Ras el Hanout is a North African blend of often more than 20 aromatic spices. It brings an earthy, warming complexity to both sweet and savory recipes. Learn everything you need to know in this essential guide, including what it tastes like, how to use it, and more! 

A close up of ras el hanout in a bowl with a spoon.
Photo Credits: Mark Beahm

Ras el Hanout, meaning “top shelf” in Arabic, is the spice shop version of “give me the best you have.” It’s meant to be an improvised mix of the most flavorful, fragrant, freshest spices the seller has that day.

As you can imagine with the commercialization of spices, this rather charming definition has changed. The exact definition for, “What is ras el hanout?” depends on who you’re asking. 

Generally speaking, though, Ras el Hanout is a warming, earthy, sweet-meets-spicy blend of spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, Aleppo pepper, allspice, and more. We use this exciting spice blend in recipes like our Tunisian frittata, Morrocan Fish, and meat pies. It's a worthy addition to your kitchen and sure to make your guests return for second helpings.

Table of Contents
  1. What is Ras el Hanout?
  2. What Does It Taste Like?
  3. Best Substitute for Ras el Hanout 
  4. Where to Buy Ras el Hanout
  5. How to Use It
  6. All About the Mediterranean Pantry! 
Ras el hanout on a plate with a spoon, in a bowl with a spoon, and a jar of the ras el hanout from the mediterranean dish.

What is Ras el Hanout?

Ras el Hanout is a spice blend that’s loved throughout North Africa and the Middle East, with its origins rooted in Morocco. Often made from over 20 spices, there is no definitive recipe–or even a list of spices that “must” or “must not” be included. 

Rather, each spice vendor, shop, and family has their own unique blend. And, like any good family recipe, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who will give you exactly what’s in their mix! But you can typically find warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, and cloves, along with earthy spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. The version in our shop also includes Aleppo pepper and a touch of cayenne pepper.

Some recipes include ground chili pepper for an added kick, and fenugreek, which has a sweet and vegetal flavor. You may even see anise, rose petals, and fennel.

Ras el hanout in a bowl with a spoon. Next to this are two jars of ras el hanout from the mediterranean dish.

What Does It Taste Like?

Ras el hanout combines sweet, savory, earthy and very mildly spicy notes. Think of it like pumpkin spice but with a savory Middle Eastern vibe. 

Best Substitute for Ras el Hanout 

There isn't a great substitute for Ras el Hanout, but the next best thing would be to use Baharat, which we also sell in our shop. Baharat also has warming, sweet and aromatic spices like cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. It's a great addition to chocolate recipes. You can try Baharat in this Vegan Chocolate Pudding recipe.

The recipe for both spices varies greatly. But, generally speaking, the difference between the two is earthy versus peppery. Ras el hanout typically takes on an earthy note typical of yellow spices like turmeric and coriander. Baharat has a sweet chili flavor reminiscent of red spices like paprika–you can learn more about bahrat in our guide: All About Baharat: The Warming, Spicy, Sweet-And-Savory Wonder Spice.

You can substitute the two in a pinch (so to speak), but the color will change and it won’t be quite the same flavor profile.

An overhead photo of ras el hanout on a spoon next to a jar of the spice from the mediterranean dish.

Where to Buy Ras el Hanout

You can find Ras el Hanout at specialty grocery stores and Middle Eastern markets. It should be in the spice section, sometimes alongside other blends like za’atar and dukkah.

If your grocery store doesn’t have a wide variety, head over to our shop. We jar the best blend I’ve found in the U.S., along with a curated selection of hard-to-find Middle Eastern and Mediterranean spices. 

If you want to try both Ras el Hanout and Baharat, I recommend starting with the Exotic 4-Pack. It includes both Ras el Hanout and Baharat along with other Mediterranean heavy hitters like Aleppo Pepper, a mild and sweet pepper, and Sumac, a tangy sour spice used in recipes like grilled chicken.

a close up of ras el hanout on a spoon.

How to Use It

The most famous use for this exciting spice blend is Pastilla (or “Bastilla”), a North African savory chicken pie made with crispy, flaky phyllo dough and a tender shredded chicken filling. But don’t stop there! Here are the many ways you can spice up your life with this delicious flavor-booster.

All About the Mediterranean Pantry! 

Browse all Mediterranean recipes.

Visit Our Shop

Try Our Ras el Hanout!

All-natural blend of warming spices including turmeric, allspice, cumin, ginger, and more. 

a bottle of ras el hanout from the mediterranean dish.

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. Suzy, we just made a leg of lamb for Easter, and I had ordered your Exotic 4 pack of spices before. For the lamb I used the ras el hanout from that pack, along with plenty of olive oil, lemons, and fresh garlic. Everyone went nuts over it! Now I intend to experiment with this delicious spice blend in loads of other dishes! It truly is out of this world.