Here's What You Can Substitute For Harissa

Have you ever gone to the pantry only to see that an important recipe ingredient, like harissa, is missing? Instead of running to the store or placing an Instacart order, the pantry could hold a substitute for harissa. By thinking outside of the pre-packaged tube, that flavor can be made from scratch or another ingredient can be swapped. Bon Apetit describes the North African chili paste as a combination of chilis, olive oil, and spices. While versions vary, the ingredient often packs a flavor punch. But, there are other ways to create that flavor without the premade version from the pantry.

According to MyRecipes, that site recommends substituting "tablespoon of berbere, chile paste, or tabil (Tunisian spice paste)." While these suggestions are quite specific, the other recommendation is hot sauce. Although, hot sauce can elevate the spice level, the ingredients and hot sauce flavors might need to be weighed against the other items in the recipe. Just like not all harissas have the same spice level, neither do hot sauces.

The Stone Soup has a different harissa substitute solution. That site recommends "fresh chopped red chili and [caraway] seeds, chili oil, or even homemade harrissa." While all these options are good, it does require having those ingredients in the house. In the end, it seems that hot sauce might be the simple solution to substituting harissa in a recipe.

How do you make homemade harissa?

While many cooks grab that tube of harissa to use in their recipes, homemade harissa might be the flavor solution that makes a dish even more craveable. According to the PepperScale, "Harissa is well-spiced with layers of cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds along with other ingredients (like mint) depending on the recipe." 

While the chili pepper is the star, harissa is not complete without its supporting spices. In some ways, those ingredients allow the home cook to make a homemade harissa unique. Since the recipe is a collaboration of ingredients, it allows for customization. From a bolder heat to brightness from mint, varying the proportions can change the flavor. 

Although a custom harissa can be used on a variety of recipes, that homemade batch might not be used in one sitting. According to The Mediterranean Dish, it is best stored in a mason jar, with a seal-tight lid. Also, the publication recommends a little olive oil on top. With proper storage, the chili paste should last two to three weeks. Given the variety of uses for spicy condiment, the container might be empty sooner.