What is ras el hanout and how to incorporate these spices in recipes?

Ras el hanout is a mixture of Moroccan spices: an explosion of flavors that adds flavor to vegetables and other preparations. In this post we are going to tell you everything you need to know about this dressing: where to get it or how to prepare it, recipes with meat or vegetarian to which it gives a special touch and substitutes to prepare these recipes in case you do not have the spice mixture.

recipe ras el hanout

What does ras el hanout consist of?

As we mentioned before, ras el hanout is a spice mixture originally from Morocco. It is traditionally composed of about twenty spices. However, it can contain more than 50 different spices.

As a curiosity we tell you that “ras el hanout” means “head of the store”, it is supposed to be composed of the best spices in the store. There are as many “raz-el-hanout” as there are shopkeepers, if not more. In fact, the spice blend is specific to each merchant and can also be tailored to the buyer’s desires or finances. The blend also varies from one region to another. There are simplified blends, containing less than 10 spices, especially those you will find in large retail.

Although blends vary, some spices are essential: cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper and turmeric. Sometimes it may also contain dried flowers, such as rosebuds, several varieties of pepper, mace, cloves, cumin or galangal.

How ras el hanout is used in recipes

Ras el hanout is a powerfully aromatic, slightly spicy and slightly sweet blend. Its particular flavor, warm and sweet, makes it an emblem of Morocco, where it is used in couscous, tagines, pastillas and vegetable dishes.

It underlines the flavors of sweet and savory dishes, enhances saucy dishes, flavors white fish and seafood, goes well with sweet vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin or turnips and perfumes rice. This Moroccan spice blend also sometimes flavors coffee in certain regions and flavors some Middle Eastern pastries. In fact, this spice blend goes very well with honey and almonds.

Below we bring you some recipes with ras el hanout so you can practice incorporating this blend into your dishes.


Chicken with ras el hanout recipe

This chicken recipe with ras el hanout from “moi-gourmande“.

Chicken ras el hanout recipe

Ingredients for the chicken with ras el hanout recipe (4 people)

4 chicken breasts
1 onion
1 chicken stock cube
1/4 L of water
20 cl liquid cream
2 teaspoons Ras El Hanout spices
Salt and pepper
Olive oil


Boil 1/4 L of water and add the chicken stock cube, turn off the heat when the cube is completely dissolved.
Chop the onion (cut into small cubes) and fry in a pan with a little olive oil.
Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and fry them with the onion.
When the chicken and onions are golden brown, pour in a little broth.
Let the broth reduce completely and stir the chicken and onion mixture.
Repeat this process until the chicken pieces are well caramelized.
Over medium heat, pour in the crème fraîche and stir well.
Add the 2 teaspoons of Raz El Hanout.
Mix well and simmer until the cream thickens.
Taste and season to taste with salt, pepper or Raz El Hanout.


If you feel like trying a vegetarian recipe with ras el hanout here we bring you one from “idée cuisine“.

Ras el hanout vegetarian recipe. Ingredients (3 servings)

1 zucchini
1 onion
80 g quinoa flakes
2 eggs
Grated Parmesan cheese
A few sprigs of chopped flat-leaf parsley
Ras el hanout (about 4 teaspoons, depending on the taste and strength of the ras el hanout)
1 teaspoon of nuoc mam or colatura di alici (optional but much better with it)
1 plain yogurt
2 large sweet and sour gherkins
chopped mint
Salt and pepper

Preparation of the veggie burgers with ras el hanout

Chop the onion. Cook it in a frying pan with 1 teaspoon of oil.
Beat the two eggs and mix with the parmesan. Set aside.
Grate the zucchini into a bowl (if it is organic, no need to peel it). Add the flakes, egg mixture, parsley and onion.
Mix well, smoothing with a spoon to obtain a kind of paste.
Add the ras el hanout and the nuoc mam. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. All spices can be used, the seasoning depends on your taste. I just advise you to season the mixture well. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: chop the gherkins and add them to the yogurt with the mint. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat two frying pans with a little oil.

Quickly shape the patties by taking the equivalent of a large spoon in your hand. Place them in the pans, flattening them slightly. Grill for about 10 minutes and turn over. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes.

Serve hot or cold with yogurt sauce and, for example, a sliced ripe tomato, salted and drizzled with olive oil.

Recipe for ras el hanout

If you want to prepare your own ras el hanout, you don’t need 100 spices to make your own ras el hanout, but you do need a few.

You can start with the basic spices found in most ras el hanout blends, which include cinnamon, coriander and cumin. To this you can add ginger, pepper flakes and turmeric. The spices you use will depend on what you are cooking. For example, you can add cloves or anise seeds to help cut the fat from the pork or duck.

How to preserve ras-el-hanout?

The best way is in a glass jar with a screw lid. As these are very strong flavors, the jar should always be dedicated to your ras-el-hanout. This way you make sure not to spoil another spice or mixture, and at least, even if you wash it, you make sure that it will not be contaminated with a different smell than its components. The spices used should be of good quality, preferably whole when you buy them and mix them yourself. If not, I advise you to go with high quality suppliers who do not expose ground spices to the wind (by definition, they fan out and lose their fragrance).

Where to find ras-el-hanout

The best place to buy ready-made ras el hanout is in small Arabian shops. Otherwise you can also find it in the typical spice jars in different supermarkets or even on ecommerces.

What is a good substitute for Ras El Hanout?

If you want to cook a dish that requires ras el hanout, you need to make sure you have the right spice mix on hand, although it can be difficult to find. It can also be difficult to get all the individual spices you need to get the right flavor profile. The result is that you may need to find a substitute. Here are some alternatives to ras el hanout.

One decent option for ras el hanout: Baharat

This is another Middle Eastern spice blend with a flavor profile similar to ras el hanout. The word “baharat” is Arabic for “spices,” and most baharat blends include many of the same spices found in ras el hanout; the North African variant may contain rose petals, which are included in many ras el hanout recipes. Baharat is also widely used in Israeli cuisine. Baharat usually contains cinnamon, black pepper and coriander, in addition to other spices, and can be used in exactly the same way as ras el hanout. It is effective for flavoring lentils, soups and rice dishes; it can also be used in seasonings for meat and fish. It is a popular seasoning for North African tagines.

In case of need: Garam masala

“Garam” translates as “spicy” while “masala” translates as “spices.” Like most traditional spice blends, there is no standard recipe, so the flavor profile of garam masala varies according to each cook’s preference. Like baharat, the number of spices in garam masala is usually less than in ras el hanout; however, the most commonly used spices are the same. Garam masala usually contains cinnamon, cumin and coriander along with cardamom and peppercorns. The result is a blend of flavors that can be used to mimic those of ras el hanout effectively. Use garam masala just like ras el hanout.

Other alternatives to ras el hanout

Five-spice powder is formulated to provide what the Chinese consider the five main flavors. Note that the name does not refer to the actual number of spices in the blend. The spices typically used to make five-spice blends are cloves, anise and black peppercorns. These spices are also used in ras el hanout.

Curry powder may be the easiest oriental spice blend to find and can be an effective substitute for ras el hanout. Note that the high turmeric content can give dishes a bright yellow color.


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