Baharat is a very common spice blend in Middle Eastern cooking. The word baharat actually means "spices" in Arabic, and although the mixture can vary from region to region, it generally includes some of the same ingredients. Baharat is a popular seasoning for lamb, chicken, beef, and fish, as well as soups and rice, and does not contain any salt. The reddish-colored powder has a deep, mildly sweet taste with a touch of smokiness.
What Is Baharat?
Baharat is to Middle Eastern cuisine as garam masala is to Indian food. It is a ubiquitous seasoning that can vary slightly in ingredients depending on where the spice blend is made. All of the spices are ground into a fine powder and then used in recipes or sprinkled over finished dishes as a condiment. The paprika, nutmeg, cumin, and cinnamon lend a rust hue to the spice blend.
Baharat vs. Ras el Hanout
While both of these spice blends share similar ingredients and call for blending whole spices together, they do differ from each other. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan mixture that requires several more ingredients compared to baharat. In addition to the paprika, cloves, cumin, and cardamom, the ingredient list for ras el hanout also includes lesser-known spices such as cubeb berries, guinea pepper berries, and ash tree fruit. And whereas baharat takes its place on tabletops (similarly to salt and pepper), ras el hanout is used in just a handful of Moroccan recipes.
What Is It Made Of?
Other than in Turkey, where baharat often contains dried mint, the basic ingredients are consistent from blend to blend, including black pepper, coriander, paprika, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon. In North Africa, dried rosebuds are combined with cinnamon and black pepper. Other spices that can be a part of baharat are sumac, saffron, chili peppers, and turmeric.
What Does It Taste Like?
This blend of spices takes on warm, earthy notes, and is similar in flavor to garam masala. Baharat is a very nice combination of both sweet and smoky without any spiciness. While the taste is not overpowering, it is very aromatic, which is why it is best to use a small amount.
Cooking With Baharat
Baharat can be used in many ways in the kitchen. It can be a dry rub for grilling meat, added to a marinade, and used as a seasoning for beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, and vegetable recipes. It is also added to soups and is sprinkled over finished dishes as a condiment. For recipes using ground beef, baharat is mixed into the meat before cooking, using about 1 teaspoon for every pound of ground beef.
If making your own baharat blend, the spices can be toasted before being ground into a powder. The powder is simply added to recipes as-is in small amounts.
Recipes Using Baharat
Since baharat is a combination of several spices, it is ideal to use as a spice rub and for making marinades—simply add olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
Where to Buy Baharat
Baharat can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores, well-stocked gourmet shops, and online. It is sold in canisters, pouches, and loose by weight or volume. As with most spices, the flavor diminishes over time so be sure to buy the freshest possible.
How to Make Your Own Baharat
If baharat is not readily available, it is simple to make at home. You will need a spice grinder, small coffee grinder (that is no longer used for beans), or a mortar and pestle. Although you can adjust the recipe to your taste, a good ratio to follow is 4 parts black pepper, 4 parts cumin seeds, 3 parts cloves, 3 parts cinnamon, 3 parts coriander seed, 1 part cardamom pods, 3 parts nutmeg, and 6 parts paprika.
If desired, toast the spices in a dry skillet before grinding.
Process the first 6 ingredients until fine; add the nutmeg and paprika and mix until combined.
Both homemade and store-bought baharat should be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dark place. If kept properly, it will remain fresh-tasting for up to three months.
Health Benefits of Baharat
As baharat is a blend of various spices, the health benefits are derived from each spice that's included. Most of the ingredients contain antioxidants and exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Black pepper is high in the antioxidant piperine, and cardamom contains linalool, which exhibits anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Coriander and cinnamon are loaded with antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, and cinnamon—along with paprika—is high in Vitamin A.
Abdullah, Asghar A, Butt MS, Shahid M, Huang Q. Evaluating the antimicrobial potential of green cardamom essential oil focusing on quorum sensing inhibition of Chromobacterium violaceum. J Food Sci Technol. 2017;54(8):2306-2315. doi:10.1007/s13197-017-2668-7