start with smaller amounts.

Red Pepper Flakes + Olive Oil

Similar to what harissa brings in terms of heat and richness, this combo delivers both. This harissa alternative is available and practical because it uses ingredients that are typically found in grocery stores or are likely already in the cupboard.

Red pepper flakes give food a crisp feel, thus adding this substitution will make a difference.

Use this harissa replacement to flavor meat and vegetable dishes as well as marinades.

Red pepper flakes don’t have a lot of flavor, therefore they won’t give food the same depth of flavor that harissa does. Although this adds steps to recipes, adding garlic, lemon juice, and spices will produce a more comparable flavor. This choice does not offer the same shade of red as harissa.

Red pepper flakes and olive should be mixed in a 1:1 ratio. Use one tablespoon of this combination in place of one tablespoon of harissa to begin.

Ancho Chiles

Harissa-based recipes can benefit from the spice that ancho chiles can bring. Additionally, these chilies offer a mouthwatering smoky flavor and an earthy, sweet taste similar to harissa.

To mimic the paste’s texture as these chiles are usually offered dehydrated, it is best to soak them in water and process them in a food processor. This functions nicely as a replacement for harissa paste once it has been mixed.

To more accurately replicate the taste in dishes, an acidic ingredient will need to be added because these chiles lack an acidic flavor.

Once a paste has been made, replace the ancho chiles with the harissa paste in a 1:1 ratio.

Tomato Paste

If you want to flavor food with a tangy, acidic flavor without the spiciness of harissa, tomato paste is a great alternative. This substitution is convenient as it is available readily in supermarkets or pantries.

Similar strong red hue is also provided by this paste in dishes like harissa. Use tomato paste as the foundation of dips, soups, and sauces.

To replicate the taste of harissa, the tomato paste will need to be changed. Olive oil and spices will help the paste take on a similar texture and flavor.


While pesto doesn’t have the same hue as harissa, it does contain basil, olive oil, and garlic. For people who want not to taste spicy, it’s a great option.

Some pesto recipes call for extra ingredients that might not go well with the rest of the dish.