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November 24, 2020 3 min read

Moroccan spices are a subtle blend of savory, sweet, and spicy flavors that are essential for cooking up any North African inspired dishes. Moroccan spices, or ras el hanout, are an integral ingredient in tagines, Moroccan-inspired couscous, and many more tasty Moroccan meals!

You can easily prepare your own Moroccan spice mix suited to your personal tastes. Add cayenne pepper to set your taste buds on fire, add more cinnamon to bring out the sweetness, or overload on paprika for a smoky Moroccan rub. 

With a homemade Moroccan spice blend, you can really make the most of your tagine pot and start preparing some super authentic Moroccan cuisine!


What is ras el hanout?

But let’s start with the basics. What exactly is ras el hanout made from?

Ras el hanout is the name given to the major spice mix prevalent in North African cooking. Due to the popularity of Moroccan foods and of Morocco as a tourist destination, you’re probably more likely to know this spice blend as Moroccan spices. In reality, though, it’s a vital ingredient in dishes from Tunisia and Algeria, as well as Morocco. 

The name ras el hanout translates into English as ‘Head of the Shop’ because traditionally, ras el hanout ingredients would be the best spices that a spice seller could offer. The spice mix would be the finest quality, the best of the best!

For this reason, a Moroccan dry rub can vary in its composition, which is why it’s a great option to prepare with the spices that you love best. 

Generally, though, any Moroccan seasoning includes some or all of the following spices, evoking a mixture of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors: 

  • Anise
  • Black pepper
  • Caraway 
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Paprika
  • Saffron
  • Turmeric 

Are Moroccan spices hot? 

People are often worried that Moroccan spices are hot, but as you can see from the list above, the only ingredient that’s actually ‘hot’ is cayenne pepper powder. Moroccan flavors aren’t hot and spicy in the same way that a Mexican salsa or a hot chili sauce is, but they are incredibly flavorful and spicy in that sense.

As you’re preparing this Moroccan spice blend at home, you can add as much or as little cayenne pepper as you like. It depends on how hot and spicy you want your food.

Our recipe for Moroccan seasoning uses an even mixture of ingredients to produce a rounded, flavorful taste, but feel free to tweak our Moroccan seasoning recipe as you like!

Ras el hanout recipes

Now that you’ve mixed up your Moroccan spices, you’ll be looking for the perfect opportunity to use your homemade blend!

Don’t worry, because there is plenty of tasty ras el hanout uses. For starters, you can use your spices as you would any other herbs. That means you can use them for seasoning or for marinating. You can use them when frying, grilling, or baking. Add them to stews, soups, and of course, a Moroccan tagine pot

We suggest using the spices for slow cooking and marinating to bring out the complex and intricate flavors of ras el hanout. This gives you a chance to infuse your ingredients with Moroccan spices. 

A few of our favorite Moroccan-inspired recipes that make good use of ras el hanout, include the following:

Are Moroccan spices spicy enough for you? 

Moroccan spices are easy to blend up if you’ve got all the right ingredients. It’s a flavorful blend of sweet, savory, and spicy that will add a much-needed burst of authenticity to your Moroccan-inspired cooking.

Blend up your spice rub, get the tagine pot fired up, and start cooking with homemade ras el hanout! Try a new and authentic blend of flavors with this recipe.

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