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May 3, 2021 by D.Fathia
Updated May 3, 2021

Is Tunisian harissa a hot sauce?

 Is Tunisian harissa a hot sauce?

Harissa is one of the most controversial foods to talk about. Most people still have no idea what Tunisian harissa is, while others confuse it with chili powder. Even people who do know what this food actually is, still get confused with the various recipes that began to spread.

Harissa is not really an ethnic food; it is more of regional food. This is due to the fact that even though it has first been prepared by Tunisians, or at least brought along with Moriscos and inherited to the Tunisian people, it has later spread in all North African countries. Each country made its own changes to the original recipe trying to appropriate the dish.

Adding to the dilemma, Tunisians named a type of sweet food harissa! Tunisians are huge fans of this condiment and they use it virtually in all of their dishes so this should be much of a surprise. Now, we have two varieties: hot harissa and sweet harissa!

Since the hot variety is the one known globally, I will be talking more about it in this post.

Harissa sauce: the scorching condiment

If you happened to be in Tunisia one day and you decide to give harissa a try, then you should be very specific in your order. Unless you are in fast food shop that only serves salty plates, you cannot leave the decision to the waiter. If you don’t specify your order then you might end up having a yellow piece of sweets leaking of honey and garnished with nuts. And you might just believe that to be true harissa if you haven’t been familiar with it.

Even if you can try searching for the term harissa while your IP address is specific to Tunisia, then you will have two results; a hot or a sweet one. So is harissa hot sauce?

The first authentic label referred to harissa as the hot sauce. Harissa's ingredients are chili peppers, obviously, garlic, cumin, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, and salt of course. The peppers used are usually fresh baklouti chilies. However, many people would use dried peppers. For a mixed flavor, you can always use both. For the ultimate prize, we pour olive oil on the blend. Harissa and olive oil are the best companions. Olive oil would soothe the scorching heat of chili peppers a bit. Besides, it adds flavor to the mixture.

These are the authentic original harissa ingredients. However, since peppers are the main ingredient, some people will probably be asking is harissa the same as red pepper sauce?

Well, most people I think are familiar with red pepper sauce as an alternative to tomato sauces for pizza and the like. However, it is nothing like harissa. Trust me you would know if you have tried to use harissa sauce for pizza instead of tomato or red pepper sauce.

The latter is a recipe that includes roasted red peppers, butter, dried basil, garlic, black pepper, and heavy cream. This recipe is a great alternative to tomato sauce for marinara, pizzas, and much more. It is perfect for people allergic or not favoring tomatoes. It can be a simple perfect change as well.

Tunisian harissa: Sweet harissa

If it was up to the Tunisians they would name everything they cook harissa. We have a sweet recipe of the same name that is widely popular and easy to prepare. It is so easy that it can be prepared in no more than twenty to twenty-five minutes. That’s why it is a convenient option for when you are having unexpected guests.

Ingredients are:

  • 2 cups of semolina
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 baking powder
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Half a cup of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of rose water or orange blossom water
  • 1 cup of sugar

The preparation method is really simple. You just need to mix all the ingredients as if you are preparing a cake. Then put it in the oven for about twenty minutes. If the oven is too hot, then you can judge time by yourself. Once it is red on top and perfectly balanced, take off the oven and pour already prepared sugar syrup on top. The syrup is simply a cup of sugar mixed with a cup of water and a tablespoon of lemon juice; it needs to be cooked for a while.

If you want the advice of someone who used to be a fan of both, I will say that the hot sauce is now my ultimate favorite spice. I mean, the sweet variety is good, but if you are trying to lose weight then you should probably stay away from it; the hot condiment on the other hand helps your metabolism burn more fat. Go for the hot Tunisian harissa and you will not regret it.


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