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Mind-Blowing Comparison Between Harissa Vs Garam Masala

By Annie J. Kuykendall |

No one likes eating bland or tasteless food. Everyone wishes to have some kind of taste in their meal. For this, we have a distinctive place in our food for something which is called ‘spices’. Garam Masala and Harissa are the saviors for those who want to get rid of tasteless food and want to add some delight to their everyday meals. Both spices have different regions of origin, ingredients, taste, flavoring, and ways to use them. However, one thing that is common between these spices is that they both provide your dish with a delectable taste. There are other similarities between garam masala vs harissa as well. Stay with us, as we will be discussing “Mind Blowing Comparison Between Harissa vs Garam Masala”.

What is Harissa?

Harissa is a chili paste made with roasted red peppers and dried chili peppers along with a blend of garlic, lemon, salt, olive oil, and cumin. This spicy, smoky, peppery red chili paste hails from Tunisia, and it is common in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine.

Harissa is used in both pastes as well powdered forms. You can also make your own harissa paste at home, just by adding some oil and water to harissa powder.

There are several variants of this spice. Each one is used in different North African dishes. You can use harissa sauce as a dip for fries or munchies. Other than that, harissa can also be served as a topping for dishes made of chicken or fish. If you just wish to level up the taste of your food, adding some harissa could be your best choice.

Is Harissa an Indian Spice?

No, harissa is not an Indian spice. Harissa originates from North Africa, particularly from Tunisia. It is common in the North and Middle East African countries.

Another spice from North Africa is ras el hanout. Check out the comparison here: garam masala vs ras el hanout.

Unlike Indian spices, harissa got famous after the invasion of Spain on Tunisia in the 16th century. Today, it’s estimated that 25% of people around the globe consume harissa as a spice or a dip for their food.

Check out this interesting post to know more about harissa. 

What Does Harissa Taste Like?

Harissa has a very peppery, smoky flavor. It has a deep chili flavor along with a garlicky taste followed by citrus hints. You can use it as a substitute for red chili powder if you want a more spicy taste.

Harissa paste comes in a number of styles and flavors. It is best to taste different brands and choose which flavor suits your taste buds the best. You can also make your own harissa paste according to your taste buds by adding rose petals or caraway seeds.

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What Can Be Used As a Substitute For Harissa?

Some of the best substitutes for harissa are: 

  • Blend of fresh chopped red chili and caraway seeds- Take some finely chopped red chilies and add a pinch of caraway seeds along with some olive oil and blend them to make a pesto-like paste. You can also use coriander instead of caraway seeds. 
  • Chili oil- Chili oil can easily be made at home or can be bought from the market. It has a spicy taste similar to harissa sauce. 
  • Hot sauce- If you wish to achieve the exact same spiciness as harissa in your food, using any kind of hot sauce is the best option. 

What is Garam Masala?

Garam Masala is a mix of many spices which are used mostly in Indian cuisine. It originated in North India. The word garam means hot, and masala means spice. This spice blend is named garam masala because it provides warmth to the body when consumed.

The spices for garam masala are usually toasted to bring out more flavor and aroma and then ground. Spices that are used to make garam masala are generally mace, cumin seeds, cardamon, peppercorns, cinnamon, and coriander seeds.

However, there is no single recipe for garam masala, as it keeps changing from place to place. For example, garam masala in North India is not very spicy. But its spiciness keeps on increasing as you move towards the southern part of the country.

Normally, garam masala is available in powder form in North India and paste form in South India, where coconut milk, vinegar, or water is mixed in it.

Here’s a video of Chef Aarthi Sampath showing how to make garam masala at home. 

What Spice Can I Use Instead of Garam Masala?

If you are out of garam masala, then of course you can make your own if you have its ingredients in hand. But if you don’t have the proper amount of ingredients, then you can try the following substitutes for garam masala:

  • Curry Powder- You can use curry powder to get the same flavor as garam masala in your food.
  • Ground Cumin, Coriander, and Cardamom Blend- These spices are common ingredients included in garam masala. Although this blend won’t provide the exact same flavor as garam masala, it can still offer a nice flavor with a spicy and warm taste.

Wish to know more about garam masala? Check out this post! 

Is Harissa Like Garam Masala?

If we talk about the similarity between Harissa vs Garam Masala, it’s a clear fact that they both are not the same, as they both are prepared from different spices. Not only that, but the purpose of using garam masala is also a bit different than harissa.

Harissa is mainly used to increase the heat of food and make it spicier, whereas garam masala is added to our food to achieve deep flavor in our dishes.

Harissa can also be used as a substitute for chili sauce and is best for people who like eating spicy food. In comparison, garam masala is best for people who wish to experience rich taste in their food without increasing its spiciness.

What is the Difference Between Harissa and Garam Masala?

Now, let’s have a look at the difference between Harissa Vs Garam Masala.

HarissaGaram Masala
Place of origin- North Africa (Tunisia).

The main flavor is red chili. 

Mostly available in paste form. 

The level of heat can vary from normal to very high. 

It can have garlic and lemon as major components. 

Doesn’t provide warmth to our body. 

It can be served as a dip or sauce. 

Mainly come in use when you want to add spiciness to your food. 

Place of origin- India (North India).

Don’t have any superior flavor. 

Mostly available in powder form.

Comparatively, it is not so spicy. 

Garlic and lemon can never be a component of garam masala. 

Provide warmth to our body when consumed. 

It can be served only by getting added to the food while cooking. 

Used when you want a rich and great flavoring in your food. 

That was all about the mind blowing comparison between Harissa Vs Garam Masala. Checkout our other interesting comparisons on sambar masala vs garam masala, chaat masala vs garam masala and biryani masala vs garam masala.

Thank you for reading!

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Written by

Annie J. Kuykendall

Annie J. Kuykendall

Hey there! My name is Annie J. Kuykendall and I'm a 41-year-old Scorpio with a passion for globetrotting and whipping up delicious meals. When I'm not busy being a certified world traveler and master chef, you can find me indulging in my other passions: Netflix binges and procrastinating on household chores. In my former life, I was a civil engineer, but let's be real, that was just a cover for my true calling as a wannabe stand-up comedian. So if you're in need of a good laugh or some tasty recipe inspiration, you've come to the right place.

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