What’s A Good Ras El Hanout Substitute?

Ras el hanout is a favorite for spicing up Moroccan tagines and other North African cuisine. But as popular as it 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.

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 its 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 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) 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. We recommend:

  • 1 part cumin
  • 1/2 part coriander
  • 1/2 part ginger powder
  • 1/2 part cayenne (or paprika if you like it milder)

This simple mix provides an 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.

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 at all possible.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 17, 2019 to include new content.
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