Add richness and depth to any North African or Middle Eastern dish with my homemade Ras el Hanout recipe! It’s a delicately balanced blend of floral, peppery, earthy, and spicy flavors to provide layers of seasoning to any savory meal.
Moroccan ras el hanout is an earthy, warm, and pleasantly smoky spice blend that tastes incredible with a whole world of proteins, vegetables, and stews. Stored and sealed properly, this homemade mixture will keep for up to 6 months. It’s great to make in large quantities and to give as a gift!
The Arabic name translates to “head of the shop,” but has the same implication as the English phrase “top shelf” — simply put, it’s the best of the best. We have plenty of spice substitutes to choose from here, so you don’t have to worry about missing one or two.
The hint of spice in this is addicting! Here are my favorite dishes to prepare with this versatile North African blend:
- Moroccan Couscous Cakes
- Lamb Tagine (with apricots and dates)
- Chermoula (which tastes amazing with chicken)
“Literally translated as “head of shop,” the Arabic phrase ras el hanout really means “top shelf.” Legend has it this spice was created by North African spice dealers who would mix together the best of what they had on offer, thus creating a heady, aromatic signature blend—sometimes 50 individual spices deep.” ~ Epicurious
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Cardamom Pods – Herbal, citrusy, and peppery.
- Allspice Berries – This isn’t a misnomer — allspice is actually a dried berry! In this ras el hanout recipe, nutmeg is your best substitute.
- Dried Red Chiles – For less heat, try paprika or cayenne.
- Cinnamon Sticks – Either cassia or Ceylon cinnamon are acceptable.
- Black Peppercorns – Replace with the ground alternative or white peppercorns.
- Coriander Seeds – The best substitute for coriander here is cumin.
- Ground Ginger – Replace ginger with nutmeg, or leave it out altogether. The peppery heat and sweet flavor are found in our other spices.
- Ground Turmeric – This ingredient is a must — any recipe without it will fall noticeably flat.
- Dried Mint Leaves – Because this is a dried spice blend, we can’t go with any fresh herbs. I wouldn’t recommend using mint tea leaves as a substitute — you never quite know if you’re working with spearmint or peppermint, so it’s hard to tell what flavor you’re ultimately adding to the recipe.
- Ground Mace – This is a sweeter spice with a unique pine-like aroma. Again, nutmeg would make a good alternative.
- Whole Cloves – A spice with a very strong flavor. It’s fruity and spicy, and the taste really lingers!
- Anise & Nigella Seeds – Fennel seeds can be used as a replacement for either of these.
- Dried Lavender & Rosebuds – These can be a bit hard to find, so you might want to make sure your preferred grocery store has them in stock ahead of time. I find then in Middle Eastern markets, Whole Foods, and dried rose petals in the spice section of your market with other middle eastern spices.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBSTITUTING GROUND SPICES
If all you have are pre-ground versions of our whole spices, here are your substitution ratios:
- 8 cardamom pods = a heaping ½ tsp ground.
- 6 allspice berries = 1 tsp ground.
- 2 3-inch sticks of cinnamon = 1 tsp ground.
- 2 dried red chiles = 1 tsp red pepper flakes.
- 2 tsp black peppercorns = 3 tsp ground.
- 2 tsp coriander seeds = 1 ½ tsp ground.
HOW TO MAKE RAS EL HANOUT
- Grind. Add everything to a spice grinder, electric coffee grinder, or manual mortar and pestle. Grind, pulse, or blend into a powder.
- Store. Keep in a sealed, airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
What is ras el hanout made of?
This is one of those spice mixes that will vary a bit from place to place, region to region. It can even be different from one household to the next!
The spices that you’ll almost always find in the blend include cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cumin, coriander, peppercorn, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, and mace.
Some blends get a bit spicier, throwing chili and cayenne into the mix. Others, like ours, like to add rose petals and lavender for a sweet, floral note.
We’d love to hear how your family prepares yours in your home!
What is a substitute for ras el hanout?
Something pungent and earthy: coriander or allspices, for example.
But if you don’t have all of these spices, that’s okay! Mixing up what you do have will get you a result that’s close enough.
If you have garam masala or baharat, either can be used as a substitute.
What is the difference between garam masala and ras el hanout?
While you find similar spices in each blend, these two mixes actually have very different flavors.
If you taste them side-by-side, the difference is clear: ras el hanout is sweet, floral, and aromatic, while garam masala is warmer, richer, and savory.
Uses for this North African spice blend
I hope you give this recipe a try. You can find most of the ingredients at Whole Foods, Sprouts, your neighborhood international market and of course online.
Here are two more ways to use ras el hanout.
Moroccan Ras el Hanout Recipe
- 8 cardamom pods (or heaping 1/2 tsp ground cardamom)
- 6 allspice berries (or 1 tsp ground allspice)
- 2 sticks cinnamon (3-inch sticks) (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
- 2 dried red chiles (or 1 tsp red pepper flakes)
- 2 tsp black peppercorns (or 3 tsp ground black pepper)
- 2 tsp coriander seeds (or 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander)
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp dried mint leaves
- 1 tsp ground mace
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 1 tsp anise seeds
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- 1 tsp dried lavender
- 6 dried rosebuds
- In an electric coffee or spice grinder, blitz all of the ingredients to a powder.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
- This batch makes about 1/3 cup total of the spice blend.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.