Inside the Spice Cabinet: Bahārāt

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Emily Han)

Bahārāt, which simply means “spice” in Arabic, is an all-purpose seasoning used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Although the particular blend varies by region and household, it always includes black pepper and typically has cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, among other spices.

What Is Bahārāt?

Taste: Smoky, sweet
Most Popular Use: Meat, chicken, fish, rice

Bahārāt is an aromatic, warm, and sweet spice blend typically made with a combination of black peppercorns, coriander, cumin, allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, and nutmeg. A traditional bahārāt mixture is used similar to how garam masala is used in India.

It’s sold in Middle Eastern grocery stores, but can also be easily mixed in your own kitchen. To make your own blend, we recommend starting with whole spices, which tend to be more flavorful, especially when they are toasted before grinding. Feel free to alter the ingredients and proportions to create your own signature blend. Other additions may include sumac, saffron, turmeric, and chiles. Turkish style bahārāt includes dried mint, and in North Africa the blend often has dried rose petals. Whether you buy bahārāt or make your own, it should be stored in an airtight container, away from heat and light, for up to three months.

How To Use Bahārāt

A pinch of bahārāt can add depth and flavor to soups, tomato sauces, lentils, rice pilafs, and couscous. It can also be used as a rub for fish, poultry, and meat; mixed with olive oil and used as a vegetable marinade; and blended with garlic, parsley, and olive oil to make a condiment paste.

Make Your Own Bahārāt

Makes about 3/4 cup

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
4 (3-inch) cassia or cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons ground sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Grind the whole spices using a mortar and pestle, spice mill, or coffee grinder. (You may need to do it in several batches.) Add the paprika and nutmeg and combine.

Recipe for Cooking with Bahārāt