A Middle Eastern pantry is always equipped with plenty of spices, dried herbs and an array of pickled and preserved food items. Here’s what you shouldn’t be without:

The names are written in English, followed by the transliteration of the ARABIC word (using Latin alphabet/Numbers to represent Arabic sounds) and the followed by the Arabic spelling.


Aniseed:Yansoon: يانسون
Has a sweet flavor, the seeds are boiled in hot water like tea to make a drink. Mainly it is used for medicinal purposes, but is a staple in the kitchen. The flavor is similar in flavor to licorice, fennel seed and tarragon.
Cardamom: Hal: حب الحال
A very strong and aromatic spice that tastes like nothing else. In the Middle East this spice is used on desserts and in coffee and tea. It is the third most expensive spice by weight in the world.
Cinnamon: ‘Urfa: قرفة
A strong and fine spice that is common around the world, in Middle Eastern cooking it is found in the main meat dishes, desserts and even breakfast. It is common to have scrambled eggs with some cinnamon dusted over top for the perfect finish.
Cloves: Krunful: قرنفل
Cloves have a very strong flavor and are used in small quantities usually. They are dried flower buds and used to add flavor to meat dishes.
Cumin: Kamoon: كمون
A common spice originating from Egypt and used mostly in it’s ground form. It comes from a seed that is first toasted to bring out it’s spicy and tangy flavor. Used for main and side dishes, and is the star of the common breakfast dish called Msabaha or Balila.
Kaik Spice: بهارات الكعك
A mixture of anise, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, mahlab, sesame seeds and just a hint of black caraway seed
Mahlab: محلب
A spice cultivated from the inside of the St.Lucie Cherry seed stones. It has a taste comparable to bitter almonds with cherry notes.
Saffron: Zaafaran: زعفران
This is a dried stigma coming from a flower and gives a beautifully unique and aromatic flavor to savory foods. Saffron is primarily used in Iran and generally used in rice based dishes. It is the worlds most expensive spice because its cultivation is laborious.
Seven Spices: Sabeh Bharat: سبع بهارات
A mixture of spices used in most main dishes in Middle Eastern cooking.
Sumac: Summaq: سماق
A sour spice that comes from the sumac shrub, which is dried and ground yielding a deep red color. It gives a lemony taste and is used in salads, main dishes, side dishes and breakfast.
Turmeric: 3e2deh Safra: عقده صفراء
A bright yellow spice used in it’s ground form, it is a staple spice in our kitchens and one of our favorite Lebanese desserts is made using this spice – Sfouf!

Dried & Fresh Herbs:

Coriander: Kezebrah: كزبرة
Mint: Na3na3: نعنع
Oregano: Zaatar Akhdar: زعتر أخضر
Parsely: Bakdounis: بقدونس
Thyme: Zaatar: زعتر

Pickeled & Perserved:

Makdous: مكدوس
Baby Eggplants stuffed with walnuts and peppers preserved in oil.
Pickled Turnips: Kabees Lefet: كبيس لفت
Turnips cut in a thick julienne and pickled in vinegar with a small piece of of a red beet root to give them their pink color.

What else should you have?

Chickpeas: Hummus: حمص
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Zet Zaytoon: زيت زيتون
Fava Beans: Foul: فول
Garlic: Thoom: ثوم
Lemon: Hamud: حامض
Lentils: Aadas: عدس
Sesame Seed Paste: Tahini:
Bulgur Wheat: Borghol:
Pomegranate Molasses: Rub Al Romman: رب الرمان
Rose Water: Ma2 Al Ward:
ماء الورد
Orange Blossom Water: Ma2 Al Zaher:
ماء الزهر

Nuts & Seeds:

Sesame Seeds: Sumsum: سمسم
Pine Nuts: Snoobar: صنوبر
Almonds: Loz: لوز
Walnuts: Joz: جوز
Shredded Coconut: Joz el Hind: جوز الهند
Pistachios: Festo2: فستق


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s