Think Moroccan cooking and your senses will immediately transport you to distinctly aromatic flavors. Thanks to spices from Morocco, anyone can easily tell if a dish is cooking up from across a room.
With its long history of colonization and immigration, Moroccan flavors draw influence from a fusion of cuisines. If you’re well-traveled (or simply a foodie), you might be able to tell that most Morrocan dishes are reminiscent of international tastes—including Arab, Mediterranean, Spanish, and French flavors.
If you’re visiting Morroco, spices are definitely something you want to bring home with you. After all, if you’re lucky enough to land in this rich and exotic country, you will want to prolong your experience—even way after you arrive home. And, what better way to experience a culture than through food?
Here is a Moroccan spices list you can bookmark for your next trip to Morocco.
12 tasty spices from Morocco
1. Saffron (Zafrane)
Hailed as the world’s most legendary spice, saffron is easily a global phenomenon when it comes to cooking. Most of the world’s saffron supply comes from very few countries—Morocco included. This said, you can expect to score this spice in Morocco at very affordable prices!
Albeit owning a distinguishable taste, saffron is difficult to describe with words. You might say it is subtly sweet and flamboyant; a small amount of it instantly adds flavor, vibrancy, and aroma to a dish.
Saffron goes well with almost everything—from bouillabaisse to pudding. But if you want to stick with using it as an authentic Moroccan spice, try cooking up a Moroccan saffron chicken.
2. Ras El Hanout
If you want to take Moroccan flavors home with you, ras el hanout is your best bet. This spice brings out the best of Moroccan spices—it is literally composed of over a dozen of them! Some popular ingredients in ras el hanout are cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, chili peppers, and nutmeg.
Because of the complexity of this spice, ras el hanout is not a product you can find just anywhere. But certainly, Morocco is the place to start hunting for this spice. Do note that every blend tastes slightly different, so scan the market before shopping!
Unlike saffron, ras el hanout is more of a specialty spice. It is popularly used in fancier traditional dishes like mrouzia, tajine, and couscous tfaya.
3. Black pepper (Ibzar or elbezar)
Not much has to be said of black pepper, as it is a lot more common than the previous Moroccan spices. That said, it is worth knowing that Moroccan cuisine uses black pepper very generously. In fact, you will find that most Moroccan dishes have copious amounts of black pepper in them. Typically, Moroccans use black pepper to season meat (particularly lamb tagines) or salads.
4. Turmeric (Kharkoum or quekoum)
Nothing provides more color to food than turmeric. Easily recognizable for its yellow hue, turmeric is popular in Moroccan cuisine. It provides an earthy and exotic flavor to dishes. Some popular Moroccan recipes that include turmeric are Meat Tagine with Prunes and Chicken and Olives Tagine.
Also known as golden saffron, turmeric provides more than just flavor and color. This Morrocan spice is widely known for its health benefits: It functions as a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and it strengthens several bodily functions.
5. Fenugreek seeds (Helba or halba)
Known for its fragrance and biting taste, fenugreek seeds frequently show up in Moroccan chicken dishes. The herb itself has a sweet flavor, but Moroccan cuisine typically makes use of its bitter seeds to add character to a dish.
Beyond its distinct taste, fenugreek is also known for its health benefits, such as lowering blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels, and boosting testosterone. It also promotes lactation. In Morocco, nursing mothers turn towards dishes that incorporate this spice to help them breastfeed their babies.
6. Cumin (Kamoun or kamoon)
Pungent and aromatic, cumin provides a powerful taste to any Moroccan dish. As this spice mixes strongly, Moroccans are particular in using this as a flavoring. Usually, locals add cumin to their eggs, tagines, grills, and salads—but only if they are going for a specific outcome. Kefta Brochettes is a popular Moroccan recipe that uses cumin.
As cumin has hit the mainstream market, people have started using it to relieve indigestion and diarrhea. Cumin has also been proven to boost immunity as it has high levels of vitamin C, iron, and fiber.
7. Ginger (Skinjbir)
Another strong ingredient, the ginger spice is widely used in tagines, stews, and soups in Moroccan cuisine. Either grounded or powdered, ginger boasts of excellent medical benefits, as well: It is another natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, to say the least.
8. Cinnamon (Karfa)
Inarguably, cinnamon has made a name for itself in the global sphere. It has become a popular addition to trendy beverages and desserts worldwide. But in Morocco, cinnamon has been used since time immemorial. In fact, ancient Moroccans would trade in cinnamon, as it was—and relatively, still is—a precious spice with a hefty price.
Aside from sweet dishes, Moroccan meat-based recipes also maximize the sweet and woody taste of cinnamon. This spice also finds its way in some traditional soups, like the harira.
9. Anise seed (Nnafaâ or naffa)
Boasting a licorice-like flavor, anise seed mostly fulfills its purpose in Moroccan dessert—like krachel, cookies, and bread. Some soup and tagine recipes also use this spice for an added punch.
Like many of the spices from Morocco, anise seed has a lot of health benefits. It is yet another anti-inflammatory; additionally, it has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Above all, anise seed contains high amounts of calcium. It strengthens bones and empowers the nerves and muscles through this.
10. Paprika (Felfla hlouwa)
In Morocco, paprika refers to the sweet product of grounded dried bell peppers. Its spicier counterpart, hot paprika, is called cayenne pepper. Moroccans like using sweet paprika on a wide variety of dishes. It adds tang and color to salads, stews, and soups; it is also used to season meat dishes.
11. Cayenne (Felfa sudaniya)
Cayenne is one of the spices in Morocco that sets apart most dishes. It instantly upgrades a recipe with its hot peppery flavor, but its relatively subtle taste allows its versatility. Most Moroccan dishes consider cayenne as a bonus ingredient. Oftentimes, Moroccans like pairing this spice with its sweet counterpart, the paprika.
12. Nutmeg (Bsibsa)
Nutmeg serves a special function in Moroccan dishes. It is typically found in seasonal food—but of course, you can always add it to stew, couscous, or tagine. Because of its sweet and nutty flavor, this spice is a common addition to dessert—either as an additive or a garnishing. Rarely, Moroccans also use nutmeg to season meat-based dishes.
How to serve a Moroccan meal
Now you have your spices, the next thing to figure out is how to use them. You can try out a popular Moroccan couscous recipe as a starter. As for meat, Moroccans conventionally go for beef, lamb, or chicken. (Pork is unpopular as it goes against religious beliefs.)
If you are feeling adventurous, you can try cooking up a tagine. Don’t have a tagine at home? You can trust your dutch oven/slow cooker/instant pot to do the job!
Granted you want to go for the safer culinary route, go for a good old grill or roast. Season your meat with the right spices, and you’ll enjoy an authentic Moroccan dish in no time!
Do remember to serve a salad before the main course. Some popular ingredients you’ll find in a Moroccan salad are lemon juice, tomatoes, pomegranate, cilantro, and boiled egg. Add in your spices to the mix—there you have it!
Shopping for spices in Morocco
Aside from those mentioned in this Moroccan spices list, there are a lot of other fascinating seasonings and herbs you can score in the Moroccan spice market. Make sure to arm yourself for battle: Bring a resealable bag for the packs of spices you’ll be bringing home with you!
If you enjoy unplanned escapades, you will certainly love the Moroccan spice market. Bazaars in Morocco are known for their shabby chic look; every visit passes for adventure! But as much as spontaneity is exciting, don’t just head to the market unprepared. Do your research! Know where the tastiest and most affordable products are, so that you avoid going around in circles.
Most Moroccan bazaars close at night, so do take note of the hours they open as well. End of the day shopping might also do you good, as some vendors drop their prices before ending the day.
So there you have it! That’s all you need to know about Moroccan spices. Enjoy cooking!