7 Best Harissa Substitutes

Harissa is a spicy sauce that’s made from chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and other spices. It’s used in North African cuisine as well as Middle Eastern cuisine.

There are many recipes that require Harissa, but there may be occasions when you don’t have it available. This can be especially true for vegetarians or vegans that typically don’t use animal products.

Some of the most popular harissa substitutes include Red Chili Paste, Sriracha, Gochujang, Red Pepper Flakes, Ras el Hanout, and homemade Harissa.

Keep reading to find more about these great substitutes for harissa chili paste so that you can still enjoy your favorite recipes without having to worry about not having enough of this hot sauce on hand.

What is Harissa?

Harissa is a spicy sauce that’s made from chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and other spices. It’s used in North African cuisine as well as Middle Eastern cuisine.

This red-orange sauce can be found in things like rice, stews, couscous, and curries. It’s often used to add a bit of heat and spice.

7 Best Harissa Substitutes

1. Red Chili Paste

Chili Paste Substitutes

This is a great substitute for harissa, especially if you’re looking to add some heat to your meal. You can find pre-made red chili paste in the ethnic ingredients aisle of most supermarkets.

This is a spicy paste made up of red chilies and can be found in many different types of Asian cuisine, such as Chinese and Thai.

Red chili paste can be used to make things like dumplings, fried rice, noodles, and stir-fry dishes. You can also use it as a marinade for meats.

2. Sriracha

Sriracha Substitutes

Sriracha is another popular choice when it comes to a spicy sauce for dishes. This red-orange concoction is a great substitute for harissa, which is typically made up of chili peppers, garlic, and olive oil.

It’s a very popular choice because it’s quite versatile – you can add it to anything from tacos, sandwiches, and soups.

However, you can also add it to many different types of Asian dishes like dumplings, stir-fries, noodles, and fried rice.

3. Gochujang

This is a Korean hot pepper paste that’s made up of chili peppers along with fermented soybeans. It’s commonly used in dishes like bibimbap, dumplings, and noodles. It can also be used as a marinade for meats too.

The nice thing about gochujang is that it’s not as spicy compared to harissa, which means you can add a bit more of it without going overboard on the spiciness.

4. Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek Substitutes

This is a great substitute for harissa that adds a lot of heat. Sambal Oelek is a chili paste that’s available in most supermarkets.

It does not have all the ingredients that harissa has, but it can be used in many of the same dishes.

The nice thing about Sambal Oelek is that it comes pre-made, which means you won’t have to spend as much time preparing it.

It’s made up of red chili peppers and has a nice, smooth texture with a hint of sweetness to it too.

You can also find premade Sambal Oelek in the ethnic aisle of most supermarkets.

Sambal Oelek is often used as a condiment for rice dishes, noodles, and fried rice. You can use it as a sauce, dip, or marinade.

You can also mix it into dishes that need a bit of extra kick.

5. Red Pepper Flakes

Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are another common choice for a substitute when you’re looking to add a bit of spice to a dish. It gives food a nice spicy flavor, without being too hot and overpowering at the same time.

It’s made up of crushed dried chili peppers that have a bit of a spicy kick to them.

Red pepper flakes can be used in a number of dishes, from pizza and pasta to stews and curries. You can also add these onto sandwiches for extra flavor too.

6. Ras el Hanout

Another great substitute for harissa chili paste is ras-el-hanout. This is a Moroccan spice blend that’s made up of 30-100 spices, which means it can be used in a wide variety of dishes.

It is made up of a blend of various spices like cumin, coriander, ginger, and nutmeg.

It’s commonly used to make tagines and stews, but you can also add it to couscous, rice, and omelets too. You can also marinade meats with this spice blend for added flavor.

7. Homemade Harissa

If you’re interested in making your own harissa chili paste at home instead of buying a pre-made one from the store, there are many recipes online that can help.

It’s made up of chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices like salt and cumin. You can find all the ingredients in your local supermarket.

So if you’re looking for a substitute to Harissa that still gives food that nice red-orange hue or you just want to do it the old-fashioned way, then making your own harissa at home can be a great option.

How to Make Harissa at Home


  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh red bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. If the paste is too thick, add a few drops of water to thin it out.
  2. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month or freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to use, bring back to room temperature and mix well before using.

What does Harissa Taste Like?

Harissa has a very spicy and pungent flavor to it. It’s quite different from other hot chili sauces like salsa or tabasco because of its distinct blend of spices.

The red color comes from the main ingredient in harissa, which is dried chili peppers. Because it contains so many spices, you can expect the taste to vary depending on what spices are used.

For example, if you’re making harissa at home, it might be made up of more cumin and paprika than anything else. So your dish will taste differently compared to someone who uses coriander instead.

Harissa is made up of chili peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander. It has a spicy kick to it that adds warmth to any dish you add it to.

Are Harissa and Sriracha Similar?

No, harissa and sriracha are not similar at all. The main difference is what they’re made up of.

Harissa chili paste is made up of red chili peppers that give it that distinct bright orange color. It also contains many spices like cumin, coriander, garlic, and salt too!

Sriracha on the other hand is made up of chili peppers, vinegar, sugar, salt, and garlic powder. The sauce’s color comes from red jalapeno or red serrano peppers.

This means that sriracha has a much different flavor than harissa does because it lacks the distinct blend of spices found in harissa.

Can I Use Harissa Powder Instead of Paste?

Yes, you can certainly use harissa powder instead of paste.

The reason why it’s sold as a paste in stores is that people usually like to buy it in powder form. But if you’d rather use harissa powder, go for it.

All you have to do is add a spoonful to your dish and add enough water to make the sauce the right consistency.

Note that harissa powder will be much less spicy than the paste, so if you like your food spicy, be sure to use more harissa powder!

Final Words

Harissa is a staple in many dishes, but if you don’t have it or would rather try something else-here are some of the best substitutes to use instead. We hope this article was helpful and informative for you.

Now that you know what to use instead of harissa, experiment and see which ones you like best. Happy cooking!!!

I’m a passionate food blogger on a journey to become a go-to person who can help others prepare delicious foods. I share recipes, food substitutes, and other cooking tips. Read more about my journey...

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