Seven-spice seasoning

April 18, 2011  •  Category:


My mother needed spices and I tagged along; she shopped at a spice shop close to our neighborhood in west Beirut; the shop was the size of a small closet and it was filled to the brim with small wooden drawers with all the spices that one needed to make any kind of Arabic dish or pastry. That day, she bought a seven-spice mix for kibbeh,some cinnamon sticks and I don’t remember what else.

I tried to find this shop and the man tending it but it was gone in the big reshuffle that occurred in Beirut after fifteen years of constant war. I heard he  relocated.

This particular mix contains ginger, which we never used at home; you can make your own spice mix according to your taste! Some people love ground coriander and include it in their mix; my mother had a predilection for white pepper.

Bottom line is this: Lebanese cooking is very forgiving. Switching spices or omitting spices is not going to matter, since the mixture of spices varies between one family or neighborhood and another and whether one comes from the south (where folks love cumin and dried rose petals) or the north or the west  of the country.

I buy the mix to save time, that is all. Use it for kibbeh, stews, kafta or soups.

If you want to make your own mix, a good guideline is this: Use the larger amounts for pepper, allspice and cinnamon, say one tablespoon of each; the lesser amounts (one teaspoon of each) could be for the cumin, or coriander or cloves or nutmeg, etc.


20 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Tammy says:

    How funny you should write about this now. I just finished grinding spices (by HAND because I’m a lunatic) to make my own Chinese five-spice powder, since I didn’t have any on hand. And you know, as always, making your own spice means way more oompf in the taste department. (I just have to get an electric grinder–and some space to store it).

    Today at the farmer’s market I bought the ingredients for making dukkah. Is there a version of dukkah in Lebanon?

  2. Kankana says:

    I didn’t know about this spice combination at all. Thanks for sharing it with us 🙂

  3. Lyndsey says:

    I love spice mixtures, and spice shops. Too bad he had to relocate. I will have to try a version of this.

  4. Belinda @zomppa says:

    I’m glad to hear…especially since I can never seem to measure! How can I get this mix?

    • Joumana says:

      @Belinda: This mix is available at all Middle-Eastern groceries or online or at some supermarkets in the “international foods” aisle.

      @Tammy: You have all my respect for grinding your spices by hand! Dukkah is an Egyptian mix and in Lebanon people make their own “zaatar” mix, which may include other spices than the usual sumac, sesame, thyme and salt, such as dry coriander.

  5. Rosa says:

    That spice mix is wonderful!



  6. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    How sad you could not find the shop again from your childhood.I always marvel at travel pictures of spice stands. This is quite a nice mix. I guess it is the equivalent to say herbes de Provence for the local Beirut cooking.

  7. Chiara says:

    I love spice shops… wish there was one around here! And I also enjoy mixing my own spices very very much!

  8. Joanne says:

    I’ve always kind of wondered exactly what spices go into seven spice seasoning. Thanks for this post!

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  9. sweetlife says:

    How sad you were not able to visit his shop again, I like that you state lebanese cooking is very forgiving..I think alot of people do not attempt a recipe for fear of not having all the spices, I would love to use dried rose petals!


  10. Caffettiera says:

    Spices are forgiving, you are right, but you have to understand them, in a way. Some of them balance and if you are not aware of it, you are in for a disaster. I always make sure I taste and taste and taste while cooking.

  11. Nazneen says:

    I use a ready made 7 spice blend but it’s good to know the quantities. I always prefer to make my own mixes. Thanks!

  12. Diane says:

    I love Matzos but have not had them for years. Thanks for the recipe. Diane

  13. Magic of Spice says:

    7 Spice is one I have not tried yet. I love creating my own so I thank you for the tips 🙂

  14. FOODESSA says:

    I do so many things homemade…however, and little well put together time-saver ingredient is certainly welcomed in my kitchen also Joumana 😉

    Thank goodness for our cuisines to be somewhat forgiving…or else I’d quit right now. LOL

    Ciao for now,

  15. Needful Things says:

    I should have known to look here for this spice mix recipe – just this past week I was looking up ‘lebanese 7-spice mix/kibbeh mix’ after tasting a delicious burgul, tomato & mint salad that a lebanese friend made. All she could tell me was that she has no idea what exactly goes in the spice mix (because she gets hers from her grandmother back in Lebanon) but she confirmed that it contains black pepper, allspice, rose petals and she doesn’t know what else! You’ve provided a good guideline and I’m going to experiment and see if I can replicate the same flavor in my salad.

  16. p says:

    I was making kebbe bel sayniye for the first time today. As someone from the north of lebanon I always thought I have to master kebbe in all its shapes and variations , that would make my grandma proud . I can’t find 7 spice where I live so I had to improvise hoping that it wouldn’t ruin the taste of kebbe . I used cinnamon , black pepper, cumin , cardamom, chili flakes, sumac and cloves . Close enough !
    My mom’s friend came back from a trip to syria last winter and gave her a syrian spice mix that looks like garam masala ; I can see ground rose petals by just looking at it but won’t be able to tell what’s exactly in it beside cumin . I used a small dash just for fun . Pretty happy with the result but definitely have to try to recreate 7 spice at home

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