Ras el Hanout, a North African Spice mix, is a pungent, earthy spice blend with a balance of sweet and bitter elements, as well as floral notes. Its name translates from Arabic as "head of the shop" because all the best spices go into it!
What I love most about my Middle Eastern kitchen here in Kuwait is how it smells.
Yes, it’s clean, so there’s the background smell of cleaner (which I actually love), lol. But it’s the other smells that captivate me.
The heady aroma of spices mingling with the soft scent of sweet fresh fruit and the bright smell of freshly ground Turkish coffee. Every time I pass the shelf where I keep my canister of Turkish coffee I can’t help but stop for a moment and inhale deeply.
It’s funny how smells can bring you back in time, triggering memories of people or places. My kitchen here smells the same as my mother-in-law’s kitchen did in Damascus. It’s lovely.
On days when I’m mixing my own spice blends, the smell of spice is particularly intoxicating. I don’t always make my own spice mixes – sometimes I buy pre-made mixes from the market – but there are certain mixes I prefer to make myself. I can ensure that the spices are super fresh, and it allows me to customize my mixes.
Ras el Hanout, a Moroccan spice blend, is one such mix. The name translates from Arabic to “head of the shop” (also known as "top of the shelf"), since it’s all the best spices in the shop that go into the mix.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Ras el Hanout is a beautifully balanced blend of flavors that's unike any other spice mix.
- It makes a relatively small batch, just over ½ cup. This is enough for at least a couple recipes, and will give you the opportunity to play around with the mix and discover your favorite way to use it. But it doesn't make so much that the ground spices will start to lose their potency before you use it all!
- It'll make your kitchen smell amazing, like a Middle Eastern spice shop.
The Best Ras el Hanout Spice Mix Recipe
This blend can have 40 or more different spices! But the interesting thing about this and any spice mix is that you can have 10 shops or families who each make their own mix slightly differently based on their own preferences or what they have available. Each blend is still considered authentic.
This generally means that spice mixes (especially those with so many ingredients), are pretty forgiving. If you don’t have one or two of the spices on hand, don’t worry so much about it.
- Red chilli powder
- Black pepper
- Orris root
- Fennel seed
- Anise seed
- Cayenne pepper
- Bay leaves
- Rose petals
How to Make it
You can grind all the spices yourself or buy them pre-ground. And then mix them up!
Store your spice blend in an airtight container in the pantry. It will stay good for up to 2 years; hoowever, for the best flavor I try to use it within 6 months.
Ras el Hanout FAQs
What Does Ras el Hanout Taste Like?
This North African spice mix has a well-balanced flavor profile. It's pungent with both bitter and sweet elements, as well as a woody earthiness. It's not spicy-hot, but you might find it has a twinge of heat. And the floral elements of lavender and rose petals round it out and make it really special.
How Do You Use Ras el Hanout?
If you’re wondering what to do with Ras el Hanout, it is pretty versatile.
Use it to season couscous, rice, or other grains.
Sprinkle it on fish, chicken, or red meat as a dry rub before grilling. Or mix it with a little oil and use it as a wet rub. It's absolutely delicious on my favorite Air Fryer Salmon!
It’s fabulous in any number of tagines (stewed dishes), and will lend an exotic flavor to soups as well.
And I love sprinkling it on roasted vegetables.
More Spice Mixes to Make
Ras el Hanout
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons red chilli powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground orris root
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground mace
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
- ¾ teaspoon ground fennel seed
- ¾ teaspoon ground anise seed
- ½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves ground in a spice mill and strained through a fine mesh sieve (about ⅛ + 1/16 teaspoon ground)
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender organic culinary-grade, ground in a spice mill and strained through a fine mesh sieve (about ½ teaspoon ground)
- 1 tablespoon dried rose petals organic culinary-grade, ground in a spice mill and strained through a fine mesh sieve (about 1 ¼ teaspoon ground)
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and store the spice mix in an airtight container in the pantry.
- Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe makes about 70 grams of spice mix, which is about ½ cup + 2 tablespoons. For the purposes of nutritional information, each serving is 1 tablespoon for a total of 10 (1-tablespoon) servings.
- Storage: This will stay good for up to 2 years. However, for the best flavor I like to use it within 6 months.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on January 17, 2014. I updated it with more information on October 14, 2022.