Consider Moroccan cooking, and your senses will be transported to distinctly aromatic flavors. Anyone can tell if a dish is cooking from across the room thanks to Moroccan spices.
Moroccan flavors are influenced by a fusion of cuisines due to the country’s long history of colonization and immigration. Most Moroccan dishes are reminiscent of international tastes, including Arab, Mediterranean, Spanish, and French flavors, if you’re well-traveled (or simply a foodie).
Spices are something you should definitely bring home with you if you visit Morocco. After all, if you’re lucky enough to land in this rich and exotic country, you’ll want to extend your stay—even after you’ve returned home. And what better way to learn about a culture than through its cuisine?
Here is a list of Moroccan spices that you can save for your next trip to Morocco.
12 Essential Moroccan Spices and how to use them.
1. Ras El Hanout.
Ras el hanout is your best bet for bringing Moroccan flavors home with you. This spice brings out the best in Moroccan spices—it contains over a dozen of them! Cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, chili peppers, and nutmeg are all popular ingredients in ras el hanout.
Because of the complexities of this spice, ras el hanout is not widely available. However, Morocco is unquestionably the best place to start looking for this spice. Please keep in mind that each blend has a slightly different flavor, so shop around before you buy!
2. Saffron (Zafrane).
When it comes to cooking, saffron is widely regarded as the world’s most legendary spice. The majority of the world’s saffron supply comes from a few countries, including Morocco. This being said, you can expect to find this spice at very reasonable prices in Morocco!
Despite having a distinct flavor, saffron is difficult to describe in words. It’s subtly sweet and flamboyant; a small amount of it adds flavor, vibrancy, and aroma to a dish in an instant.
Saffron complements almost any dish, from bouillabaisse to pudding. However, if you want to use it as an authentic Moroccan spice, try making Moroccan saffron chicken.
3. Turmeric (Kharkoum or Querkoum).
Nothing gives food more color than turmeric. Turmeric is well-known in Moroccan cuisine for its bright yellow color. It gives dishes an earthy and exotic flavor. Meat Tagine with Prunes and Chicken and Olives Tagine are two popular Moroccan recipes that use turmeric.
Turmeric, also known as golden saffron, provides more than just flavor and color. This Moroccan spice is well-known for its health benefits: it is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and it helps to strengthen a variety of bodily functions.
4. Black pepper (Ibzar or elbezar)
Black pepper requires little explanation because it is far more common than the previous Moroccan spices. Having said that, it’s worth noting that Moroccan cuisine liberally employs black pepper. In fact, the majority of Moroccan dishes contain copious amounts of black pepper. Moroccans typically season meat (particularly lamb tagines) or salads with black pepper.
5. Fenugreek seeds (Helba or halba)
Known for its fragrance and biting taste, fenugreek seeds frequently show up in Moroccan chicken dishes. The herb itself has a sweet flavor, but its bitter seeds are commonly used in Moroccan cuisine to add character to a dish.
Fenugreek is well-known for its health benefits, which include lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as increasing testosterone levels. It also encourages lactation. Nursing mothers in Morocco turn to dishes containing this spice to help them breastfeed their babies.
6. Ginger (Skinjbir)
Ginger is a flowering plant whose rhizome, also known as ginger root or ginger, is commonly used as a spice and folk medicine. It is a herbaceous perennial with one-meter-tall annual pseudostems (false stems made of the rolled bases of leaves) bearing narrow leaf blades. Flowers with pale yellow petals and purple edges emerge directly from the rhizome on separate shoots in the inflorescences.
Moreover ginger is widely used in Moroccan tagines, stews, and soups. Ginger, whether ground or powdered, has numerous medical benefits: To say the least, it has natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
7. Cinnamon (Karfa)
Cinnamon is a spice derived from the inner bark of several Cinnamomum tree species. It is primarily used as an aromatic condiment and flavoring additive in a variety of cuisines, including sweet and savory dishes, breakfast cereals, snack foods, bagels, teas, hot chocolate, and traditional foods. Cinnamon’s aroma and flavor are derived from its essential oil and main component, cinnamaldehyde, as well as numerous other constituents such as eugenol.
Cinnamon has unquestionably made a name for itself on a global scale. It has become a popular ingredient in trendy beverages and desserts all over the world. Cinnamon, on the other hand, has been used in Morocco since time immemorial. In fact, ancient Moroccans would trade in cinnamon because it was—and still is—a valuable spice with a high price.
Aside from sweet dishes, Moroccan meat-based recipes make the most of cinnamon’s sweet and woody flavor. This spice also finds its way in some traditional soups, like the harira.
8. Anise seed (Nnafaâ or naffa)
Aniseed, also known as anix, is a flowering plant in the Apiaceae family native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia.
Its seeds have flavors and aromas that are similar to those of other spices and herbs such as star anise, fennel, licorice, and tarragon. It is widely cultivated and used to flavor food, candy, and alcoholic beverages, particularly in the Mediterranean region.
Anise seed, which has a licorice-like flavor, is mostly used in Moroccan desserts such as krachel, cookies, and bread. This spice is also used to add flavor to soups and tagines.
Anise seed, like many Moroccan spices, has numerous health benefits. It is another anti-inflammatory agent with antifungal and antibacterial properties. Above all, anise seed has a high calcium content. This strengthens the bones while also empowering the nerves and muscles.
9. Cumin (Kamoun or kamoon)
Cuman is a flowering plant in the Apiaceae family that is native to Iran and Turkey. Its seeds, which are contained within a dried fruit, are used in many cultures’ cuisines in both whole and ground form. Although cumin is used in traditional medicine, no high-quality evidence exists that it is safe or effective as a therapeutic agent.
Cumin, which is pungent and aromatic, adds a powerful flavor to any Moroccan dish. Moroccans are particular about using this spice as a flavoring because it mixes strongly. Locals usually add cumin to their eggs, tagines, grills, and salads—but only when they want a specific result. Kefta Brochettes is a popular Moroccan dish that incorporates cumin.
As cumin became more popular, people began to use it to treat indigestion and diarrhea. Cumin’s high levels of vitamin C, iron, and fiber have also been shown to boost immunity.
10. Paprika (Felfla hlouwa)
Paprika is a red pepper spice made from dried and ground peppers. It is traditionally made from Capsicum annuum Longum varietals, which include chili peppers, but the peppers used for paprika are milder and have thinner flesh. The term paprika also refers to the plant and fruit from which the spice is made, as well as peppers in the Grossum group, in some languages but not in English.
In Morocco, paprika is a sweet product made from ground dried bell peppers. Its spicier counterpart, hot paprika, is called cayenne pepper. Moroccans use sweet paprika in a variety of dishes. It is used to season meat dishes and adds tang and color to salads, stews, and soups.
11. Cayenne (Felfa sudaniya)
Cayenne pepper is one of the Moroccan spices that distinguishes most dishes. Its hot peppery flavor instantly elevates a recipe, but its relatively subtle flavor allows it to be versatile. Cayenne pepper is used as an optional ingredient in most Moroccan dishes. Moroccans frequently combine this spice with its sweet counterpart, paprika.
12. Nutmeg (Gooza)
Nutmeg is the seed or ground spice of several Myristica tree species; fragrant nutmeg or true nutmeg (M. fragrans) is a dark-leaved evergreen tree cultivated for two spices derived from its fruit: nutmeg (from the seed) and mace (from the seed covering). It also sells nutmeg essential oil and nutmeg butter commercially. Indonesia is the world’s leading producer of nutmeg and mace, and the true nutmeg tree is indigenous to the country’s islands.
Nutmeg plays an important role in Moroccan cuisine. It is typically found in seasonal food—but of course, you can always add it to stew, couscous, or tagine. Because of its sweet and nutty flavor, this spice is frequently used in desserts, either as an additive or as a garnish. Moroccans rarely use nutmeg to season meat-based dishes.
How to use Moroccan spices?
Now that you have your spices, you must figure out how to use them. As a starter, try a popular Moroccan couscous recipe. Moroccans traditionally consume beef, lamb, or chicken. (Pork is not unpopular because it violates religious beliefs.)
If you’re feeling particularly daring, try making a tagine. You don’t have a tagine? You can rely on your dutch oven/slow cooker/instant pot to complete the task!
If you want to take the safe route, go for a good old grill or roast. Season your meat with the appropriate spices and you’ll have an authentic Moroccan dish in no time!
Spice shopping in Morocco?
Moroccan spices are of higher quality and flavor than those found in most markets in North America and Europe. They are also a cheap and simple gift to transport. Some of the most well-known spices available here include saffron, turmeric, cumin, and ras al hanout. When purchasing, inquire if the shop will grind the spices fresh for you.
The best spices to buy in Morocco are the ones you’ll use; don’t buy something just because it sounds appealing if you’re not going to use it. Cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and white pepper are some of my favorite spices. All of these have a much stronger flavor than what you’d find in a regular grocery store.
Almonds, walnuts, figs, dates, and olives are among the other foods. Argan oil (culinary grade) is also highly valued. You can get them at almost any hanout (a shop that sells dried goods). Avoid shops that appear only to sell to tourists as you are sure to be heavily overcharged.
You might want to wait until the end of your journey to buy these items so they’re as fresh as possible. That is, unless you live in an area where the spice is grown and sold, such as saffron.
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