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The best spice blends in the world

Which memories dig the most deeply into your heart?

These are feelings associated with smells and flavors! The smells from childhood, from mom's lentil soup with the subtle touch of vinegar, from cinnamon to the outrageously thick apple pancakes that grandpa always baked. They trigger feelings of security in us for a lifetime. They get us all through the smell, and thus also the taste. Aromas that are absorbed through the nose, tongue and palate are stored more deeply and lastingly than any holiday photo on our smartphone.

So what could be nicer than approaching other cultures through culinary art? You don't necessarily have to travel. At any time and from home, we have the opportunity to bring flavors from all over the world into the kitchen at home. Either with appropriate spices or with special spice mixtures.

Buy or mix spice mixes yourself?

Spice mixtures are ridiculed by many professionals and ambitious amateur cooks. That may be justified. But only when it comes to cheap chips and pizza seasoning with added glutamate and coloring. However, there is nothing wrong with putting together a preferred mix for your beloved fries yourself.

Spice mixes are, viewed neutrally, a relief in the kitchen. This makes even more sense when it comes to mixtures in which a particularly large number of spices are used. As a result, a wide variety of spice blends have been developed all over the world.

Some of them are now also available to buy from us. If you want to buy these spice mixes, make sure that the ingredients only list spices. Yeast extracts, seasoning, acidulants and natural flavors have no place in it. Sugar and salt also don't belong in a spice mix!

It is even more fun to make the spice mixes yourself. Just buying and preparing the individual spices is a sensual pleasure!

Your advantages at a glance:

  • get to know the spices
  • get a feel for the flavors of the respective cuisine
  • you can experiment according to your taste, how much of what you want to use
  • no unwanted additives
  • you determine the amount
  • buy whole spices, they can be stored longer than powder
  • it saves money (the high price of spice mixtures is often not a quality feature)!

Before you start, here are a few general tips for making spice mixes:

  1. Helpful utensils are: a stone mortar, a small pan, a spice grinder or an old coffee grinder. In addition, well-closable and opaque vessels made of dark glass, stainless steel or porcelain and labels.

  2. It is best to always season separately with sugar and salt. They don't belong in the spice mixes.

  3. Chili in a spice mixture not only ensures heat, but also enhances the aroma of the other spices. Especially sweet and umami notes.

  4. Let the roasted spices cool down before grinding or using a mortar.

The most popular and best spice blends in the world

Here is our list of mixes from different regions and cultures. We have sorted them alphabetically and always name the main distribution area. We will gradually expand the spice list and describe it in more detail.

Have fun!

Baba Ganoush

For Baba Ganoush (Babaganush) imagine the southeastern part of the Mediterranean coast: from Lebanon to Israel to the North African states. Culinary associations with eggplant, chickpeas, sesame and humus are on the tongue. Baba Ganoush is originally a spice dip that is eaten with falafel and shawarma (Arabic meat dish).

The dip tastes intensely spicy and slightly sweet and sour. For the production of this delicious oriental dip, a special blend of spices with the same name has been developed over the years.

The best thing to do is to try the recipe for the Baba Ganoush dip right away. Prepare a little more of the Baba Ganoush spice mixture. Either for the next dip or to flavor other dishes from Levantine and North African cuisine with it.

The ingredients for the dip:

  • some eggplants
  • Sesame seeds (lightly toast beforehand)
  • lemon
  • Salt, cane sugar (or pomegranate syrup)
  • fresh pomegranate seeds
  • olive oil
  • Parsley or coriander
  • Baba Ganoush Spice Mix

Grill the aubergines over a high heat for a while. Scrape out the softened pulp and mix with the specified ingredients to taste.

Recipe for making the Baba Ganoush spice mix

As with almost all spice mixtures, the ingredients of this mixture are not specified, as are the proportions. The most commonly used ingredients are:

  • dried pomegranate seeds
  • dried lemon peel
  • Cumin seeds
  • Cardamom seeds
  • pepper
  • cinnamon

Lightly toast the cumin, cardamom, peppercorns * and the cinnamon in a dry pan before grinding and mixing.

* Peppercorns also get a more intense aroma if they are roasted briefly (approx. 30 seconds)

Chinese five-spice powder

Chinese Five Spices (Chinese: Wu Xian Fen) is one of the oldest and most famous spice blends in the world. Even if it is put together individually in many Asian families, the five spices are set internationally. All over Asia people like to use the ready-made 5-Spices sachets, which can be bought in every market there.

In Asia, the Chinese five spice powder is used for many sauces and soups as well as marinades and pickling of meat, poultry and fish. The mixture impresses with its harmonious, intense and at the same time flowery taste. It has sweet, bitter, piquant, sour and spicy notes.

The five spices:

(in brackets the approximate proportions)

  • Star anise (6 St.)
  • Carnations (15 St.)
  • Cassia cinnamon (1 to 2 sticks)
  • Fennel seeds (1 tbsp)
  • Szechuan pepper, alternatively cubeb pepper or black pepper) (1 tbsp)

Mix and grind all ingredients, your Chinese Five Spice is ready. You will get a more intense aroma if you first roughly pound everything in a mortar and briefly toast it in the pan. Then grind finely or in a mortar. Of course, you can also grind the spices separately. This is more work, but the proportions can be fine-tuned to suit your taste.

If you want to try the spice mixture for the first time:

Rub a duck or chicken with the seasoning mixture and salt (optionally leave to marinate for a while). So it can be on the grill or in the oven (with other ingredients of your choice).

Herbes de Provence

Probably the best-known herbal mixture originally comes from Provence in the south-east of France. Although there are no fixed ingredients, you can immediately taste the typically tart, slightly smoky herbal aroma. It is precisely because so many combinations are possible that it is appealing to put together your own Herbes de Provence for once.

Salads, Mediterranean vegetables, pizza, pasta, meat and fish dishes get their typical Mediterranean aroma with the herbs of Provence.

This is mainly due to the three herbs that are always included: thyme - rosemary - savory

Other popular herbs:

Less common:

  • sage
  • Bay leaves (ground)
  • lavender
  • tarragon
  • parsley
  • chervil

As you can see, almost every known herb can end up in your Herbes de Provence mixture. Pick your favorite herbs and mix them up. In roughly equal parts (half of the laurel), and your own home mix is ​​ready!

The herbs are only sprinkled over the finished dish towards the end of the cooking time. If you rub them with your fingers beforehand, they will release even more of their aromas.

Ras el Hanout

This blend of spices seems to combine all the flavors of North Africa. No wonder, because there are 20 to 30, and more, individual spices in it. A complex mixture in which none of the spices should dominate in the end. Loosely translated, Ras el Hanout means something like “head of the shop”.

The first time you can stick to a recipe and then vary it freely according to your taste. Ras el Hanout is the universal spice in Maghrebian cuisine. Accordingly, the sweet and spicy flavors harmonize perfectly with couscous, millet, chickpea or lentil dishes. Other classics are tajine, humus and lamb dishes.

Ingredients and preparation for an easy version:

  • Cumin (2 tbsp)
  • Carnations (9 St.)
  • black peppercorns (1 tbsp)
  • Coriander seeds (2 tbsp)
  • Allspice grains (5 pcs.)
  • Seeds from cardamom pods (5 pcs.)
  • dried chili peppers (2 pc.)
  • dried nutmeg blossoms / mace (2 St.)

Toast these ingredients in a dry pan until they smell wonderful. Then mortar or grind and mix together with the powdered spices:

Ginger powder (1 tbsp) paprika powder (1 tbsp) cinnamon (1 tbsp) turmeric (1 tbsp) nutmeg, ground (1 tsp) bay leaves, ground (2 St.)

Other popular ingredients are anise, galangal, saffron and dried flowers (violets, lavender or roses). Raz el Hanout can be added at the beginning or during the cooking process.

Tandoori masala

Garam Masala and Tandoori Masala are the most famous dry spice blends from India. Many families have their own recipes for their masalas (mixes). Accordingly, there is no such thing as a single recipe for tandoori masala.

Tandoori Masala is basically a slightly spicier Garam Masala. You can recognize it by its reddish color. It is often used to marinate meat and to rub grilled meat. The most famous dish with us is the tandoori chicken. Tandoori is the name of the clay oven in which dishes are traditionally prepared. The taste is fruity, sour, slightly earthy and hot. You can determine the sharpness yourself. Here is a suggested recipe for a tandoori masala. The whole spices (seeds etc.) are roasted beforehand in the pan, then chopped up and mixed with the powdered spices:

  • Cumin seeds (2 tbsp)
  • Coriander seeds (2 tbsp)
  • black peppercorns (1-2 tsp)
  • dried chili peppers (1-4 pc.)
  • dried tamarind peel (1-2 tbsp)
  • Sweet paprika (1 tbsp)
  • Turmeric (1 teaspoon)
  • Ginger powder (1 teaspoon)
  • Garlic powder / granulate (2 tbsp)

For a tandoori paste ...

... you put freshly grated ginger and garlic in a neutral oil. Add tamarind paste, white wine vinegar, and the spice mix above (excluding the dry versions of garlic, ginger, and tamarind). This paste is ideal for marinating. For a spicy dip, stir a little of the tandoori paste into yogurt.

Za'atar

The name is program! Zatar comes from the Arabic-speaking area and translates as "thyme". It is also the main ingredient in this North African, Oriental blend of spices. Spellings are Zatar, Satar, Zaatar, Za’tar or Za’atar. From Turkey to Syria, Israel to the North African countries, people know and love this very special blend of spices.

In fact, it is the thyme that makes this blend so distinctive.
The taste, the aroma? Mediterranean, herbaceous, with a bitter citrus note, at the same time nutty-sweet. In short: an extraordinary composition that you should definitely try once!

Recipe for the Za’atar spice mixture

This mixture is quite easy to make yourself. As with almost every traditional blend of spices, there are slight regional differences. For starters, here is the classic combination of four ingredients:

  • Sesame (3 tbsp)
  • Sumac (1 tbsp)
  • Thyme (1 tbsp)
  • Salt (1/2 teaspoon)

You can vary the proportions according to your taste. First, roast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until they have a pleasant sesame flavor. Tip: be careful, as soon as they burn they are inedible! They can then be easily crushed in a mortar. Mix them with the rest of the ingredients and your Za’atar is ready!

Uses of Za‘atar

Mixed with olive oil, Za’atar is traditionally spread on flatbreads before baking. It is a sophisticated blend of spices for vegetarian dishes. Za’atar gives gratinated vegetable dishes, dips, chickpea, lentil, bean and pumpkin soups that certain something. To soften the thyme note or to expand the aromas, you can also mix the herb portion with oregano, marjoram or savory.

Panch Phoron

With Panch Phoron, Pac Phoran or Pancha Phutana we are moving in northeast India. It is the Bengali five seed spice. Not to be confused with the Chinese five spice powder. The name Panch Phoron comes from Sanskrit and describes the spice perfectly: "panch" stands for five and "phoron" for explosion. These five spices really make for a taste explosion: A strong aroma with a round, pleasant sharpness. Delicious!

Recipe for the Panch Phoron spice mix

The production is very easy. All five seeds are mixed together in equal parts. Just before use, the required amount is roasted in fat until the mustard grains crack and a wonderful scent arises. Now they are ready for use.

For the mixture you will need:

  • black mustard seeds
  • Black cumin
  • Fennel seeds
  • cumin
  • Fenugreek seeds

The proportions are not fixed, adjust to your taste. For example, a little less fenugreek seeds are used in some recipes.

Uses of the Panch Phoron spice mix

This mixture unfolds its aromas particularly well in traditional Indian dals. Dals are the typical Indian preparations in which legumes are boiled until they are pulpy.

The slightly bitter fenugreek and the sweet fennel seeds create an attractive contrast within the mixture. The essential oils in these seeds are all powerful. Panch Phoron is therefore perfect for marinating meat as well as for potato dishes and as a bread spice.

It goes on, to be continued!

We will continuously expand this post on the most popular and best spice mixes in the world. We are already looking forward to writing about Chimichurri, Harissa and much more soon!


This post appeared for the first time on September 8th, 2020 and is constantly being updated with new recipes and dishes!

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