Six of the best harissa pastes, tried and tested

Harissa pastes
From rose to apricot, which harissa paste packs the best punch?

From tabasco and sriracha to gochujang and nduja, we are in no short supply of fiery chilli sauces and pastes, each delivering its own flavour profile and heat level. But one version that has made its way into everything from morning scrambled eggs to one-pots, pies and pastries, is North Africa’s harissa paste.

The sauce, made typically from blending sun-dried chillies with garlic, cumin, caraway seeds and tomatoes (and sometimes rose petals), has an endless number of applications, from scooping into tagines, marinating meat and swirling through yogurt, to spreading on toast for supercharged egg and soldiers.

And as our love of the paste has grown, so too has the variety of flavours and intensities available to buy; even Waitrose produces its own rose harissa paste, while Mediterranean ingredients firm Belazu has raised the bar with an exotic-sounding apricot version. But which has the best balance of flavour and heat? We put six of the most popular to the test.

Waitrose Cooks Ingredients ruby rose harissa paste

£1.56 for 95g, Waitrose

This paste has the deepest hue, and a lovely smoky smell. Though it has a pleasant sweetness and the rose is detectable, it’s lacking in heat compared with the others. Good for a dip, but perhaps not for cooking with. 6/10

Al’fez rose harissa

£1.95 for 100g, Tesco

This one is more viscous than the other rose harissas, with a fresher, zippier smell. There’s definitely more chilli, and a lovely smokiness that lingers, but not quite the same fragrance present in the Waitrose rose harissa. Still, a good option for adding some oomph to your supper. 8/10

Terra Rossa Zhoug green harissa

£4.50 for 170g, souschef.co.uk

Zhoug, or green harissa, gets its mossy green colour from coriander and green chillies. The texture’s like a chunky salsa verde, and the taste is fresh, lemony and perfectly pitched in heat. Mix with yogurt for a marinade. 9/10

Moulins Mahjoub Tunisian Harissa

£3.59 for 185g, 
Planet Organic

Not for the faint-hearted, indicated by its near-fluorescent orange colour. It has an intensely savoury, almost grassy taste, but this is quickly drowned out by searing, ear-tingling heat. 7/10

Le Phare du Cap Bon harissa paste

£1.20 for 70g, souschef.co.uk

A tomato-paste-like consistency that’s made up of 87 per cent red hot pepper, with only garlic, coriander, caraway and salt added. Piquant to the point of bitterness, this paste is best used sparingly. 8/10

Belazu apricot harissa

£4.35 for 170g, Belazu

The thickest of the pastes, and certainly one of the most visually appealing. It delivers on flavour, too: a perfect balance of sweet, spice and smokiness, with a generous hit of chilli. Good job the jar is big, because it’s going on everything. 10/10