It seems that ever since news of the so-called “sriracha shortage” broke a couple of years ago, devotees of the spicy red-pepper sauce have been hoarding it in case the culinary skies fall. All the more reason “rooster sauce” fans should consider diversifying their condiment portfolios by including harissa, a more complex flavor cascade and—arguably—a more interesting sauce than sriracha.

Background. Endemic to North African cuisine, specifically in Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, harissa is an alchemy of smoky roasted red peppers, serranos and other hot chili peppers that are ground into a paste with aromatics and spices such as garlic, cumin, coriander and caraway. A finishing burst of lemon juice adds acid balance to the bite. As with most condiments, the eater can easily control the amount of heat by the size of dollop that goes into the dish.

Uses. If you’re a fan of either Tabasco or sriracha, sub in harissa the same way you’d use the other sauces. Try it on eggs; use it in marinades or as a side sauce for meat, chicken and fish dishes; use it as a prime ingredient in barbeque sauce; make it into a dip with yogurt or into a surprising aioli; drizzle it over grains as a dressing; boost the flavor of plain hummus by stirring in a tablespoon or two; or use it to dress up a pot of chili or soup. Be creative!

Do you enjoy harissa? Tell us what you like about it and how you use it: [email protected]

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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