Lovers of the traditional flavors found in Middle Eastern cuisines know of harissa powder and its lip-smacking spiciness. It’s made from hot chili peppers, red roasted peppers, Serrano peppers, Baklouti peppers, and other spices like cumin, caraway seeds, and garlic. And it comes with a sweet and smoky flavor but is also very hot.
Uses of Harissa Powder
Harissa powder is essential in Libyan, Tunisian, and many North African recipes. But you’ll also find it used in Middle Eastern cuisines to give distinctive tastes to dishes. And it’s used in different ways such as;
- As sprinkles for kebabs and barbecues.
- In savory and spicy baked goods, like pizzas
- As a rub, it’s sprinkled in olive oil and used for meat and fish.
- As a flavor base in dips
Harissa powder is often used to give the traditional feel and authentic taste to soups, stews, and other dishes. It’s always recommended for any spicy recipe and can also be sold as a paste.
Harissa Powder Substitutes
This unique and vital spice is highly sought after and listed as part of many recipes. But harissa powder has been proven not always to be readily available, though some even find it too spicy. Then, there’s the issue of running out of the spice and not meeting the recipe’s instructions. Whatever the situation, other spices with a similar flavor as harissa powder can be used. And below are some options;
This spice blend is perfect for replacing harissa powder, and it consists of chilies with a bit of vinegar and salt. The mixture is an ideal substitute because it’s like an open book and easy to manipulate. Sambal Oelek, unlike harissa powder, is only mildly hot and won’t give your dish that commanding spiciness. But like mentioned above, it’s easy to manipulate, and you can add other spices such as caraway seed, coriander, and cumin. The extra ingredients can help change its flavor profile to suit your recipe. And you can call this replacement “harissa in sambal clothing.”
This option is another excellent substitute for harissa powder, maybe more fantastic as it brings more spiciness. Sriracha is a hot sauce that comprises chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. And considering its ingredient combination, it’s very close to harissa powder in the flavor profile. Sriracha hot sauce offers about 90%of harissa powder’s composition with a higher heat level. As such, you might want to be minimal in applying Sriracha in place of harissa powder. So, consider using half of it to replace it in your cooking.
Ras el Hanout
This spice blend comprises around a dozen other spices and is dominantly used in African and Middle Eastern cuisines. It’s a perfect spice blend that brings flavor, color, and lots of heat to the table. Ras el Hanout consists of chili peppers, coriander seeds, fenugreek, peppercorn, paprika mace, nutmeg, and turmeric. And you’ll also find flavorful players like cloves, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, and cardamom in the mix. This myriad of ingredients ensures that Ras el Hanout doesn’t unbalance your recipe’s taste. So, when applied in small quantities to your dish (start with ¼ teaspoon), you’ll have more than a perfect replacement for harissa powder.
This substitute is another African spice blend, but unlike harissa powder, it’s from the horn of Africa rather than the northern part. It has a similar flavor profile and contains almost all the ingredients in harissa powder, including cumin and chili peppers. It’s also a flexible spice blend and varies from region to region, as should any typical traditional spice blend. This variation helps you satisfy your curiosity, as you can add other ingredients or spices to increase or decrease its effects. This fluid nature of Berbere spice makes it a perfect equal substitute for harissa powder.
Those who know tandoori chicken would know this spice, as tandoori masala is primarily famous for this recipe. It’s made up of red pepper, cumin, coriander, and garlic, and the pepper is where it gets its bright red color and heat. Its ingredient composition is similar to harissa powder, so it works in all recipes. But unlike harissa powder, it’s an Indian spice and not African. Regardless, tandoori masala is still a great and equal replacement for harissa powder in various dishes.
Though harissa powder is synonymous with African and Middle Eastern cuisines, chili powder still works as an ideal substitute. But picture this, a spice made in America, by combining the majority of the herbs from Latin America as a replacement? Yeah, it sounds ludicrous but works wonders. Chili powder has a similar flavor profile, as it contains familiar ingredients like cumin and dried pepper. But it’s best in recipes that need small amounts of harissa powder. Still, you can add red pepper flakes or a little bit of cayenne pepper to push its spiciness closer to the original thing. And because chili powder is easy to find around us, you can use it as a quick harissa powder substitute,
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I use harissa paste to replace the powder?
Yes, you can. Harissa paste is the same composition as the powder, except for the presence of oil or water. So, for anyone who knows what to do, proper application of the paste will work in place of powder.
What does harissa powder taste like?
Harissa powder is a fountain of flavors from the complex arrangement of its ingredients. It’s hot, sweet, smoky, and fruity at the same time. It can only vary in minor details, as does every traditional spice.
Harissa is a distinct traditional spice used as part of many African and Middle Eastern dishes. Detail-oriented cooks and chefs would want the exact thing for these recipes, but you can’t always find one. Still, you can achieve an exotic flavor effect in your recipes with the other alternatives provided above.