How To Make Baharat, The Middle-Eastern Garam Masala

The easiest way to introduce yourself to a new cuisine is to start collecting the spices that are most frequently used in their dishes. For Indian cooking, things like haldi, jeera, hing and coriander would take pride of place on your shelf. And similarly, if you’re hoping to explore dishes in the Middle-Eastern space, Baharat spice is a great place to start. 

This all-purpose spice mix is sort of like what Garam Masala is to Indian cooking. In fact, they contain a lot of similar ingredients with a few exceptions. Bay leaf and chilli powder feature in Garam Masala but not Baharat, which instead has smoked paprika for a milder, sweeter heat. Often referred to as Lebanese 7 Spice, it actually contains a blend of eight different spices to create a mix that’s sweet, smoky, spicy and tangy fragrant flavours that can be used in a multitude of different ways. 

The word Baharat in Arabic simply means ‘spices’ and it’s mostly used in Middle Eastern, Turkish and Greek cuisine. There are several variants and you can make your own adjustments depending on how spicy you like it but the eight basic constituents of the mix are:

  • Black pepper
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves – whole or ground
  • Coriander – whole or ground 
  • Cumin
  • Nutmeg
  • Smoky paprika 

For a more Turkish feel, you can also add in some dried mint leaves. Another addition that you can experiment with is dried lime powder called loomi. You could also use a pinch of amchur or dried mango powder for a similar effect. The best part is that the ratio of spices is up to you. Adjust it to your preferences and see what you like best.

It comes together in minutes and you can either grind them in an electric spice grinder or pound it to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. When it’s ready it can be used as a dry rub to marinade meat, as a seasoning for any curry or stew or even just as a condiment to sprinkle on top of your dishes. A great dish to try is Egyptian Koshary, similar to Khichdi, where the spice really gets to shine.