Tunisian Harissa vs. Sriracha: Which is Better?

Tunisian Harissa is just getting known in the USA, whereas Sriracha has been around for a while and is a staple in every American kitchen.  Both are an excellent spice condiment, but which is better?

A Hot Asian sauce from Thailand.

I will never forget the first time I tried Sriracha. I was with some of my Filipino friends and we were eating Korean food.  They told me to try the Sriracha, to put it on the rice and noodles.  I obliged and had my first experience with this Thai Hot Sauce. It was super-hot and had great flavor.  It accented the Asian dish perfectly.  For anyone that likes a good kick on their Asian food, they cannot go wrong with Sriracha. It is also great on chicken wings and fried foods. I know many people that mix it in their Raman noodles.

Harissa, a hot pepper paste is from Tunisia.  In Tunisia, it is referred to as “Red Gold” because it is the top export from Tunisia. The different regions of Tunisia have different variations, but it is the most common food item found in any Tunisian kitchen.  The Harissa from Southern Tunisia has more of a smoky flavor due to the peppers being smoked, but for the fiery Harissa, the gold standard, one must get the Harissa from Nabeul.

Harissa chili paste in a mortar and pestle, spice

Tunisian Harissa is a paste and it is made from various spices and garlic. Some of these spices are Cumin, Coriander, and Caraway.  It is a much healthier alternative to Sriracha.  It is mixed with olive oil, which is amazing for the heart and each one of its spices that are mixed in it have healthy properties as well.

In Tunisia people can either make their own Harissa, buy homestyle Harissa, or get factory Harissa.  The homestyle can come already prepared with the olive oil in it, or dried, and they just need to add olive oil.  It comes in three flavors, Medium; Hot; and Fire. When I say fire I mean fire. The Tunisians pride themselves on the fieriness of their food and do not consider a meal good unless your nasal passages are running.  In Tunisia the fieriness of food is a sign of love.  The fierier the food, the more the wife loves her husband.  If the food is no longer fiery the husband will ask his wife, “What? You don’t love me anymore”.

The homemade Harissa is used in cooking and is common in Couscous and meat dishes.  It is also commonly used in egg dishes.


La Phare Du Cap Bon Harissa

There is also the manufactured Harissa.  There are many brands in Tunisia, but one stands head and shoulders above all other brands, La Phare Du Cap Bon. This is the oldest brand of Harissa in Tunisia.  It is based in Grombalia, a small town in the state of Harissa.  This Harissa comes in either a tube or a can and is great on sandwiches and eggs. This brand of Harissa has been on Japanese Game Shows because of how spicy it is.  It is so hot that around the world they have a #HarissaChallenge competition where people make YouTube videos trying their brand of Harissa for the first time.

Both Sriracha and Harissa are great. They both are excellent condiments and serve their people well.  If people want a great addition to their Asian food, Sriracha is great.  However, Harissa has more uses and overall is just better.


Homemade Harissa from Nabeul, Tunisia
Authentic Homemade Harissa from Nabeul, Tunisia. This is the gold standard of Harissa that is the homestyle type.

Harissa can be mixed with salsa and be used as a dip or put on Mexican food. It can be mixed with olive oil and used as a dip for bread. It can be mixed with yogurt and turned into a cooking sauce.  The uses are immeasurable.

It might not be as known in the USA as Sriracha, but keep in mind that Sriracha was introduced to the USA in 1980. Harissa has only begun to be known in the past few years. Even Food and Wine Magazine named Harissa the new Sriracha in 2014.

Bambino’s Gourmet Kitchen has both homemade and factory Harissa from La Phare Du Cap Bon, so what are you waiting for?  Order yours today.  Are you up to the #HarissaChallenge?