Harissa is a flavorful, smoky, and spicy seasoning that is extremely versatile. But, if you don't have any on hand and in need of a harissa substitute, there are several options that can work great in a pinch. Use this list of the 12 best substitutes for harissa paste or powder, with options like tomato paste, berbere, and smoked paprika!
I don't know about you, but I find myself running out of staples, or not being able to run to the store for a last minute ingredients often, which is why I developed a series of substitutes to have on hand. Like substitutes for mint, lemon pepper, chia seeds, and mustard seeds.
Harissa is a spicy condiment made from chili peppers, garlic, and other spices, and it's commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine. It comes in a paste, or you can easily find harissa powder as well, to keep in your spice cabinet.
Like other spices that are common in the Middle East, adding a spicy element to a dish is just as popular. Like this Lebanese spicy fish recipe (samke harra) that's one of the go-to fish dishes there.
It's a great spicy sauce to use in potatoes, eggs, stews, and marinades. But whether you're out, can't find harissa paste in your local grocery store, or prefer a milder flavor, grab a harissa alternative that can offer a similar taste and texture from our detailed list below.
THE BEST SUBSTITUTE FOR HARISSA PASTE
1. HOT SAUCE
Since harissa paste is a Middle Eastern hot sauce, choose one of your go-to hot sauces to use instead. Sriracha, tabasco, Louisiana are all great harissa paste alternative options to use in just about any recipe!
This paste transforms every meal with it's strong flavor! Much like harissa paste, chipotle peppers in adobo is smoky and spicy!
Though harissa has more of a tangy flavor, adding a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice will do the trick.
It provides the same level of heat, but you can also mix other spices with it, like smoked paprika and cumin to provide a closer flavor profile to harissa.
Similar to cayenne, red pepper flakes are a common spice in most households that make it extremely easy harissa substitute.
Aleppo pepper is one of my absolute favorite spices. It's a Middle Eastern red pepper that has a warm flavor and slightly spicy. I use it often as a harissa substitute. Especially when making family-friendly dishes.
It's great on pizza, potatoes, meat, seafood, and roasted vegetables.
6. TOMATO PASTE
Tomato paste gives the best texture substitute for harissa. If you're looking for a kick, add a few drops of hot sauce, cayenne, or red pepper flakes to the tomato paste.
Tomato paste is a great not spicy harissa substitute, and provides the main flavor profile of harissa. Use it in various dishes, like eggs, meat, and soups.
Smoked paprika can be a great substitute for harissa in recipes. It has a similar smoky flavor that pairs well with a variety of dishes, without making it spicy. This is a great option if you want the flavor profile to be similar but would rather avoid the spicy.
Plus, smoked paprika is more commonly found in grocery stores than harissa, making it a convenient option.
I love using it to add a little kick to my roasted vegetables or as a rub for grilled meats. If you're looking for an easy way to add some depth of flavor to your meals, give smoked paprika a try!
8. OELEK SAMBA
Oelek sambal spice is a popular Indonesian chili paste made from ground red chili peppers, vinegar, and salt.
Oelek sambal is a flavorful and spicy alternative that packs a punch of heat and tanginess.
While it has a slightly different flavor profile than harissa, it can be used in similar ways to add a spicy kick to your dishes. Try using it as a marinade for meat, mixing it into sauces or dips, or even stirring it into soups or stews.
With its bold flavor and versatility, oelek sambal is a great harissa substitute for anyone looking to add some heat to their meals.
This spicy sauce originates from Portugal, and is made with African bird's eye chilies, vinegar, and sometimes other ingredients like garlic and lemon.
Like harissa, it adds a flavorful heat to dishes, but with a slightly different tanginess.
Use it as a marinade for meat, mix it into sauces or dips, or even drizzle it over roasted vegetables.
Gochujang sauce, is a Korean fermented chili paste that has a sweet and spicy flavor profile. Gochujang can add a lot of depth to dishes in a similar way to harissa.
Whether used as a marinade for meat, mixed into sauces or dips, or added to soups and stews, gochujang's versatility makes it a great option for those looking to explore different cuisines.
11. THAI RED CHILI PASTE
Thai red chili paste is made from red chili peppers, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and other spices, giving it a distinct taste.
Berbere is a mixture of spices, similar to harissa. It's made of dried chiles, paprika, cayenne, onion powder, and ginger.
Whereas, harissa paste is used mainly in Middle Eastern cuisine and has deeper notes like cumin in it.
Though, berbere is one of the best substitutes for harissa paste because of it's combination of spices.
DISHES THAT GO WELL WITH HARISSA
Adding this flavorful and versatile spice to chicken, seafood, or beef is a going to be a party in your mouth! I love adding it to stews, grilled shrimp, or a little dash to ground beef.
Get a big punch of heat and flavor by adding this spice to your veggies. A drool-worthy yet simple recipe is this harissa sweet potato wedges with a garlic herb aioli. Try it with a harissa substitute as well!
Even while using a harissa alternative, you'll find yourself with a delicious and hardy meal!
There are a few spices that come close to it that come from different countries, like berbere, gochujang, and oelek sambal. If you're looking for a spice powder, you can rely on smoked paprika as the closest alternative to harissa.
Harissa paste ranges in heat depending on the brand. It's known as one of the hot sauces of the Middle East and can be mild, medium, or very spicy depending on the manufacturer. The powder tends to be more on the mild side, where as the paste lean towards medium to spicy.
It's a flavorful, deep, smoky, and spicy seasoning. Depending on the brand you purchase, it ranges greatly in the amount of heat it packs. It pairs well and adds a punch of heat and flavor to meat, veggies, sauces and stews.
Unique or specialty stores are most often carrying harissa, or look at the ethnic isles of your go-to grocery stores. Trader joes is one of the most common stores to carry harissa paste. Other options are online through Amazon or other online retailers.
Yes. Non-spicy substitutes are tomato paste or smoked paprika. Use either option depending on what works best in your recipe. To add more flavor, add smoked paprika to the tomato paste.
12 Best Substitutes For Harissa Paste
- Use any of the ingredients above to substitute chia seeds in baking, pudding, smoothies, overnight oats, and more.
- Use in your recipe!