Best Harissa Powder Substitute (+ More Alternatives)

Need a harissa powder substitute? Look no further! This comprehensive guide offers easy harissa seasoning substitutes, including a simple harissa spice blend, shop-bought replacements and non-spicy alternatives.

Spicy harissa powder has a complex flavour that can elevate any meal, but it may not always be easy to find in your local grocery store. Or maybe you are in search of a non-spicy harissa alternative instead?

Whatever the reason, we’ve got you covered!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore a variety of alternatives, from homemade harissa spice blends to other exotic spice mixes that will allow you to create mouthwatering dishes without traditional harissa powder. 

A bowl of harissa powder substitute (a simple ground spice blend) and a small teaspoon.

What is harissa powder?

North African harissa is typically available in three forms. It is best known as the fragrant harissa paste – a condiment made from red peppers or rehydrated dried chiles blended with toasted spices (like cumin, coriander and caraway), garlic and olive oil. 

But there is also harissa sauce (a spicy ready-to-use sauce) and harissa powder (a dry harissa spice blend). 

Harissa powder (also harissa spice or seasoning) is a blend of spices and dried chiles with a flavour profile similar to harissa paste. Hence the name dry harissa.

It is delicious sprinkled over any meal, from jammy eggs to avocado toast. Add it to soups and stews. Or mix it into a harissa paste by rehydrating the dry harissa with water and olive oil.

Once you’ve made your harissa powder (or substitute), try this easy recipe to turn harissa powder into harissa paste for the best harissa paste substitute.

The best harissa powder substitutes

Harissa adds fiery flavour to any meal, from soups and stews to roasted vegetables and couscous. Or use your harissa powder to make an easy fragrant harissa paste substitute.

You can make authentic harissa powder with a handful of basic ingredients. You’ll need a spice grinder, some dried chiles, whole cumin, caraway and coriander seeds with ground paprika and garlic powder. It’s the real deal, and it only takes a few minutes.

But what if you’re in a pinch without a spice grinder and no harissa powder on your local grocery store shelves? No worries! We’ve got you! 

These easy dry harissa substitutes will save the day and keep your taste buds tingling. Discover the perfect harissa powder substitute to suit your needs and spice preference:

  1. Homemade harissa spice blend (the best harissa powder substitute)
  2. Dried chilli pepper with cumin (a great harissa powder alternative)
  3. Smoked paprika and cumin (non-spicy alternative)
  4. Berbere spice blend
  5. Ras el hanout

1. Homemade harissa spice blend (best harissa powder substitute)

It’s easy to make an authentic harissa powder at home by grinding whole toasted peppers and spices into a powder. But if you don’t have a spice grinder or the right spices, this pre-ground spice blend is the best dry harissa substitute.

Simply mix these spices to make roughly six tablespoons of harissa powder substitute:

  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
A small plate, viewed from above, with the different spices that goes into a harissa spice blend.

You can also add ground caraway for an even more authentic flavour if you have any. 

Adjust the spice level to suit your preference. You can easily double the cayenne pepper for a hot harissa powder substitute. Or use a milder red pepper for less heat, like Aleppo pepper, gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper) or Kashmiri chilli powder. Find more ground cayenne pepper substitutes to try.

The texture will be different if you use red pepper flakes instead of chilli powder. But the flavour will be similar.

Store your homemade harissa spice blend in an airtight container. And use it as a direct substitute for store-bought harissa powder in recipes. You can use it to make an easy harissa paste substitute.

Check out this post on homemade harissa powder for ways to use your easy harissa seasoning replacement.

A horizontal image of a bowl with the simple harissa powder substitute consisting of cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, garlic powder and salt.

2. Dried chilli pepper with cumin

Chilli powder with cumin is the easiest harissa spice alternative for the limited pantry. Use any dried chilli flake or powder combined with ground cumin and a pinch of salt for an easy harissa powder substitute.

Mix a tablespoon of chilli powder with a teaspoon of ground cumin and a pinch of salt for an excellent harissa spice substitute. And for a milder version, you can swap half the chilli powder for sweet or smoked paprika. Always taste and adjust to your preference.

If your chilli flakes are very coarse, you can blitz them in a spice grinder for a finer powder. But if you’re using the harissa in soup or stew, the coarse texture won’t be a problem. 

Try these dried chillies combined with cumin and salt as a substitute for harissa spice:

Cayenne pepper:

It makes a great substitute when you’re after a hot harissa powder. But keep in mind that cayenne pepper is very spicy, so start with half the amount required by your recipe. Then adjust the flavours to taste or balance the heat with smoked paprika or sweet paprika.

Scoville scale: 30,000 to 50,000 SHU

Aleppo pepper:

This Middle Eastern spice offers a moderate heat and a fruity, earthy flavour that works well as a harissa powder substitute when combined with the earthy flavour of cumin. It has the perfect level of heat for this two-ingredient harissa alternative.

Scoville scale: 10,000 SHU

Chipotle powder:

These smoked and dried jalapeño peppers are a fantastic harissa powder substitute that adds both heat and smokiness to your dishes. While the flavour profile is different, the chipotle powder will provide a similar depth of flavour when combined with cumin. 

Scoville scale: 2,500 to 8,000 SHU

Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes): 

The dried Korean chilli pepper has a sweet and slightly smoky flavour. Its spiciness ranges from mild to moderately hot. Keep this in mind and adjust the amount of gochugaru according to your desired spice level.

Scoville scale: 1,500 SHU to 10,000 SHU

Kashmiri chilli powder

Kashmiri chilli powder originates from the Kashmir region in India. It has a beautiful deep red colour. But don’t let the red-hot colour fool you. It’s quite mild with fruity, smoky undertones that add gentle heat.

Use Kashmiri chilli powder for a vibrant red harissa spice substitute with milder heat.

Scoville scale: 1,000 SHU to 2,000 SHU

Use your chilli powder and cumin mix as a direct substitute for harissa powder. But take caution with the cayenne pepper mix that can be quite hot.

3. Smoked paprika and cumin (non-spicy harissa powder alternative)

Combine smoked paprika and cumin to create a simple yet flavourful non-spicy harissa powder alternative

Mix two parts of smoked paprika with one part of cumin powder and a pinch of salt.

It is an excellent non-spicy alternative to harissa spice. But if you want some heat, you can always add a pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste). You can also add garlic powder for a savoury flavour boost. 

Use this spice blend as a 1:1 substitute for harissa powder.

4. Berbere spice blend

Berbere is an Ethiopian spice blend with warm, earthy flavours. The ingredients in Berbere spice vary. But it typically includes dried chilli peppers, paprika, salt, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, cardamom, ginger, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and nutmeg.

While the taste is not identical, you can use berbere as a direct substitute for harissa powder to add a spicy kick to your dish.

5. Ras el hanout

Ras el hanout is also a North African spice blend. It means head of the shop in Arabic. And the exact spice mix varies across shops in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, but it typically contains aromatic and warm spices such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cardamom. 

The spice blend can also contain chilli and black pepper, but it is not as hot as harissa spice.

Use ras el hanout as a less spicy direct substitute for harissa powder, or adjust the spice level with a few pinches of cayenne pepper.

A bowl of harissa powder with a small spoon surrounded by dried chilies and spices.

Frequently asked questions

What can I use instead of harissa spice?

Use a mix of chilli flakes (like Aleppo pepper), ground cumin and a pinch of salt for an easy substitute. Or swap the chilli flakes for smoked paprika if you prefer a non-spicy alternative for harissa seasoning.

Is harissa similar to paprika?

Harissa powder and paprika are not the same, but they share some similarities. Both contain ground chilli peppers, but harissa is spicier and has additional spices like cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds, giving it a more complex flavour.

Is harissa similar to garam masala?

Harissa and garam masala are different spice blends. Harissa originates from North Africa and contains chilli peppers, cumin, and other spices. Garam masala is an Indian spice blend containing warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

What is harissa seasoning made of?

Harissa seasoning contains a blend of hot chilli peppers, cumin, coriander, caraway seeds, and sometimes garlic. It is a dry spice mix that can be a dry rub, seasoning, or mixed with oil or water to create harissa paste.

Is harissa powder the same as chili powder?

Harissa powder and chilli powder are not the same. Harissa powder is a spicy North African blend of chilli peppers and spices like cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds. Chili powder is a mix of ground chilli peppers and spices often used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. 
Chili powder can also refer to a single type of chili in powder form, but the correct term for such a powder in the US is chile powder.

A bowl of harissa powder substitute (a simple ground spice blend) and a small teaspoon.

Harissa Powder Substitute

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It’s easy to make an authentic harissa powder at home by grinding whole toasted peppers and spices into a powder. But, if you don’t have a spice grinder or the required ingredients, this harissa powder substitute made from ground spices will deliver all the harissa spice flavours you need.
Recipe byAdri
Servings6 tablespoons
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper *
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Mix the ground spices in a small bowl and transfer the spice blend to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dark spot for up to 6 months.

Notes

  • Add more cayenne pepper for a spicier harissa powder, or swap for a milder chilli like Aleppo pepper, gochugaru or Kashmiri for less spicy harissa seasoning. Omit the chilli powder for a non-spicy alternative for harissa spice.
  • You can also add ground caraway for an even more authentic flavour if you have any, but it is not widely available in grocery stores.

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