Lebanese seven spice (sabaa baharat) is a blend of spices that add warm, aromatic flavor to a range of dishes. The exact mix can vary a little, and you can adapt to taste as well. You'll soon find you want to add it to soups, rubs and more.
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Many countries make use of the odd blend of spices to make cooking a little easier. In India, you'll find blends like garam masala that is fairly aromatic and typically added during cooking and chaat masala that is similar but with more of a citrus edge, more commonly to add at the end.
Ras el hanout is a popular Moroccan blend that adds great depth to tagines and more, and then there is Chinese five spice used in marinated and rubs.
Other places incorporate herbs as well. In France you'll find the herbes de Provence and the Levantine za'atar spice blend uses both herbs and spices. Then, of course, there are the herb ad spice blends that are that bit more controversial, like curry powder and Italian seasoning. We won't go there right now.
This Lebanese spice blend, however, is a traditional mix that you'll find used widely in Lebanon. It's also broadly the same as the baharat spice blend found in a number of countries across the Middle Eastern region.
What is baharat spice blend?
Baharat is Arabic for "spices" and "sabaa" means seven. In many places, baharat is used interchangeably for the spice blend, which can vary a little from place to place. It is used as a seasoning both during cooking and after.
In Turkey, it may include fennel or dried mint. In North Africa, you might find rose petals or ginger. Core flavors typically include cumin, cloves and cinnamon, along with pepper. Other common spices in the mix include nutmeg, coriander, cardamom and paprika. Although that said, paprika is less common in the Lebanese mix.
Proportions can also vary - some add a bit more of some ingredients, others keep them all roughly equal. It's a subjective thing to make, as many blends, but will add great flavor no matter the exact mix.
How to use Lebanese seven spice
Since the spice mix is largely aromatic, but also includes pepper, it is great in many different dishes. It's a typical flavoring for Lebanese chicken and rice (which I highly recommend trying!)
You can use it as a rub for meats before grilling, or add it into soups, vegetable and rice dishes. It would also work as an alternative on top of manakish flatbread (although I have to say I prefer za'atar).
You can also get a little creative with it - maybe add it into ground meat to season burgers, or mix it into dips. As with many spice blends, once you start using it, you get a feel for what it adds and then start to use it more.
Here I have gone with a relatively typical blend that adds a lovely balance of warm spice, aromatics and that little pepper bite. I've kept it simple with equal proportions of each, but you can certainly vary that if you prefer. You could also add in a little cardamom and/or paprika if you wanted, or white pepper as well as black which adds a slightly different twist.
This Lebanese seven spices, baharat spice blend is easy to make and adds a wonderful mix of flavors to many dishes. It's easy to make, with spices that are easy to find, and you'll soon find lots of uses for it as well.
Try these other seasonings and sauces:
- Dukkah (a nutty-seed mix that's great as a garnish)
- Chermoula sauce (a North African sauce including cumin and herbs)
- Romesco sauce (a nut and pepper sauce from Spain)
- Plus get more Middle Eastern Recipes in the archives.
Lebanese seven spice (sabaa baharat)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix together well. Store at room temperature in a sealed container.
- You can also make this starting with whole spices in part or full - just use equal volumes of the ground form, or take a best-guess from whole ingredients. Start by gently toasting most of the spices (cumin, coriander, cloves, allspice, cinnamon stick) in a dry skillet/frying pan to bring out their flavor. Nutmeg can also be freshly grated but does not really need toasted.
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