Ras el hanout is a favorite for spicing up Moroccan tagines and other North African cuisines. But as popular as this exotic spice blend is for this regional fair, it can be tough to source for the everyday chef. So where should you turn? What’s a good ras el hanout substitute that will bring you closest to authenticity? What can you use in a pinch? Let’s review your options.
Ras el hanout can be tough to find at your local store, but it is widely available online. If you're exploring Moroccan and North African cuisines, picking up a jar is highly recommended. Remember: each recipe (even commercial recipes) will be slightly different.
Table of Contents
- Your best bet: Make your own
- A simplified approach: A simple four-spice mix
- Two potential seasoning substitutions: Garam masala or curry powder
- Must-read related posts
Your best bet: Make your own
Ras el hanout as, a prepared spice mix, may be hard to source, but as the sum of its parts, it’s a whole lot easier. Really the meaning of the seasoning’s name says it all. Ras el hanout means “the head of the shop” in Arabic. It’s a mix of the best spices that the spice seller has.
So the good news: There are many homemade ras el hanout recipes that use ingredients common to a well-stocked spice rack. See PepperScale’s recipe here (with extra heat from extra cayenne powder which is optional) or a little searching opens up many more ras el hanout recipes. Each will vary as “the head of the shop” can mean many things.
A simplified approach: A simple four-spice mix
If your spice rack is short on spices, you can opt to simplify the mix down to four of the more prevalent flavors found in ras el hanout. These four are common finds even on basic spice racks:
- 1 part cumin
- 1/2 part coriander
- 1/2 part ginger powder
- 1/2 part paprika (or cayenne if you like it hotter)
This simple mix provides an earthy cumin kick with a ginger-fueled exotic twist. It’s certainly not as complex as a typical ras el hanout recipe, but it will work if you’re in a pinch with many recipes where ras el hanout is required.
Two potential seasoning substitutions: Garam masala or curry powder
Both of these Indian spice mixes can work as an alternative to ras el hanout. Garam masala especially shares many common ingredients, like cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. It tends to not be as spicy, so consider adding in a pinch of cayenne pepper powder to liven things up.
Curry powder, too, shares similar ingredients, though curry powder recipes can vary just as much as ras el hanout recipes. Some opt for similar exotic aromatics like ginger and cinnamon, while others take a more tangy approach to the flavor with dried mustards. Opt for the former, not the latter, if possible.