middle eastern spices

5 Middle Eastern spices you should try cooking with at home

May 27, 2021Ali Hamam

Why doesn’t home cooked food ever taste as good as restaurant food? Try making anything, even something as easy as an omelette, and unless you are a professional chef, it will always taste better from a restaurant.

The difference between yours and restaurant made food can come down to a number of things; your technique, your ingredients and sometimes your spices. Middle Eastern food in particular can be quite flavourful and that can be attributed to the spices that are used in its preparation. The aromas can hit you simply by walking past a restaurant. If you are looking for the same effect at home, try cooking with these Middle Eastern spices.


Whether used in form of powder or the fresh root, turmeric changes a dish. First, by colouring it a deeper yellow. In fact, if you cook with it, you will notice that it turns your fingers orange-yellow too. Briefly. Second, by giving it an earthy flavour.

Like most Middle Eastern spices, turmeric is hailed for its medicinal properties like being a strong anti-inflammatory. You can use it at home to make curries and rice dishes pop. At Tahinis we use it on the Rice.


Deep red in colour and with a tart flavour, sumac is one of the Middle Eastern spices to have in your home pantry. It is made from dried ground sumac berries and some liken its flavour to that of lemon juice. However, it tastes less acidic and is more balanced.

Sumac adds an interesting flavour and colour to  salads, and is an indispensable ingredient in the making of Middle Eastern dishes like Fattoush. Don’t forget to use it in marinades for meats or to just sprinkle it over grilled meats and stews.


Cumin seed is a tiny dried fruit that comes from a small plant belonging to the same plant family as parsley, carrots, dill, and caraway. This plant is native to the Mediterranean region and Egypt, and is cultivated along the Western Mediterranean through the Middle East. At Tahinis we use it on our Lentil Soup and it adds a delicious flavour and aroma to the dish.

tahinis cumin


With credits ranging from chicken, rice, fish and breads, saffron is one of the most diverse of the Middle Eastern spices. It is also one of the most expensive because it takes a lot of time and effort to harvest and produce the red hued spice. It lends a floral flavour to cooking.


Blending spices isn’t uncommon in the culinary world. Za’atar is a mixture of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and salt. It is a blend so the sum of the parts actually affects the whole. That means that you should be checking the labels to ensure it has the right ingredients and not substitutes.

Use Za’atar in cooking meats, soups, hummus or in fast dishes like salads. Simply sprinkle it over a garden salad and transform it in seconds.

Now that you are armed with the right spices, happy cooking!

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