5 Harissa Substitutes Just as Hot as the Classic Middle Eastern Paste

Sometimes, a recipe might call for harissa, but you just don't have it on hand. The Tunisian hot chili pepper paste made with roasted red peppers, Baklouti peppers, spices, and herbs like garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, and olive oil might seem hard to replace, but you can definitely find harissa substitutes if you don't have harissa paste around.

If you've got a Middle Eastern dish like harissa chicken that calls for this chili paste condiment, here are some great harissa substitutes.

1. Homemade Harissa

If you want to get adventurous, why not just make your own harissa? This recipe calls for grilled red bell peppers, red chilies, smoked paprika, caraway seeds, and lemon juice. You should be able to get all of that at a grocery store or Amazon, then bring it home and toss it in a food processor. The spiciness you crave will still be there with this harissa recipe.

2. Chili Paste

Pepper Scale recommends using a different chili paste in place of harissa for spicy food that calls for the North African chili pepper paste. "Sambal oelek is perfect as a substitute since it is solely chilies with a small amount of vinegar, water, and salt," the site says. They recommend adding a spice blend from your cabinet to "layer in at least some of the harissa experience." You can add in ancho peppers, cayenne, or even guajillo dried chilies for a spicier, more traditional harissa powder.

3. Chopped Red Chili and Caraway Seeds

Stone Soup recommends chopping up your own red chilies with caraway seeds and olive oil, adding that leaving the seeds in the mix will give it a "stronger kick." You can add this pop of freshness to couscous, hummus, and other delicious Moroccan or Mediterranean dishes.

4. Sriracha

Pepper Scale says sriracha also works in place of the pepper paste from North Africa. The site notes that adding in spices will help thicken the sriracha. This will make it more like the consistency of a pepper or tomato paste. Pepper Scale recommends this over red pepper flakes, which share very little in common with harissa paste. If you love sriracha, gochujang, a fermented Korean hot sauce, can also work in a pinch.

5. Hot Sauce

It's not really the same, but a basic hot sauce can work to replace harissa in a pinch. It probably wouldn't fly somewhere where the ingredient is popular like Tunisia, but for your masala egg roast at home, it can work.