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These spices can spice up your meals

If you're looking for an around-the-world taste experience, try experimenting with various herbs and spices. They add interesting flavors and aromas to your food without the need for adding salt.

Cuisines around the world use a variety of spices to add depth to their dishes. Many cuisines known for tantalizing taste buds derive from the regions of North Africa and the Middle East. These cuisines use spices that range from spicy and savory to earthy and subtle.  Some spices are also commonly used in other cuisines, while others are specific to the region.

Here are a few of the more commonly known spices used in African and Middle Eastern cuisine that can be used to flavor a wide variety of dishes:

  • Coriander seeds: These are the dried fruits of the coriander plant, also known as cilantro. They possess a warm, earthy flavor with a slight hint of citrus. Coriander seeds come in both whole and ground forms, but for the richest flavor, it is best to buy them whole, toast them and grind them yourself with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder. Coriander pairs great with most Indian, Latin, African and Middle Eastern dishes. Not only do these seeds taste great, but they contain important minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium.
  • Paprika: The bright red color of paprika and its bold flavor make it hard to ignore. Made from dried chili pepper, this versatile spice originated in the Americas and is now used widely in global cuisine, most commonly Hungarian dishes like goulash and Spanish foods like chorizo. Its rich flavor can range from sweet or smoky to fiery hot, making it a great addition to stews, chili, tomato sauces and barbecue rubs.
  • Cilantro: This bright green, leafy herb shares the same plant origin as coriander seeds, but cilantro leaves have their own distinct flavor profile. The flavor of cilantro is often described as pungent, grassy and citrusy and leads many to either love or hate the herb. Cilantro adds a punch of flavor to a wide variety of dishes including salad dressings, Indian foods and Latin foods. It also adds a burst of eye-catching color on top of soups or chili.

Other spices used in African and Middle Eastern cooking worth experimenting with include ajowan seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, ginger root and saffron, as well as a number of spice blends.


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Date Last Reviewed: December 6, 2018
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN
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