The Middle Eastern Spice Pantry

Much like India, the Middle East is a region where spices are used and celebrated on a daily basis.

It's interesting to note that black pepper isn't commonly used in the Middle East, whereas chiles are the primary agent of heat in a lot of dishes. The two most common chiles used in Middle Eastern cooking are Urfa and Aleppo, both of which are grown in the area. 

Spices and spice blends are so important in this cuisine that they're treated more like a whole ingredient rather than just a means of seasoning. For instance, the spice blend Za'atar is often a primary ingredient of the dishes it's used in, especially when used in raw applications. Rose petals and cinnamon are also used to supply sweetness to gamy meats like lamb.

image of middle eastern spices

Common Middle Eastern Spices

SUMAC

Used to add an acidic element to dishes.
Unlike citrus juice, the acidity does not fade when cooked.

ROSE

Floral, sweet, and slightly acidic notes.

Both dried rose petals and rose water are common ingredients in the Middle East.

ZA'ATAR

The herb is an essential ingredient in the namesake spice blend, Za'atar.

Savory, herbaceous, and warm scents with a sweet, bitter, and slightly salty flavor.

SAFFRON

Made from the dried stigma of the crocus flower and famous for being the world's most expensive spice.

Supplies a beautiful color and sweet-floral notes to grain dishes, soups, and stews. 

ALEPPO

Robust with fruitiness and earthy cumin and cayenne undertones with a mild heat.

A great example of how chiles can supply more than just heat; they can deliver sweet and acidic notes as well.

Essential Middle Eastern Spice Blends

ZA'ATAR

One of the most well-known Middle Eastern spice blends. Made with sumac, sesame seeds, and za'atar leaves (sometimes referred to as wild oregano). Za'atar is a savory blend that is great on almost anything.

  • Use to season a whole chicken before roasting.
  • Sprinkle on flatbread, like a pita, right after cooking.
  • Stir into salad dressing.

BAHARAT

The Arabic word for "spices", Baharat can be found all over the Middle East. Much like garam masala, the recipe for traditional Baharat varies from person to person. At La Boite, ours is made with allspice, cinnamon, and clove.

  • Sprinkle on diced sweet potatoes before roasting.
  • Add to a loaf cake for warm, deep flavor.
  • Use to season ground lamb for arayes. 

 

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