Middle Eastern Spice Blends

The Roland Foods Middle Eastern Spice Guide

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Middle Eastern Spice Blends That Should Be on Your Radar

The flavors and scents of the Middle East are among the most influential on the culinary scene right now, and for good reason. Herbs and spices hailing from this culturally rich corner of the globe are aromatic and complex, yet versatile and approachable for both home and restaurant cooks. But interest in these ingredients runs deeper than flashy restaurant openings. From za’atar to harissa, these flavors not only amp up the drama on Middle Eastern dishes that American diners have already come to know love, like hummus and falafel. They’re also excellent shapeshifters, popping up in American dishes from fried chicken to subway sandwiches.

Not sure which spices are a fit for your kitchen? Read on to learn more about the best of the bunch and how they might add some pep to your cooking routine.

za'atarHerbaceous and savory, there are few things that a sprinkle of za’atar doesn’t improve. A mix of dried herbs and spices such as sumac, cumin, sesame seeds, salt, and perhaps most critically, thyme—the Arabic word za'atar, literally translates to "thyme"—this spice blend is quintessential to Middle Eastern cuisines. The aromatic and earthy stuff is perfect as a garnish or a rub: Use it to anoint an appetizer of creamy labneh, a rich and tangy cheese that’s a spiritual cousin to Greek yogurt. It’s also great tossed on a plate of freshly-fried chicken for a taste of the Middle East by way of the American South.

sumacTart and citrusy, this blood-red spice is made from dried and crushed sumac berries. It imparts a tang similar to vinegar or lemon juice, and no surprise here, should be used similarly. It’s traditionally used as a garnish on top of hummus, green salads, rice pilaf, or meaty kebabs, but we also love it sprinkled on top of caramelized brussels sprouts or a creamy feta dip. It’s even fantastic for coating the rim of a citrusy cocktail.

dukkahA workhorse of a spice blend originally hailing from Egypt, dukkah is hearty mix of ground peanuts, sesame, and dried herbs. Its name comes from the Arabic word for “to pound,” and has an appealingly thick and crunchy texture that’s not quite a powder and not quite a paste. It’s stellar for building a thick crust on roasted lamb or beef; it only crisps up more in the oven. Dukkah is also a dream in the snack department: Toss a tablespoon of it atop movie popcorn or crispy fried chickpeas.

harissaLove heat? This vibrantly-hued, fiery spice is a crimson blend of sweet paprika, dried garlic, caraway seeds, salt, cumin, hot chili pepper, and a hint of vegetable oil. Originally from Tunisia, harissa is prized as a dry rub for tender grilled meats or a flavorful addition to long-simmered chicken tagines, a type of North African stew. But it’s also great in more Western fare like scrambled eggs at brunch or an eggplant and mozzarella hoagie.

saffronMade from the stigmas of crocus flowers, threads of saffron are among the most prized and priciest ingredients on Earth. But the good news is that a little goes a long way: A mere pinch is all you need to turn a simmering pot of rich, creamy risotto a golden-yellow hue and impart a delicate floral aroma. A favorite spice of the ancient Persians and Greeks, legend has it that Alexander the Great spiked his rice with saffron thinking it had curative properties. Just remember to soak the strands in warm water before using; it helps them better release their color and scent.

ShawarmaShawarma is a fragrant and earthy spice blend brightened up by citrusy coriander and sweet fenugreek. It is typically blended with yogurt, vinegar, garlic and onions and poured over thing slices of meat. Traditionally, the thin slices of meat are skewered over a long spit and grilled to juicy perfection.

Roland Mediterranean Spices

Featured Recipes

Za’atar, Roland's most popular Middle Eastern ingredient, is the star of the show in this satisfying side dish. Za’atar adds a zesty note, while tahini lends a welcome creaminess. Pistachio and olive oils bring the flavors home, with floral and spicy notes that kick things into high gear. Serve this dish at your next potluck dinner or make a big batch on Sunday night for lunches through the week.

Our partners at Emma's Torch have been creating beautiful dishes using Roland Foods spices and many of our other ingredients. Here is a delicious lamb recipe, featuring our Shawarma spice, that they are serving in their Brooklyn-based cafe.

Explore Roland® Middle Eastern Spice Blends

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