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The Best Substitute For Harissa Paste 

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When it comes to fiery condiments that ignite our taste buds, few can match the popularity of Harissa, so it’s helpful to know the best substitute for harissa paste.

Harissa paste in a white bowl with dried chili pepper and chili powder on the side.

This fragrant spice blend offers an excellent and complex flavor profile, adding depth to a wide variety of dishes.

However, there may be instances where you need to replace Harissa in your recipe due to varying levels of spice tolerance or allergies.

Likewise, you may have simply run out of this chili paste. In such cases, this list of the best Harissa substitutes will come in handy, so keep reading! 

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What Is Harissa Paste? 

Harissa paste in a white bowl on a black background.

Originating in Tunisia, Harissa is a paste made with a blend of spices that typically include chili peppers, olive oil, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds, some of which are toasted. Harissa’s heat level varies depending on the ingredients used, but it consistently delivers a spicy kick to your tastebuds. It also has a distinct smoky flavor thanks to its toasted spices. 

While it was originally made for North African cuisine, over the years, Harissa has become a popular addition to dishes from various parts of the world.

Reasons To Use A Harissa Substitute 

Control Over Spiciness

Not everyone can handle the fiery hotness of Harissa. So, if you want to cook a spicy dish without making it overwhelming for people with a low spicy tolerance, using a Harissa alternative will prove useful. After all, some of the best substitutes for Harissa powder or paste are often milder.

But, of course, you also have the choice to opt for spicier condiments to take your dish’s spiciness up an extra notch. 

Flexibility And Convenience 

Most of us don’t always remember to restock all of the ingredients in our kitchen. That’s why having some know-how about replacing crucial seasonings is useful in case you run out.

By knowing suitable substitutes for Harissa in dishes, you can avoid last-minute trips to the store when you need to finish cooking before meal time. 


Several ingredients commonly used in Harissa, such as red chili pepper, caraway, and garlic, are common allergens. Therefore, using a suitable Harissa paste alternative will be essential if someone you’ll be eating with may experience an allergic reaction to this chili paste. 

5 Good Harissa Paste Substitutes 

Here’s your long-awaited list to help you find the best substitute for Harissa in your recipe! 

Sambal Oelek 

Sambal Oelek in a serving white bowl with chili pepper and blue cloth on the side.

Native to Indonesia, this chili paste is an excellent substitute. Similar to Harissa, it’s primarily made with blended red chili flakes and salt resulting in a bright red and chunky appearance. 

Sambal Oelek is a great chili booster for dishes with broth, such as stews, soups, and noodles. But note that due to its added vinegar, it may add a slight sourness to your dish. 


Gochujang in a bowl on a wooden table.

Gochujang is a Korean chili paste made with fermented soybean powder, chili flakes, and glutinous rice. You can think of this smooth paste as a sweeter version of Harissa paste.

So, use Gochujang in recipes that you want to be spicy, yet sweet. I personally use this Harissa substitute when making dipping sauce or marinade. 


Sriracha in a bowl with wooden spoon and chili pepper on the side.

Sriracha sauce is another must-know Harissa paste alternative. This spicy condiment is renowned for its spicy yet tangy flavor, with a subtle hint of sweetness in between.

If you’re aiming for a medium level of heat, I recommend using sriracha. To make it taste more like Harissa, add smoked paprika and a pinch of powdered cumin.

Hot Sauce

Hot sauce in a small bowl with chili peppers around it.

As surprising as it may be, any regular hot sauce can actually serve as a substitute for Harissa. Of course, the flavor profile you’ll get isn’t precisely as smoky or in-depth as Harissa, but honestly, this substitute is a huge time-saver since it’s already a staple ingredient in most households. 

The best types of hot sauce to use as a substitute are those that are neutral-tasting, as they won’t change the flavor of your dish too much. But feel free to play around with those sweeter or those enhanced with flavors like barbeque. Just make sure to add your hot sauce little by little and season to taste. 

Homemade Harissa Paste 

Lastly, you can consider making a homemade Harissa paste using ingredients readily available in your spice rack.

Homemade harissa paste in a glass bowl with spoon, chili pepper and chili flakes on the side.

Believe it or not, creating a paste that tastes just as good as the commercial Harissa paste is pretty easy. Just follow my instructions below. 

📋 Recipe

Homemade Harissa Paste 

Corinne Schmitt
You can make a homemade Harissa paste using ingredients readily available in your spice rack.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 13 minutes
Course Sauces and Seasonings
Servings 1 cup
Calories 772 kcal


  • pan
  • mortar or spice grinder
  • Bowl
  • Airtight container


  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil


  • Toast the cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds together in a pan. Continuously stir them for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Using a mortar or spice grinder, turn the toasted seeds into a fine powder.
  • Combine your powdered spices with the rest of your ingredients in a bowl. Then, stir the mixture until it reaches a paste-like consistency. 
  • Transfer your Harissa into an airtight container and keep it refrigerated to use for 2 to 3 weeks. 


Calories: 772kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 6gFat: 77gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 55gSodium: 150mgPotassium: 766mgFiber: 10gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 5873IUVitamin C: 26mgCalcium: 192mgIron: 9mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Now, you have a homemade chili paste that’s better than any other Harissa alternative. 

How To Use Harissa Paste Substitutes In Recipes

Although the substitutes mentioned above can be excellent at adding spiciness to your recipes, it’s important to know that none of them is a perfect substitute for every recipe that requires Harissa. 

The exemption, of course, is the homemade Harissa paste. 

Harissa has a unique and distinct flavor, meaning an alternative can only mimic its taste and texture for specific recipes. With that in mind, here are some guidelines to help you choose which Harissa sub you can use for specific dishes. 

Best for dishes with broth: Sambal Oelek and Sriracha. 

Best for marinades or sauces: Gochujang, Sriracha, and Hot Sauce. 

Best for dips: Hot Sauce and Sriracha. 

Best for stir-fried foods: Gochujang, Sambal Oelek, and Sriracha. 

Best for salad dressings: Hot Sauce, Sriracha, and Sambal Oelek. 

When substituting Harissa for any recipe, it’s important to season according to your taste preference. Avoid using a 1:1 substitution ratio based on the amount of Harissa called for in the recipe’s instructions because these alternatives may overwhelmingly add certain flavors, affecting the taste of your dish.  

Never Miss Out On The Fiery Flavor

Homemade harissa paste in a white bowl with spoon, chili pepper and chili flakes on the side.

Whether you don’t have Harissa paste left or simply can’t use this seasoning, there are always workarounds to add that spicy kick to your recipes. Just note that when using Harissa alternatives, you might add a subtle flavor difference to your dish. As such, I always recommend experimenting with the ratio of your ingredient substitution and adding them according to taste rather than specific measurements, especially the first time around. 

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