9 Best Harissa Substitutes That You Can Try

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Are you a fan of adding spice to your food just like me? Then I am sure one of your favorite ingredients in the kitchen must be harissa. This wonder of a paste adds a lot of heat and flavor to all desired recipes. So today, let us talk about the best harissa substitutes. 


Now I am sure that despite however you may like harissa, there may have been times when you run out of the same. I think now maybe a situation like that. In that case, you can easily use a substitute for the same, and this article will help you with the best harissa substitutes. 

So I am sure you must be wondering what you can use in place of harissa. The best substitutes for harissa are hot sauce, sriracha sauce, peri-peri sauce, sambal oelek, berbere, nam prik pao and Thai red curry paste. 

Although, before I start discussing the best substitutes for harissa with you, let me tell you a little more about the ingredient itself. This will definitely make it easier for you to pick your substitute as per your flavor preference. 

Quick Peek: Harissa

This section has all the information you need on harissa. You will get to know what the ingredient is, flavor, texture, uses, and nutritional information too. So, let us discover harissa!

What Is Harissa?

Harissa is a paste of hot chili pepper from the Maghreb, also known as northwestern Africa. It is extremely popular in Tunisian cuisine. The main ingredients of this paste are roasted red peppers and baklouti peppers, along with various herbs and spices. 

These herbs and spices include garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin, along with olive oil. There is also a variant known as rose harissa, which is made with rose petals as an addition to this concoction. 

The name ‘harissa’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘harasa,’ which means ‘to pound’ or ‘to break into pieces.’ This is because harissa paste is made by pounding chilis. Chili peppers became a part of the Maghrebian cuisine during the Spanish occupation of Tunisia. 

Describing Harissa: Flavor And Texture

The flavor of harissa is generally hot, with various other underlying flavors. The heat level of this paste generally depends on the type of chili peppers used to make it, along with the other ingredients and flavors added to it. 

Harissa can be smoky in flavor from the addition of roasted chili peppers. It can also have a tangy flavor if there is an addition of citrus juice or vinegar to it. All these variations of harissa are usually very easily available in the market. 

However, despite the addition of other flavors to harissa, the predominant flavor of this paste will always remain hot. When we talk about the texture of harissa, it is somewhere between a paste and sauce. It is not too runny, and neither is it too thick. 

Uses Of Harissa

Harissa is a very important ingredient used to add a kick of spice in various northwest African or Maghrebian cuisine. In Maghrebian countries like Algeria, harissa is commonly added to soups, stews, and couscous and also added to meat rubs. 

Harissa is moreover very common in Tunisian cuisine. It is used as an addition to meat and fish stews along with vegetables and for flavoring couscous. It is an important ingredient in a dish called ‘lablabi,’ which is a type of chickpea soup. 

In Israel, harissa is a common topping in sandwiches and shawarmas. Harissa has, however, become globally very popular, off lately. Many people use it in various recipes around the world to add a flavor of heat to their food. 

Harissa On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope

Harissa, being a paste with a lot of heat in it, is generally used in small quantities in recipes. Hence, it does not add too much to a nutritious diet. However, despite that, harissa does have certain vital nutrients in it. 

Harissa is high in sodium content and has some amount of saturated fats in it. So, people with certain health issues such as high blood pressure should avoid eating it in very high quantities. But, the good part is that harissa is a great source of various vitamins. 

These vitamins include vitamin A, C, B6, E, and K. Harissa is also a source of minerals such as iron, manganese, and copper. It is also antioxidant-rich due to the addition of various other antioxidant-rich ingredients to it. 

Why Use A Substitute For Harissa?

I know this question must have popped in your head for sure. Why would you want to use a substitute for such a wonderful ingredient? While there are many reasons to use harissa paste in recipes, there are also some reasons why you can consider using a substitute. 

To start off, various recipes do call for harissa; however, this paste might be a bit too high in heat content for some. In case you are not able to find a milder variant of this sauce, you can easily use a substitute that has a milder flavor. 

Moreover, in case this is not an issue for you, and you just seem to be out of harissa paste, you can easily use a substitute for the same in place of running to the supermarket! Most of the substitute options given will give you a very similar flavor profile to harissa. 

I think I have provided you with enough information on harissa. Now, let me take you to the main attraction of this article, its various substitutes. So, let us explore the best harissa substitutes! 

Other Food Substitutes You Can Try

9 Best Harissa Substitutes

This section has all the best substitutes for harissa. You will get to know how their flavor profile matches that of harissa and what recipes you can use these substitutes in. Moreover, you will also get to know how exactly you can substitute the ingredient for harissa. 

1. Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is a condiment packed with heat. Since heat is the main flavor profile in harissa paste, hot sauce works as a great substitute for harissa in various recipes. 

Hot sauce is an extremely common ingredient in various kitchens. It is easily available and that too in various forms with varying levels of heat. Usually, if you want to mimic the exact flavor of harissa, try opting for a hot sauce with a higher level of heat. 

However, do be careful and read the ingredients used in the hot sauce carefully as some variants can be hotter than harissa. Moreover, the consistency of hot sauce may be a problem in certain recipes, as it is much thinner than harissa. 

However, despite this, hot sauce works really well in recipes such as soups, stews, salad dressings, and also in meat rubs. A hotter variant of hot sauce can be used as a harissa substitute in a standard 1:1 ratio. 

2. Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha sauce is another very commonly used ingredient in various kitchens. It has a great heat and spice content to it with an undertone flavor of garlic that works well as a substitute for harissa in various recipes. 

Certain brands of sriracha sauce do have a sauce with a mellow flavor, as compared to that of harissa. So, in case the flavor seems a bit less on the spice level, you can add some cayenne pepper to your sriracha to give it a heat level more similar to harissa. 

Moreover, certain ingredients that do add to the flavor of harissa, such as cumin, caraway seeds, and coriander, are not present in sriracha sauce. So, if you want an exact match as far as the flavor profile goes, it is recommended to add these ingredients to your sriracha. 

Sriracha sauce also has a thin consistency as compared to harissa, similar to hot sauce. Hence, that is worth noting for certain recipes. However, sriracha does work extremely well in salad dressings, marinades, and meat rubs in a 1:1 ratio of substitution. 

3. Peri-Peri Sauce

The peri-peri sauce actually comes from the same region as harissa sauce. It has a level of heat to it similar to that of harissa sauce. So, it can be used as a harissa substitute in various recipes. 

Peri-peri sauce is another sauce that is very easily available. It comes in different heat levels, so the great news is that you can choose the one you like best as per your personal flavor preferences. 

However, to mimic the flavor of harissa, it is best to choose peri-peri sauce that has a higher high content to it. Peri-peri sauce is also thinner in consistency than harissa. So, it might not be the best option for recipes where harissa makes the base of the sauce. 

However, peri peri sauce works really well in recipes such as meat rubs, marinades, salad dressings, or any other recipe where harissa is used in smaller quantities. Use peri peri sauce as a harissa substitute in a 1:1 ratio. 

4. Gochujang

Gochujang is a Korean red chili paste that stands very close to harissa in terms of heat content. Though it does have certain other complex flavors that are different from that of harissa, gochujang makes a good harissa substitute. 

Gochujang, along with spice, has a sweet and tart flavor too. So, that is something definitely worth noting while using it as a harissa substitute. If a slightly tart flavor is not exactly what you are looking for, gochujang might not be the best choice for you. 

However, if you are okay with the addition of a complex flavor to your food, gochujang does make a great alternative. The one downside to it is that it might not be as easily available as various other substitute options. 

Gochujang works really well as a substitute for harissa, especially in chicken dishes. Moreover, you can also use it as a substitute in recipes where harissa forms the base without worrying about its consistency. 

5. Sambal Oelek

Sambal oelek is a traditional Indonesian chili paste with a high amount of heat content to it, similar to harissa paste. It can work well as a harissa paste substitute in various recipes. 

The main flavor in sambal oelek is that of chili. It is made with crushed chili peppers and mixed with vinegar and salt. Again, the consistency of sambal oelek will not be an issue, as it has a thick consistency similar to that of harissa paste. 

So, sambal oelek can easily be used as a substitute in recipes where harissa makes the base of curry or sauce. However, sambal oelek does lack the flavor of spices that are predominant in harissa.

These spices are coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds. So, if you want to replicate a flavor that is an exact match, try adding some of these ingredients to the sambal oelek to get a similar flavor. You can use it as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio. 

6. Berbere

Berbere is a spicy chili blend powder from east Africa. It contains ingredients such as coriander and cumin, which are also a part of harissa. Hence, it gives a similar flavor to that of harissa, making it a good substitute for the same. 

Berbere is a chili powder rather than a paste. So, there definitely is a difference in the consistency between berbere and harissa. However, the flavor profile matches that of harissa quite a lot due to the addition of various spices to it. 

Moreover, certain blends of berbere can be hotter than that of harissa. So, make sure you use a blend that is closer in heat content to harissa. As berbere is a powder, use it as a harissa substitute mixed with some olive oil in a 1:1 ratio. 

7. Chili Pepper

Chili peppers are the main ingredient in harissa sauce. You can use the type that has the closest flavor profile to that of harissa sauce. Hence, chili peppers make a great substitute for harissa sauce. 

The best part about using chili peppers is that you can pick the one that suits your taste preferences. While using them as a substitute for harissa, however, it is usually recommended to use hotter varieties of the same. 

Chili peppers can be added as they are in a recipe, or you can even crush them and make a paste. Moreover, if you add ingredients such as cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds to chili peppers, they will give a flavor that resembles harissa to a very great extent. 

8. Nam Prik Pao

Nam prik pao is a Thai red chili paste. It has a few complex flavors other than chili. However, the predominant flavor of this chili paste is still that of chili. Hence, it can work as a harissa substitute in various recipes. 

Nam prik pao contains sweeteners, garlic, and fish derivatives in it, along with chili peppers. The fish derivatives used in this chili paste give it a great kick of umami flavor. However, this may be a problem for some, especially vegetarians and vegans. 

As harissa is vegetarian and vegan friendly, nam prik pao might not be the best substitute option for certain people. However, if you don’t mind the addition of fish and an umami flavor, you can use it as a harissa substitute in a 1:1 ratio. 

9. Red Curry Paste

Red curry paste is of Thai origin and has a strong flavor of chili peppers, along with certain other flavors. As the spice quotient matches that of harissa, it can be used as a substitute for the same in various recipes. 

Red curry paste might seem like an unconventional option as a substitute for harissa. However, it does have strong flavors of garlic and chili, quite similar to that of harissa, making it great in various recipes. 

Moreover, the consistency of red curry paste is thick, similar to that of harissa. So, it can work very well in recipes where the paste forms the base of a curry. It works extremely well with various types of meat. Use it as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio. 

Short Recap For Best Harissa Substitutes

I am sure you must have gone through all the best substitutes for harissa by now and picked the one that works best for your recipe. But, are you by any chance still confused about which one to pick? For that, I have broken it down further. Have a look below! 

Most Suitable: The most suitable substitute for harissa is gochujang. 

Easily Available: Hot sauce and sriracha sauce are the most easily available substitutes for harissa. 

Best Flavor Profile: Chili peppers will give the best flavor profile when used as a substitute for harissa. 

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped you find the best substitute for harissa for your recipe. Harissa is a very useful ingredient in recipes not only of its original cuisine but for various cuisines from around the world. This ingredient is almost irreplaceable in certain recipes. 

However, in case you are out of harissa, there is no need to worry about it. All the substitute options given above make very worthy alternatives for harissa. I have mentioned their flavor profiles, so you can pick the substitute based on your taste preference. 

Moreover, you can also pick the substitute for your recipe based on what sort of consistency you are looking for. While pastes work best in certain recipes, sauces can work equally well in various other recipes. I am sure you will end up loving your food just as much with a substitute.

How To Substitute The Above Mentioned Ingredients For Harissa


Harissa Substitutes

Here is how you can substitute the above mentioned ingredients for harissa
3 from 2 votes


  • Hot Sauce
  • Sriracha Sauce
  • Peri-Peri Sauce
  • Gochujang
  • Sambal Oelek
  • Berbere
  • Chili Pepper
  • Nam Prik Pao
  • Red Curry Paste


  • Go through the substitutes and see which one seems fit for the recipe
  • Collect your ingredients and use your preferred substitute.
  • Use the substitute in the required amount and proceed to make the dish according to the recipe.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is sriracha similar to harissa?

Sriracha has a similar heat content to harissa. However, they are two different ingredients.

What is harissa paste made of?

Harissa paste is made of chili peppers, oil, an acid, garlic and various other spices.

Is all harissa spicy?

No, many brands have variants of harissa that have a milder flavor.

Is harissa the same as red curry paste?

No, harissa and red curry paste are two different types of pastes.

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