Spices for Shawarma: Ras al Hanout and Harissa

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Ras al Hanout

Ras al Hanout is a spice blend of Moroccan origin which can be used in many dishes, including soups and tagines. Ras al Hanout goes well with rice and couscous. This recipe is inspired by Greg Malouf’s “Moorish” cookbook.


1 tspn of cumin seeds
1 tspn of coriander seeds
6 cardamom pods (seeds only)
1/2 tspn of black peppercorns
2 tspns of sweet paprika
1 tspn of cinnamon powder (one stick, ground up, generally gives a teaspoon, or for a more aromatic version use Dutch Cinnamon)
1 tspn of tumeric
1 tspn of chilli powder or cayenne pepper
1 tspn of salt (preferably freshly ground sea salt)
1/2 tspn of sugar (dark molasses or palm sugar works well)
1/2 tspn of allspice (also known as pimento)
3 cloves
1/4 tspn of caraway seeds
1/4 tspn of anise seeds


Dry fry each of the seeds (cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, caraway, anise and cloves) separately in a small pan. Move the cooked spices to a mortar and pestle and grind together. Combine all ingredients in a small crucible.


Store in a tightly sealed container in a dark place.

I find 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of this spice mix is plenty for a large stew.

Moorish: Flavours from Mecca to Marrakech (Paperback) by Greg and Lucy Malouf
posted at http://degroot.id.au/recipes/2006/03/07/ras-al-hanout/


Harissa du Cap-bonHarissa is used in cous cous and in shawarmas. "Harissa du Cap-Bon" manufactured by Conserves Majoul, imported from Tunisia, is available in stores such as Whole Foods , but you can make your own harissa. Here are two harissa recipes plus links to a few more.


1 ounce dried hot red chili peppers
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup olive oil

Place the dried peppers into a bowl, and pour enough hot water over to
cover. Let the peppers soak for at least one hour. Meanwhile, grind the
caraway seed, cumin seed and coriander seed together in a spice mill.

Drain the peppers, pat them dry with paper towels, and chop. Then mash
them together with the garlic, spices and salt in a mortar and pestle until you
have a thick paste. Add the water and three tablespoons of the olive oil, mix
well, and transfer to a jar. Spoon the remaining olive oil over the top.
Cover tightly and refrigerate. It will keep for months. Makes about one-third
cup. Use as directed above.

Tunisian Harissa

Tunisian Harissa is a fiery red chili paste widely used to flavor couscous, stews and soups. Couscous (semolina granules derived from durum wheat) is served in a large bowl with a stew and harissa poured over it.


4 ounces of hot dried red chili peppers
6 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons of sea salt
6 tablespoons of coriander seeds
4 tablespoons cumin seeds
10 tablespoons of olive oil


  1. Peel the garlic. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with two tablespoons of salt until smooth, and set aside. Remove the seeds and stems from the chilies *** and soak them in hot water until soft. Crush the drained chilies in the mortar with another two tablespoons of salt. Add to the garlic paste.
  2. Place the coriander and cumin seeds in the mortar and use the pestle to pound them into a power. Add the garlic and chilli paste and a little olive oil and pound until smooth. Continue this process, adding up to 10 tablespoons of olive oil, until the sauce is well blended.

* When seeding and chopping peppers, always wear gloves and do not touch your eyes or face before washing your hands thoroughly.

from THE WORLD, August 10, 1999

Recipe from The Lonely Planet's travel book, Tunisia, 1998.

The links below to additional harissa recipes have no links back, so press back arrow.

More Harissa Recipes Top
Blue Room Harissa with dried red and Ancho chilis, red bell peppers, garlic, cumin and black caraway seeds, and olive oil
Harissa with Red Bell Peppers, Red Chile Peppers, tomato, and lemon juice
Harissa (with mild and hot Mexican chilies , sun-dried tomato, garlic, coriander seed, and caraway) especially for fish couscous; includes recipe for Harissa Table Sauce
Paula Wolfert's Harissa with Roasted Red Pepper, Ancho, Guajillo, and Chipotle Peppers, dried New Mexico Green Chiles, Garlic, Coriander, Caraway and Olive Oil; great on fish.



January 26, 2010