Middle Eastern Spices (Ultimate Guide)

Middle Eastern Spices

The warm flavors of Middle Eastern spices are well worth learning about and including in your cooking.

Spices have, of course, been used for culinary, and medicinal purposes for centuries.

So important, in fact, the ancient Egyptians even used spices in the mummification process.

The Middle East became a big hub for spices, given the Silk Road trading route passed through its center. 

The oldest known spice is cinnamon, often used in Middle Eastern cuisine, commonly blended with cumin, coriander and pepper.

Spice blends like ras el hanout, and seven spices are commonly used in North African and Levantian foods, respectively.

These ground spice mixes will include spices such as cinnamon, clove, coriander, and allspice, to name a few.

Even cardamom seeds are ground along with coffee beans for an added warm flavor.

The Spices

middle eastern spices

Aleppo Pepper

aleppo pepper
Cerez Pazari Aleppo Pepper Moderate Heat | 5.29 oz – 150 gr | Crushed Turkish Red Chili Pepper-Aleppo Chili Flakes,Maras Chili Pepper | Halaby Pepper | Syrian Pepper | Middle Eastern Red Pepper | Product of Turkey
  • VEGAN and KETO-FRIENDLY: Aleppo Pepper is great for vegan and paleo diets as well as for BBQ rubs, this spice seasoning will be a perfect part of any BBQ gift set. Clean eating doesn’t mean meals have to be tasteless and boring. Add Aleppo Pepper to all your dishes and heat every bite.
  • FLAVOR: Aleppo Pepper has a bright flavor with moderate heat balanced by light fruity raisin-like notes and a salty undertone. Like salt, Aleppo-style pepper is a flavor enhancer. It marries slow-building heat with earthy, cumin-y undertones and a little hit of fruity tang—and yes, it’s as tasty as it sounds. Good Aleppo-style pepper is flaky, semi-oily, and has a rich red color. It should smell bright and fruity. Aleppo Pepper is All Natural, Vegan, No MSG, Non GMO, Gluten Free.

Aleppo in Arabic is Halab, and so this pepper is also known as Halaby pepper, or Aleppo pepper.

Related Recipe:  Zaatar Salad

It is a burgundy chile and a type of Capsicum annuum, it is about half as hot as other pepper flakes.

USED IN: Meat dishes.

Anise

anise

Known as Aniseed, it is native to the eastern Mediterranean and is part of the Apiaceae family.

Used medicinally as tea to reduce bloating, and congestion, it is known for helping with sleep. It has the flavor of fennel and liquorice.

USED IN: Broths, soups, meat dishes and some desserts

Baharat

baharat

Baharat simply means spices in Arabic. This is not one spice, but a blend that will vary slightly depending where you are in the Middle East.

You will most likely get a variety of paprika, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, and coriander.

USED IN: Meat, fish, vegetables, soups, rice

Caraway Seeds

caraway seeds
McCormick Gourmet Organic Caraway Seed, 1.62 oz
  • McCormick Gourmet Organic Caraway Seed imparts a warm, slightly biting taste
  • Our sourced caraway seed is certified Organic and non GMO
  • Essential ingredient in homemade rye bread and soda bread
  • Use in European dishes, including goulash, borscht and sauerkraut
  • Livens up green beans, squash and root vegetables

Caraway seed has a flavor that is a cross between aniseed and cumin but less potent.

Related Recipe:  Fattoush Salad (Fresh, Crisp & Delicious)

It can improve digestion, reducing bloating and flatulence. The probiotic effect encourages growth of good flora in the intestines.

USED IN: Vegetable dishes and for making cheese

Cardamom

Simply Organic Cardamom, Certified Organic, Non-GMO | 2.82 oz | Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton
  • CARDAMOM SEED POWDER – Simply Organic Organic Cardamom comes from ground fruit seeds from the cardamom plant (Elettaria cardamomum). Cardamom is considered to be one of the world’s oldest spices. It is often called the ‘queen of spices’ alongside the ‘king of spices’, black pepper.
  • SWEET AND AROMATIC – Simply Organic Cardamom contains no seed pods. It is aromatic with an intense, slightly sweet-and-spicy flavor that works great with potatoes, beans, meat dishes, curry, bread, tea, coffee, and more!

Cardamom has a very pleasant, warm, almost minty flavor that is most often used by grinding the seeds.

Chewing on the whole pod acts as a mouthwash, cleansing the breath.

USED IN: Arabic coffee, and many different types of dishes, usually as part of several spices.

Cinnamon

cinnamon
McCormick Culinary Ground Cinnamon, 18 oz – One 18 Ounce Container of Pure Ground Cinnamon Powder Perfect for Professional Use and Baking Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Custards, and Puddings
  • RESTAURANT QUALITY: McCormick Culinary Ground Cinnamon is a culinary-grade, pure ground cinnamon perfect for back-of-house use in restaurants and bakeries; this finely ground cinnamon spice comes in 18-ounce containers, so you’ll always have plenty on hand
  • ROBUST FLAVOR: This ground cinnamon powder has a sweet and warm flavor and a beautiful, earthy color; as one of the oldest spices, cinnamon appears in both sweet and savory recipes from around the world
  • CAREFULLY SOURCED: McCormick Culinary Ground Cinnamon is carefully sourced from a controlled global supply chain to ensure you receive a spice that delivers consistent, pure flavor; each plastic bottle includes a shrink wrap seal

Aside from the many health benefits, cinnamon is widely used in Middle Eastern food for its sweet and aromatic properties.

Related Recipe:  Sumac Sautéed Mushrooms and Onions

It comes from the inner bark of a tree and is indigenous to India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh and known as ‘true cinnamon.

USED IN: It is included in many dishes, freshly ground, or as whole sticks to flavor broths. several spices.

Cloves

cloves
Simply Organic Ground Cloves, Certified Organic | 2.82 oz | Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. & L.M. Perry
  • GROUND CLOVES – Intensely aromatic and richly flavorful, Simply Organic Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) are hand-selected for high oil content. They are most often used for pickling, flavoring hot drinks and spicing meats.
  • ADAPTABLE INGREDIENT – Cloves are useful for various purposes, but are best known for their use in pickling, marinating, and spicing. Cloves are also a great addition to seasoning blends, alongside cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Use them in your cooking for an intense, enhanced flavor.
  • ORGANIC FROM SRI LANKA – Our ground cloves are grown and harvested in Sri Lanka, and are hand-selected for quality and taste. This product is certified organic, kosher, and non-irradiated.

Cloves are indiginous to Indonesia, and are the aromatic flower buds of a tree.

This is another very fragrant, sweet tasting spice that is most often used in combination with other spices.

USED IN: Used widely around the world from mulled wines to cookies and everything in between.

Related Recipe:  Kibbeh Nayeh (Raw Seasoned Ground Lamb)

Coriander

coriander
Simply Organic Ground Coriander Seed, Certified Organic | 2.29 oz | Coriandrum sativum L.
  • CORIANDER – Nothing but pure, high-oil-content, organic coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum), ground for ideal use. No GMOs. No ETO (considered carcinogenic by the EPA). Not irradiated. Certified Organic by QAI. Kosher Certified by KSA. Rich, warm, earthy yet fruity flavor. Luscious, textured, medium-brown color. Warm, bright aroma with slight citrus undertones. (But nothing like cilantro, which is the leaf of the same plant.)
  • ADAPTABLE INGREDIENT – Simply Organic Ground Coriander is great for giving your dishes a fresh aroma and a hint of citrus. Coriander is the perfect addition to Indian and Mexican cuisine, but it can also be used in just about anything else. Add it to chili or sour cream, and use it to enhance your cookies and cakes!

The fresh plant is known as Cilantro in the US, it is an annual herb. Both the fresh leaves, and dried seeds are used.

The fresh leaves have a fragrant citrus flavor whereas the seeds have a warm, nutty and spicy flavor.

USED IN: Okra stew, salads, salsa or even in mashed potatoes.

Cumin

cumin
Badia Spices inc Spice, Cumin Seed Ground, 16-Ounce, Yellow Multi (087881)
  • A complex flavor of earth, warmth and bitterness with a pungent aroma
  • no Artificial Flavors
  • no preservatives
  • Perfect for meat, poultry, and vegetables
  • Allergen information: banana_free

Cumin is a bold spice and comes from a flowering plant that is native to the Middle East.  Its flavor is warm, nutty, earthy with hints of lemon.

USED IN: Blends of spices (for savory dishes like chicken shawarma), fish dishes, and very good with lentils.

Related Recipe:  Homemade Grilled Beef Shawarma Recipe

Ginger

ginger
Anthony’s Organic Ground Ginger Root, 1 lb, Gluten Free, Non GMO, Keto Friendly
  • USDA Certified Organic Ginger Root Powder
  • Batch Tested & Verified Gluten Free
  • No additives with an intense aroma, and great taste
  • Delicious In Taste, Perfect for Ground Ginger Recipes
  • Organic, Non-GMO, Non-Irradiated, Vegan – Just Ground Ginger!

Ginger is a flowering plant in which the root is used for culinary or medicinal purposes. Long known for its ability to help with digestion, it is also used to lessen muscle soreness from exercise. The flavor is warm, spicy and peppery.

USED IN: Meat and fish dishes as well as rice and salad.

Mahlab

mah;ab
Cerez Pazari Ground Mahlab 60gr- 2.1oz-Mahlepi -Mahaleb -Mahlep -Mahleb Medium Bottle, %100 Natural, Premium Quality, No Additives or Preservatives, Aromatic Traditional Spice for Pastry and Baking
  • AROMATIC SPICE FOR DELICIOUS PASTRY AND BAKERIES : %100 Natural Ground Mahlab: Premium Quality, No Additives or Preservatives, Aromatic Traditional Spice for Pastry and Baking in Medium Pack 60 gr- 2.1 Oz and Easy to Use Flapper Spice Cap. This bottle is enough to use in at least 3 different recipes.
  • Mahlep is an aromatic spice made from a variety of cherry seed. It tastes a little bit like bitter almonds and cherries. In recent decades, it has been slowly entering mainstream cookbooks in English. In Greek American cooking, it is the characteristic flavoring of Christmas cake and pastry recipes. In Greece, it is called Mahlepi and is used in egg-rich yeast cakes and cookies such as Christmas vasilopita and Easter tsoureki breads.

Mahlab has a complex flavor palette, with a hint of almond, vanilla, roses, and cherries.

But this glorious start is followed by a very bitter aftertaste. To counter this mahlab is used in cooking.

USED IN: Cookies, breads and other Middle Eastern sweets.

Mastic

mastic


Chios Mastiha Pack 25gr (0.88oz) Medium Tears Gum 100% Natural Mastic Gum From Mastic Growers Fresh
  • Mastiha gum, Masticha, mastica, mastix or mastixa.mastic gum is unique in the world! Real mastic is only produced in the south part of Chios Island. It comes from the mastic tree. Chios gum Masticha is hand cleaned piece by piece. It is rare and unique, full of miraculous properties that made Hios mastic gum so much sought after.
  • Mastiha gradually loses its colour and after a long time it can appear yellowish or even yellow, something which is clearly due to its oxidation. Keeping it refrigerated (ideally) can slow down this process. But even when oxidized, it is absolutely safe despite being degraded.

Also known as Gum Arabic, and Miska in Arabic, it is the resin of the mastic tree that is a predecessor to our modern chewing gum and something humans chewed on to improve their breath.

It has a flavor of pine and cedar, and is sun dried to produce small hard bits of resin that are then ground up.

USED IN: Bread and desserts.

Mint

mint
Mint Leaves (Crushed) 1 Pound Bulk Bag-Mentha
  • High Quality Dried Chopped Mint Leaves
  • Mentha-Guaranteed Fresh and High Quanlity-Heat Sealed and then Double Sealed
  • VALUE SIZE One Pound (16 Oz) bulk bag NatureJam brand, Enough to last for a while
  • COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Egypt-Great with meats, fruit desserts, specialty drinks and teas etc. excellent for garnish
  • Enhance your culinary experience with hearty flavor, bold taste and vibrant aroma

Mint has a sweet and cooling flavor that can be quite strong.

Both peppermint and spearmint have menthol in them, with peppermint having the higher content. Mint is very good in relieving indigestion and gas, by speeding digestion.

USED IN: Salads, yogurt, sauces.

Nigella Seed

nigella seed
Cerez Pazari Nigella Seeds, Black Cumin Seeds (Nigella Sativa) 6.7 oz Premium Grade, %100 Natural, Freshly Packed, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, No Preservatives
  • ALL NATURAL,VEGAN AND KETO-FRIENDLY: Nigella sativa commonly known as black seed or black cumin, has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It originated from Southeastern Asia and was also used in ancient Egypt, Greece, Middle East, and Africa..Still in our modern world it has been used in several vegan recipes and ketogenic diets.
  • BENEFITS: Flavour and aroma aside, the tiny black seed comes with a whole lots of health benefits. It’s loaded with trace elements, vitamins, crystalline nigellone, amino acids, saponin, crude fiber, proteins and fatty acids like linolenic and oleic acids, volatile oils, alkaloids, iron, sodium, potassium and calcium. It keeps your heart healthy, addresses breathing problem, lubricates your joints etc.

The Nigella Seed has a bitter and peppery taste, and in the Middle East is used in cooking, bread and cheese making, as well as taken directly in the form of a ground up seed paste for medicinal purposes.

It has many purported health benefits such as reducing inflammation, and controls bacteria and parasites in the gut.

Ras El Hanout

ras el hanout
Eat Well Ras El Hanout – 4 oz | Premium Moroccan Spice Blend | Aromatic Blend of Spices for Cooking | Mixed Spice Meat Seasoning | Gluten Free | 100% Pure Natural Ingredients | in Shaker Pot
  • RAS EL HANOUT MOROCCAN SPICE MIX: A traditional, aromatic blend of spices, common in North African cooking and features especially heavily in Moroccan cuisine. Warm, woody, bitter and sweet taste
  • PREMIUM QUALITY 12 SPICE BLEND: Features coriander, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, sea salt, paprika, all spice and turmeric. Perfect for marinades and tagines

This is a blend of spices that translates as the ‘best the shop has to offer’. In the old days this sometimes meant a mixture made up of as many as 50 spices. Today it is more in the range of nine spices.

There can be regional variations as to the spices included. Generally they include cumin, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, coriander and cloves.

USED IN: Meat or vegetable dishes from North Africa.

Saffron

saffron
Organic Saffron – Banu Saffron Award Winning all Red Certified Organic Saffron Threads – 1 Gram (0.035 Ounce)
  • 🍀 All Red Organic Saffron Threads , no waste and no yellow part
  • 🍀 Great Taste 2022 Award winning Saffron for Outstanding and beyond delicious Saffron
  • 🍀 All our Organic Saffrons are tested using ISO 3632 Compliant
  • 🍀 Great to use In Tea or dishes such as Rice, Paella, Risotto, Chicken, Curries…
  • 🍀 Packed in Glass Jars for lasting Freshness and Aroma

Saffron threads are collected from the saffron crocus, and have a beautiful deep red color.

The most expensive spice by weight, saffron is widely used in Middle Eastern cooking. It has a delicate floral flavor, with hints of honey.

USED IN: Rice dishes, soups and seafood dishes.

Sage

sage
(Pack of 3)-Yerbero – Premium 4 Inches Long California White Sage. 3 Hand Tied Bundles Smudging Kit for Home Cleansing, Meditation. Purifying Ceremonial Ritual
  • Yerbero 3 Roll White Sage Smudging Bundle – White sage is considered by many to be a “sacred herb”. They say that the smell of white sage is feared by evil spirits and they say that they flee from it.
  • Each Of Our Sage Rolls measures approximately 4 to 5 inches tall and 1 to 1.5 inches wide.

Sage is used to help treat many stomach ailments, and is used very often in the Middle East to make tea.

Shown to reduce bloating, heartburn, loss of appetite, and even diarrhoea it is the go to tea drink in the Arab world. It has a strong flavor with eucalyptus and citrus notes.

USED IN: Bean dishes, along with rice and salads.

Sumac

sumac
Badia Sumac Seasoning – 4.75 oz (Smoky Mediterranean Citrus flavors)
  • Flavour: Sour, fruity and astringent
  • Mediterranean smokey citrus flavors
  • Bouquet: Slightly aromatic.
  • Mediterranean areas
  • The Berries are Dried and Crushed to Form a Coarse Purple-Red Powder.

Sumac is an essential ingredient in Arabic cooking. It has a tangy lemon flavor but is more balanced and less sour than a lemon.

This bush is native to the Middle East where the berries are dried, ground and used in cooking.

USED IN: Marinades, rubs, salads, meat and vegetable dishes.

Turmeric

turmeric
HQOExpress | Organic Turmeric Powder w/natural Curcumin | USDA Certified & Lab Tested | 21 oz. Chef Jar
  • GROUND TUMERIC POWDER: Sourced from a plant in the ginger family, mildly spicy and deliciously aromatic organic turmeric contains all-natural curcumin which has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years
  • SPICY & AROMATIC: The golden spice is best known for adding irresistible color and flavor to curries, but ground tumeric can also be used to spice up soups, tagines, stews, dips and dressings; and why not try a cup of tumeric tea?
  • USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC: This 100% organic ground turmeric powder is USDA Certified, and is grown and processed without herbicides and pesticides for the highest level of safety and quality

Turmeric is related to the ginger family. The root is ground up to create a very vibrant spice that has many health benefits which can help prevent heart disease and cancer.

It is used as a way to give food a yellow/orange color. The taste is strong and somewhat pungent, with somewhat of a bitter aftertaste.

USED IN: Vegetable and rice dishes, along with smoothies.

Za’atar

zaatar
Badia Zaatar Mediterranean Seasoning Za’atar 4 oz Kosher GF
  • Za’atar (Zaatar) is a mixture of sumac, sesame seeds, spices used throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean for meats, hummus, yogurts or blend in with cream cheese.
  • Quality product from Badia

Za’atar is a blend of spices that includes a local species of wild oregano, which is often referred to as thyme as this variety is not found in other regions.

Salt, sumac, and sesame seeds are added to create a dip and rub. The flavor of the leaves of the plant is earthy, and woodsy, with an herbal finish. Lovely when eaten with olive oil.


Middle Eastern Spices

USED IN: As a dip, fresh in salads and some baked savory pastries.

Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Middle Eastern Cuisine: Lebanese food & Spices. ~ CHEF KNOWS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.