4 Spice Mixes You Should Be Making at Home

Alexandra

Contributor

Spice mixes tell the story of a place and a time: the flavors that were valuable, the tastes that were available, and yet there is indeed no definitive “mix.” Each region has its own blend, some favoring black pepper and cloves, while another prefers turmeric and cumin. 

What this means is that you can play around with the ratios at home, or even go searching for the perfect version of these mixes at your neighborhood supermarket. Just like the many cooks before you, only you’ll know the secret blend that makes your spiced dishes so special.  

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Today we’ll introduce you to 4 spice mixes to start exploring the endless world of new flavors and tastes. 

How do you incorporate spice mixes into your food? What’s your favorite spice blend to make at home? Let us know in the comments below!

Savory and Sweet Hawaij

Hawaij is a Yemeni spice mixture. Once primarily used by Yemeni Jews in Israel, now its use is quite common throughout the world of Israeli cuisine. There are two different combinations: one for savory dishes like soups and stews, the other for beverages like coffees and teas—though both are known by the name hawaij. 

So, why do both mixes have the same name? Well, hawaij means “mixture” in Arabic—an overarching term for a lot of different kinds of things, not just spice mixtures. The recipes, which are more like suggestions, are meant to be adapted and added to by creative home cooks and families. Swirl a ¼ teaspoon into your ground coffee or black tea for a subtle infusion, or add a tablespoon or two into your BBQ spice rub for an interesting twist.   

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What you’ll need for savory hawaij: 
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- ½ tbsp cumin seeds
- ½ tbsp cardamom pods
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric

Also:  frying pan, rubber spatula, mortar and pestle or coffee/spice grinder, bowl, air-tight container

In a small frying pan over medium heat, toast the black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods until they become aromatic, approx. 5-7 min. Allow the whole spices to cool. Place them into a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder and grind until powdered. Add ground turmeric. Mix until combined. Transfer to an airtight container and keep in a dark, cool place.

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What you’ll need for sweet hawaij: 
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- ½ tbsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground anise

Mix to combine. Store in an airtight container and keep in a dark, cool place.

Ras el hanout

This spice mixture is most notably connected with Moroccan cuisine, thought it is found all over North Africa. Sprinkled into tagines, rubbed into meat and fish, or added to fragrant rice pilafs, ras el hanout means “head of shop”—an Arabic expression that we might translate as “the best of the best,” referring to what were once considered the best spices you could buy. 

The mixture typically contains a combination of at least 12 spices, some of which are easy to find—like fenugreek, chili pepper, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, ginger, and paprika—while others are more regionally specific—such as ash berries, chufa, monk’s pepper, and dried rosebud. With the increased popularity of Moroccan cuisine, ras el hanout is becoming more widely available at supermarkets, but if you still can’t find it, just make your own! 

Here's how to do it:

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Homemade ras el hanout

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Dukkah

An Egyptian spice blend whose name translates as “to pound,” the key to perfecting dukkah at home is in its name. A combination of nuts, seeds, and spices, it requires a thorough pounding to truly come together. 

Dukkah must contain nuts—typically hazelnuts as the below recipe indicates and sesame seeds—though as with the other spice blends, regional variations and additions are common. Used to encrust just about anything from a rack of lamb to roasted vegetables, or dunk pita into olive oil then into the spice mixture to catch all the delicious little bits. 

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What you’ll need for dukkah:
- ¼ cup hazelnuts
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- ½ tsp dried mint

Also: 2 baking sheets, parchment paper, spatula, tea towel, cutting board, chef’s knife, mortar and pestle or coffee/spice grinder, air tight container 

Heat oven to 135°C/275°F. Spread hazelnuts on a parchment lined baking sheet. On a separate lined baking sheet spread the seeds and the whole spices. Toast the hazelnuts for approx. 15 min. The sesame seeds and spices will toast faster, only needing approx. 7 - 10 min. Remove both and allow to cool. Place the nuts in a clean tea towel and roll until the skins come cleanly away. Discard the skins. Finely chop the nuts and set aside. Take the cooled whole spices, kosher salt, and dried mint, and transfer to a mortar or a coffee grinder. Coarsely grind. Add chopped nuts and sesame seeds and mix. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place or use immediately. 

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