Harissa Substitute

The Editors at Food Fanatic | Food Fanatic

Need a harissa substitute to use in your recipes? Here are some ideas, plus a homemade harissa recipe to try too!

So your recipe calls for harissa and you don't have any - or perhaps you've gone looking for it in the store, with no luck. What can you use instead?

In this article you'll learn just what you can use as a harissa substitute and how to make your own, so you'll never run out again!

Baked Goat Cheese with Harissa Photo

What is harissa?

Originating from Tunisia in North Africa, harissa is a very spicy, tasty hot paste made from chilis. But not JUST chilis - this powerful paste often includes other ingredients too, including garlic, lemon, cumin, corinader, caraway seeds and even some rather unusual additions like mint or rose petals!

It tends to come in two main forms - as a paste, sold in jars, tubes or tins, or as a powder. The powder can be used as a seasoning, or you can mix it with oil and garlic to turn it into a paste.

Harissa Goat Cheese Deviled Eggs Image



What to use as a harissa substitute?

Because harissa is essentially a chili paste, it's actually really easy to replace it in your recipes with any hot sauce made from chilis. Another option is chili oil, or a chili paste like sambal oelek (although this does tend to lack some of harissa's distinctive flavor, so make sure you add some cumin, coriander and caraway seeds too).

You could also try sriracha - it is fairly similar in flavor to harissa, but - like sambal oelek - it works better as a substitute if you also throw in some extra seasonings.

Baked Goat Cheese with Harissa Pic

How to make your own harissa paste

If you really want the true, authentic taste of harissa in your recipe, why not try your hand at making your own paste? It's actually very easy to put together and at least if you know how to make it, you won't ever be caught short in future!

What's more, you'll be able to customize the recipe so that the level of heat/smokiness/sweetness is just right for you and your family.

Baked Goat Cheese with Harissa Picture

First, you'll need about 4 oz dried chilis. If you'd like a mild, smoky flavor, opt for ancho chilis - but if you want the smoky flavor with a bit more heat, then use chipotle instead. For a sweeter flavor, give guajillo chilies a try - but if you want your harissa super fiery, then use Thai chilies.

Whichever chilies you choose, rehydrate them by soaking them in hot water for at least 30 minutes.

Next, throw them in a food processor with a few peeled cloves of garlic, plus a teaspoon each of cumin, ground caraway seeds, salt, dried mint and coriander. Pulse gently and drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, until the mixture has a paste-like consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.

You can use your homemade harissa straight away, but it tastes even better if you refrigerate it and allow the flavors to develop overnight.

Store any leftovers in the fridge, covered with a layer of olive oil.

Harissa Goat Cheese Deviled Eggs Picture

How to use harissa

This recipe for Baked Goat Cheese with Harissa is a wonderful way to appreciate the flavor of this potent paste - and it's a fantastic dish to serve at a dinner party. 

Adding harissa is also a great way to bring flavor to things like chicken breast or fish, or you can even use it in a dressing - try this Green Bean Salad recipe and see!

Or why not try it with eggs? These Harissa Goat Cheese Deviled Eggs are spicy and creamy all at the same time!

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