Top Commonly Used Middle Eastern Spices and Herbs

Spices and herbs are the foundation of any delicious Middle Eastern meal. And, in fact, the spices are what makes Middle Eastern food so unique! Here you will find the most commonly used herbs and spices in Middle Eastern cooking along with some recipe ideas so you can start experimenting with them.

  • 01 of 10


    Cumin seeds

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    Cumin is probably the most prevalent of the Middle Eastern spices as well as being one of the most popular in the world. It's a strong, highly fragrant savory spice and provides the unmistakable smell and taste of classic falafel. Try it in this Falafel, Tahini and Cumin Roasted Butternut Squash Sandwich.

  • 02 of 10


    Nutmeg and grater

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    In western countries, nutmeg is used primarily in dessert dishes, however, in the Middle East, it is used in meat dishes also.

    Whether sweet or savory, nobody can resist a hint of nutmeg in a steaming mug of hot Tahini Spiced Cocoa.

  • 03 of 10


    Cardamom seeds in a bowl
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    Cardamom is used in many beverages. It is used mostly ground, however, the pods are sometimes used. Cardamom gives Arabic and Turkish coffee it's unique flavor.

  • 04 of 10


    Close-Up Of Turmeric Powder By Bottle On Wooden Table
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    Turmeric is found in many dishes, mostly meat and vegetable recipes. It is only used in ground form and has a bitter, medium flavor.

    Turmeric lends some color and earthy flavor to a Middle Eastern classic dinner of Polo Ba Morgh (Chicken with Saffron Rice).

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10



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    Sumac is sour and is sometimes substituted for lemons in recipes.

    Because of its citrus taste, sumac is a lovely addition to dressings such as the one used in this Roasted Beet and Feta Cheese Salad.

  • 06 of 10


    High Angle View Of Spices On Table
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    Baharat means mixed spices in Arabic. Baharat is a combination of several different spices with the exact blend differing with each country or region. However, you can purchase a blend called "sebah baharat" (which translates to seven spices) in gourmet or ethnic food stores.

    Baharat is often the blend that's responsible for a touch of sweet, smokey flavor in dishes such as this Spiced Beef on Hummus.

  • 07 of 10


    Caraway seeds
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    Caraway produces a spicy, yet sweet flavor with a hint of dill. Caraway is used in spicier dishes found in North African cuisine.

    While most people are likely to think of caraway seeds as an ingredient in bread baking, it provides a lot of flavor in this spicy Homemade Harissa.

  • 08 of 10

    Anise Seed

    Spice - Star Anise

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    Anise Seed is one of the world's oldest spices. It is popular in sweets and has many medicinal purposes.

    With its distinct licorice flavor, anise is a popular ingredient in pastries, like these Toasted Anise Seed Cookies.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10



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    Allspice is used in many types of food, not just desserts. You will find it is used to flavor meats and stews, as well as sweets.

    With its powerful but highly aromatic flavor, a touch of allspice adds so much to this Fasulia (Green Bean and Beef Stew) recipe.

  • 10 of 10


    Cinnamon sticks on plate and other spices in background in spice market
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    Cinnamon is used in a mixture of spices called baharat.

    While we normally associate cinnamon with sweet desserts such as apple pie, it's a common addition to a shawarma spice blend. Check out this recipe for Chicken Shawarma Meatballs to see cinnamon used in this savory application.