One of the most enjoyable things about visiting Morocco is enjoying all the flavorful spices in Moroccan food. Rich and distinctive, these spices aren’t there to burn your mouth. They simply enrich the flavor of every dish they are in!
Flavorful Spices in Moroccan Food
Moroccan food is one of the things most people fall in love with when they visit Northern Africa. And one of the most important components of the Moroccan cuisine is the rich abundance of spices. A wide variety of spices grow abundantly here, and people really know how to make the most of them. Spice blends are often deeply layered, with each spice adding to and enriching the notes of the others. Spice shops take great pride in creating flavor blends that are unique to their shops. This is particularly true for the wonderful Moroccan spice blend – Ras El Hanout.
Ras El Hanout translates to “head of the shop” and every spice shop in Morocco has its own unique blend of this flavorful combination of spices. Some taste sweeter and some carry more heat or a smokier flavor. Ras El Hanout may be made up of only 8 to 14 spices – or as many as thirty or more!
If you’d like to make your own, there are a few tasty recipes available, including this one at Epicurious. Use your Ras El Hanout to give a Moroccan flavor to meats and other dishes like these Ras El Hanout Roasted Carrots. It’s a great way to bring the flavors of Morocco to your home without having to pack a single suitcase.
Moroccan Flavors For Your Own Kitchen
Many of the spices in Moroccan cuisine will be very familiar to you even if you live in the US or Europe. But you may be less familiar with others. Here are six of the most popular and flavorful spices in Moroccan Food.
One of the more familiar of the flavorful spices in Moroccan Food is the friendly and aromatic spice Cumin. Cumin is a member of the parsley family. Native to Egypt, it is now grown in many of the hotter areas of the world, including China, India, and North Africa. This spice is commonly used in Moroccan cuisine – and is popular in Mexican and Indian cuisine, as well.
Cumin is a seed that brings a warm, nutty flavor to dishes. This popular spice is not hot to the tastebuds. Rather, it is rich, aromatic, and flavorful. It is a popular spice in tagines and stews, grilled foods, fish dishes, couscous, and many other popular Moroccan dishes. It is also delicious with lamb and chicken and is one of the most important spices in curry.
Cumin is one of the oldest spices and was used in ancient times, too. This spice is not only flavorful. It is said to possess certain medicinal qualities, particularly in regards to digestion issues and high blood pressure.
Cumin can be purchased as whole seeds or ground. For the most flavor, try toasting the whole seeds and then grinding them yourself with a mortar and pestle!
Cinnamon is the second most popular spice throughout the world, and one very flavorful component in Moroccan cuisine. It comes from the bark of Cinnamomum trees and has been used since ancient times in food and in medicine. It was once rare and so highly prized that only the most elite in society had it. Thankfully, nowadays it is very common and easy to find.
Cinnamon is one of the most versatile spices around. It’s aromatic, spicy flavor is delicious in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and it pairs well with many foods.
In Moroccan cuisine, Cinnamon is a popular tea spice. Combined with oranges, cinnamon is an important part of an amazing and easy salad. Almonds and cinnamon are a wonderful flavor combination in melt-away cookies. And in savory recipes involving chicken, beef, or lamb, cinnamon adds a warm rich flavor. This is especially true when combined with some of the other spices found in this post – including cumin!
Turmeric is one of the most amazing spices in the world. It comes from the ground root of a large plant that grows in Central America and Asia and it is one of the leading spices in curry.
Sometimes called Indian Saffron or Golden Spice, Turmeric is not only flavorful. It is also known to have a number of benefits to your health. Turmeric can help with inflammation and pain. It may help improve kidney function, balance your blood sugar, and help ease arthritis pain, too.
Turmeric is one of the most important flavorful spices in Moroccan food and has been since the seventh century. Primarily used in tagines, it is also baked in certain pastries – like chebakia. Try it with lamb or chicken, particularly when combined with cumin and cinnamon. You’ll never want to be without it again!
Saffron is one of the most valuable spices in the world. It is cultivated from the blossoms of the Crocus Sativus – otherwise known as the “saffron crocus”. The plants grow in the Taliouine region of Morocco (as well as Greece, Iran, and India) and the harvesting process is so intense, Saffron can be quite expensive to purchase.
Made from the stigmas of the crocus flowers, Saffron has a very delicate appearance. But the flavor is strong, robust, and complex. It possesses a certain bitterness, yet is also reminiscent of honey. Thankfully, a little Saffron goes a long way, so a pinch or so is generally all you need for most dishes.
Saffron is used in many Moroccan dishes. It’s a key ingredient in chermoula and is used in many tagines and variations of couscous, as well. And since Saffron is grown locally, you may see it if you travel near the Atlas mountains. If you take one of the many Moroccan tours available, be sure to ask your guide to point out the pretty purple flowers so you don’t miss them. And be sure to purchase some Saffron to take home, too!
Made from a variety of dried sweet red peppers and important to Moroccan cuisine, Paprika is used to season meats, cooked salads, stews, soups, and more. Americans may be most familiar with Paprika sprinkled over deviled eggs, but it is actually quite popular all around the world. In fact, Paprika is the national spice of Hungary and is one of the most important ingredients in goulash.
Paprika provides a richness and depth of flavor to your favorite foods. There are three main types – sweet, spicy, and smoky, and as you would expect, there are distinctive differences between them.
- Sweet is the most common and works well in spice blends, chili, stew, and mixed into shredded chicken or pulled pork.
- Spicy paprika can be very strong, so if you aren’t a fan of heat, you may wish to avoid this. But if you love heat, spicy Paprika will add some delicious kick to everything from chili to bean dip to grilled burgers.
- Smoked Paprika brings an enchanting smoky depth of flavor. If you want that “grill” or “char” taste without needing to actually smoke or grill your food, smoked Paprika can really work some magic.
If you aren’t very familiar with Paprika, perhaps it is time to give this delicious red spice a try. It’s hard to go wrong with this wonderfully versatile spice. Try it on everything – from fish to vegetables to steak. You’ll be glad you did!
If you are from North America, your familiarity with Sesame Seeds may be mostly limited to hamburger buns. But these tasty little seeds have been an important food product around the world for over three thousand years. They add a light crunch and nutty flavor to foods, are the main ingredient in tahini and are incredibly healthy, too.
Sesame Seeds are an excellent source of fiber, protein, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Studies have shown that sesame seeds may do all kinds of wonderful things for our body – lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol, making our joints feel better (which makes it easier to climb onto the back of a camel), and more.
In Moroccan cuisine, sesame seeds are a common addition to many baked goods. And they are a crucial part of sweet treats like Ghoribas (a type of shortbread cookie).
If you’d like to add sesame seeds to your diet, it’s easy. You can eat them raw, but they are even tastier when you roast them for a few minutes. Either way, they are a great addition to steamed vegetables, smoothies, stir fry, salad, cereal (hot or cold) and all kinds of baked goods (including hamburger buns).
When visiting Morocco, you’ll have an added appreciation for the cuisine when you are familiar with the flavorful spices in Moroccan food. These spices provide a unique flavor profile you don’t want to miss. And if you can’t quite make it to Morocco for a visit yet, be sure to try some of these amazing spices when you can. It’s a wonderful thing to bring the flavors and aromas of Morocco right into your own kitchen!