10 Best Harissa Paste Substitutes

Harissa Paste

You can’t call yourself a spice enthusiast if you’ve never had harissa paste.

Harissa paste is a mouth-watering and flavorful hot chili paste that originates from North Africa. It can accompany just about any dish to give it a zinger and an elevated taste.

However, sometimes it can be hard to get your hands on some good harissa paste. So, what are the substitutes for harissa paste?

Some of the best substitutes for harissa paste include sriracha, hot sauce, chili pepper, tandoori masala, berbere spice, garam masala, nali sauce, chili oil, sambal, and gochujang.

Keep on reading to find out more about each of these substitutes!

What Is Harissa Paste?

Harissa is a hot chili paste that originates from Tunisia. It is made of roasted red peppers, baklouti pepper, serrano peppers, and spices and herbs such as garlic paste, lemon, cumin, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, etc.

Therefore, not only do you get a zinger of hot pepper while you eat harissa but there are also the rich flavors of herbs and spices.

Harissa is a truly distinct type of spicy paste, although it has now become popular in all corners of the world.

If you are not a fan of zinger, you might enjoy rose harissa. This variation of harissa paste has a slightly sweet flavor and is made of rose petals.

Best Substitutes For Harissa Paste

Now that you know all about harissa paste, let us take a look at some substitutes that will give you a zinger just as delicious and flavorful.

1. Sriracha sauce

Sriracha sauce

As you might already know, sriracha is a type of chili sauce made using a paste of chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Despite being a sauce and not a paste, sriracha is a good substitute for harissa paste.

They both have a similar level of spice and they are both full of flavor. If you want to give sriracha sauce a texture similar to harissa paste, you can add some coriander or cumin seeds into the mix.

2. Hot sauce

Chili Sauce

You might not have expected something like hot sauce to be on the list of substitutes for harissa paste. There is a huge variety of different hot sauce flavors that you can find, many of which can act as a substitute for harissa paste in both flavor and texture.

Moreover, hot sauce is the most easily accessible alternative for harissa paste. If you fail to find an exact match for harissa paste, you can always mix it with some extra ingredients to get the flavor you are looking for.

3. Chili pepper

Red Chili

Chili pepper is one of the main ingredients in harissa sauce. Surely, you must have it lying around in your kitchen or can find it easily in a supermarket.

So, if you are looking for something that can match the spice level of harissa, why not use the very ingredient from the paste? You can either chop some chili pepper into smaller pieces and add it to your dish or use chili pepper flakes.

4. Berbere spice

Berbere spice

Berbere spice originates from the east of Africa and is often used as a substitute for harissa paste. This spice mixture is made using chili pepper, coriander, ginger, garlic, and herbs like basil, ajwain, fenugreek, etc.

Although berbere spice is a powder and cannot be served as a paste, you freely add it into dishes like cooking. Replacing harissa paste with berbere spice in a 1:1 ratio will give you the spice level and flavor that you desire.

5. Tandoori masala

Tandoori Masala

Tandoori masala is a spice mixture that originates from the Indian subcontinent. It is highly flavorful and is made using garam masala, cayenne pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, etc.

Tandoori masala is not usually as spicy as harissa paste, but you can always add some extra spices to increase its zinger. Moreover, you can also find tandoori masala served as a paste, which you can use to match the texture of harissa paste.

6. Garam masala

Garam Masala

Like I mentioned above, tandoori masala is made using garam masala and other spices. Now you might be wondering what garam masala is.

Garam masala is another spice mixture that originates from the Indian subcontinent. It is made using ingredients like red chili powder, cumin, coriander seeds, cloves, fennel, bay leaves, cardamom, etc.

As the long list of ingredients suggests, garam masala has a high level of spice as well as a mouthful of flavor. So, if you ever need another traditional substitute for harissa paste, you have both garam masala and tandoori masala to choose from.

7. Nali sauce

Also known as “Africa’s hottest peri-peri sauce”, Nali sauce is a great substitute for spice enthusiasts. It is made using ‘Malawian bird’s eye’ chilies, which is the hottest type of chili in all of Africa.

Nali sauce has now become so popular across the world that it is available in seven flavors, including mild, hot, garlic, ginger, BBQ, and curry masala. So, if you ever need a touch of flavor for your harissa paste substitute, you know where to look.

8. Chili oil

Chili oil is used extensively in a variety of cuisines across Asia.

It is made by infusing vegetable oil with chili pepper and adding spices such as paprika, Sichuan pepper, and garlic. Some variations of this oil also use soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil, etc.

So, if you ever need less spicy yet complex substitutes for harissa paste, chili oil is the way to go. However, note that harissa paste is much thicker in texture than chili oil.

9. Sambal

Sambal Oelek

Sambal is a paste that is made using a mixture of chili peppers, lime juice, shrimp paste, garlic, ginger. There are as many as 200 variations of sambal that are used across dishes in Asia.

Sambal might have a lower spice level than harissa paste. However, it will give you more or less the same flavor that you wish for in your dishes.

10. Gochujang


Gochujang, which stands for red chili paste, is made using chili powder, fermented soybean, salt, and other herbs and spices.

As chili powder is the primary ingredient in both gochujang and harissa paste, you can easily substitute them for each other. Moreover, gochujang also has a slightly sweet flavor like harissa paste.

How To Use Harissa Paste?

Harissa paste was originally eaten with traditional North African dishes but there is no restriction for what you can serve alongside it.

You can eat harissa paste with any dish that you want to add a zinger too. Moreover, there is no special way of serving harissa paste. But to give you some inspiration to spice up your next dish, here are some ways of using harissa paste.

Roasted vegetables

One way to make plain a serving of roasted vegetables interesting is by adding some harissa paste in the mix. All you need to do is lightly mix the vegetables in this chili paste before you roast them.


If you are a fan of spicy food, why stop at vegetables? Take your next barbeque up a notch by replacing your standard hub with some harissa paste. Trust us, a zinger and lemony touch will go excellently with your favorite meat.

Salad dressing

You can add a touch of a zinger to any of your favorite salad dressings by adding some harissa paste to it. This process is fairly easy and can elevate the taste of any of your favorite dressings.


You can also add some harissa paste to yogurt and hummus to make your very own sweet and spicy sauce. You can serve this sauce with just about any food you like or use it as a dip with chicken wings, nachos, etc.


Would you have imagined serving pasta with harissa sauce? Well, the influence of harissa in North Africa has made this a reality. The next time you have some pasta, don’t shy away from adding a delicious touch of spicy harissa.


Spice up your next breakfast with a touch of harissa paste with your eggs, may it be an egg sandwich, some fried egg, scrambled egg, and so on.

There isn’t a dish that this mouthwatering paste can’t improve.

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