What Is Ras El Hanout?

Ras el hanout is a North African spice blend normally consisting of coriander, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg and peppercorn as well as cloves, cardamom, paprika, cumin and turmeric. Depending on the shop, additional ingredients may include exotic specialties such as ash berries, monk's pepper or chufa.

Ras el hanout, a blend whose name means "head of the shop" in Arabic, typically features the store's top-shelf spices. Especially popular in Moroccan cuisine, ras el hanout is available in Middle Eastern stores and specialty grocers. The hot spice blend is known for its warm, strong flavor and sweet accents, and many chefs use it as a condiment or in stews, marinades and rubs. Its use in North African cuisine is comparable to the use of garam masala in Indian cooking. Before grinding ras el hanout or pounding the spices into a mortar, manufacturers may toast the spices.

Mix ras el hanout into rice or couscous, or try rubbing it over meat or fish for a unique main dish. Try mixing it in with sour cream or softened butter to create a savory topping. For a salty snack, sprinkle the spice blend over fresh popcorn. The blend is also a popular seasoning for grilled lamb and pan-fried chicken.