The Best Substitutes for Harissa Paste


My first experience with harissa was in a recipe called ‘Firey Harissa Chicken’ which used 50 fresh chillies in the marinade. It definitely lived up to its name!

I remember my fingers were burning for hours after I had chopped and de-seeded all the chillies. I wish I had used gloves.

Luckily the finished dish was a big hit with my friends. And so my love affair with harissa began.

What is Harissa?

At it’s simplest, it’s a paste made from pureeing fresh red chillies, garlic, ground coriander and carraway seeds. It’s used in Moroccan and Tunisian food to give an addictive chilli hit.

A little goes a long long way.

You can buy commercial harissa in a tube or jar.

I’ve also made a milder version using roast mild red chillies and red capsicum (bell peppers) which is used more as a sauce.

Either way it’s super delicious.

If you don’t have any harissa in the house, here are my favourite harissa substitutes.

The Best Harissa Substitutes

(in order of preference)

1. Fresh Chopped Red Chilli + Carraway Seeds
If I’m out of Harissa I just mix up a quick substitute by finely chopping a few fresh red chillies and adding a pinch of carraway seeds and enough olive oil to make a pesto-like paste. Leave the seeds in for a stronger kick.

If you don’t have carraway seeds use ground coriander instead.

2. Chilli Oil
I make my own, but there are plenty of great commercial chilli flavoured oils which will give a similar kick to harissa.

3. Hot Sauce
If a recipe calls for Harissa, often you just want some heat. In this case whatever hot sauce you have in the house will do the trick.

Just be careful to match the amount to your heat tolerance. You can always add more if needed but fixing a fire-extinguisher dish is tricky!

4. Home Made Harissa
If I have more time I make a batch of this flavoursome sweet harissa. This much milder than commercial Harissa paste in a tube so you may need to use more than your recipe calls for.

My Favourite Recipes Using Harissa

Or see the Harissa archives.

With love,
Jules x

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