Over the years, I've had so many questions about Ras el Hanout, Morocco's favourite spice blend. It's time to address them.
After asking my community over on Instagram, and doing a quick Google search, I've put together a few frequently asked questions along with my answers. Ras el Hanout is our most popular spice blend, so I feel a level of responsibility to tell you all you need to know. This way, I hope you can feel more confident to make a purchase or more open to using your very own tin. So, let's get into it.
Is Ras el Hanout spicy?
Like any other Moroccan spice or Moroccan food in general, Ras el Hanout is not spicy. Moroccan cooks are renowned for their ability to balance flavours perfectly, and Ras el Hanout is no different. The blend contains some spices that could be considered spicy on their own, like paprika, green cardamom and cumin, however these stronger punches of flavour are tempered by milder or sweeter components like nutmeg and cinnamon. Our version of Ras el Hanout is made up of 15 ingredients all with their own unique flavour, and all the flavours complement each other to create a subtle and fragrant result, not spicy.
Is Ras el Hanout vegan?
Yes, Ras el Hanout is vegan. We tried to make our version so it can be enjoyed by everyone, and so it is not only vegan but dairy, sugar and gluten free. However, this doesn't mean Ras el Hanout can only be enjoyed in completely vegan creations. Ras el Hanout complements a range of meats perfectly, we would recommend pairing it with lamb.
What is Ras el Hanout used for?
Ras el Hanout is a spice blend used to amplify and complement a range of your favourite foods. As aforementioned, it goes well with lamb, but also salmon, any vegetable soup, and most tagine variations. It packs a punch in plain dishes or can even be added to coffee for a fragrant twist.
What does Ras el Hanout taste like?
Our Ras el Hanout is made of paprika, ground coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, green cardamom, turmeric, garlic, nutmeg, rose petals, salt, all spice, cloves, white pepper, and finally, black pepper. This may seem like a lot of ingredients at first but every component of this blend balances another perfectly. It's all about the amount of each element - that's what creates the amazing and unique taste.
The best way I can describe the taste is warming. It warms you up from the inside with all woody, bitter and sweet tones.
What does Ras el Hanout mean?
Ras el Hanout translates to 'head of the shop' or 'shopkeeper's head', but you ask what does that mean. In Morocco it means the secret blend of each shopkeeper. Every spice shopkeeper will have their own personal blend they sell and because it's in his head and doesn't share it.
Is Ras el Hanout the same as Moroccan seasoning?
This is an odd question as there are many different Moroccan seasonings. I would say that if a recipe page suggests you use 'Moroccan seasoning' or a menu states a dish has it, they would most likely be referring to Ras el Hanout. It is Morocco's most beloved and popular spice, and completely unique to the country. However, this doesn't mean it's the only spice blend we have. Other examples of authentic Moroccan spice blends I make include Warm Ras El Hanout a warming and sweet spice perfect for white meats or desserts, and Smokey Ras El Hanout which has smoky BBQ notes that work well with grilled meats and fish.
How do you say Ras el Hanout?
In Morocco, as with every country, words are said slightly different depending on dialect. However, Ras el Hanout is typically pronounced like 'raas al haanout'.
Is Ras el Hanout the same as Harissa?
No, Ras el Hanout is not the same as Harissa. Harissa is a hot chili paste which originated in North Africa, however, the Moroccan version is often made to be more mild than Harissa you'll find in Tunisia or Algeria. Moroccan Harissa focuses on a more smoky, peppery flavour using less paprika and more acidic or citrus sweeteners like lemon juice, tomato paste and sweet red peppers. On the other hand, as I have illuminated, Ras el Hanout is a spice blend. The two are very different but they are both delicious.
Can I use Ras el Hanout instead of Garam Masala?
Again, I find this to be a bit of an odd question. Made from cinnamon and black pepper, Garam Masala is a popular spice blend in Southern Asian countries like India, and so, it compliments Indian or Pakistani dishes like curry perfectly. Because it is not a Moroccan spice I would say it would be hard for it to achieve Moroccan flavours in Moroccan-style dishes, and vice versa. So, if you are making an Indian curry, stick to Garam Masala. If you are making a Moroccan tagine, make sure you invest in some Ras el Hanout.
Is Ras el Hanout the same as Sumac?
Sumac is a wine-coloured fragrant spice made from dried berries which achieves a citrus flavour similar to that of lemon or lime. It is popular in the Middle East, especially countries like Iran who use it as a table condiment along with salt and pepper. People get confused between flavours which originate from the Middle East and North Africa because of their Arab influence, however, ultimately Morocco and Iran are countries which lie in completely different continents and therefore, Ras el Hanout is not the same as Sumac and could not be used as a substitute.
How much Ras el Hanout should I use in a Tagine?
How much Ras el Hanout you use depends on how many people you are serving to, and how sweet you'd like the taste to be. For a tagine made to serve 2-3 people you'll need 1 teaspoon of the spice blend, add half a teaspoon of cinnamon for a sweeter taste.
Is there a Ras el Hanout substitute?
Maybe I'm just biased but I don't believe there is a substitute for the unique blend of flavours in Ras el Hanout. You can try making your own from spices you have in your cupboard. For example, measure paprika, ginger, coriander in equal parts, with a spinkle of saffron. The flavour will resemble Ras el Hanout but it won't capture its subtlety or complexity. Let's say it like this, if a Moroccan person tried that mix, they would be able to tell it wasn't Ras el Hanout.
What recipes include Ras el Hanout?
Ras el Hanout can be a compliment to so many dishes, it's hard to list them all! It's perfect for lamb tagines, chicken tagines, meat couscous dishes, vegetable soups, and grilled fish like salmon.
Does Ras el Hanout go with meat?
In short, yes. Ras el Hanout goes perfectly with so many meats, especially lamb. That's a pairing you simply must try.
Can I make my own Ras el Hanout?
As aforementioned, you can try making your own Ras el Hanout using spices from your kitchen or by simply using ground coriander which has a faint resemblance to the taste of Ras el Hanout. In my opinion, it is better to invest in a proper spice blend. The most important thing about Ras el Hanout is the balance of flavours, and this is really hard to achieve without a background in Moroccan cooking or knowledge passed down from generations of family. As with any cuisine, if you get products straight from the source, you'll achieve the best flavour in your own cooking.
Where can I buy Ras el Hanout?
I would be lying if I said I wouldn't want to mention my very own Ras el Hanout. It won the 2 star Great Taste award 2021 and if you follow my recipes, I promise you there won't be a person at your dinner table not asking for seconds! You can buy from our website, our Amazon store, or through Instagram. We are also stocked in some independent stores in and around London, including the De Beauvoir Whole Foods.
There, that's all your questions answered. I hope I helped dispel some myths and gave you a helping hand for your next step towards mastering the art of Moroccan cooking. This is just the beginning!