Ras El Hanout is a spice mix from North Africa. It plays a similar role in North African cuisine as garam masala does in Indian cuisine. The name in Arabic means “head of the shop” (similar to the English expression “top-shelf”) and implies a mixture of the best spices the seller has to offer. Ras el hanout is used in many savory dishes, as a rub or stirred into couscous or rice. The mix is generally associated with Morocco, although neighboring North African countries use it as well.
The blend of spices used to make Ras El Hanout does vary but usually consists of over a dozen spices, in different proportions. Commonly used ingredients include: cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and dry turmeric. Some spices may be particular to the region, such as ash berries, chufa, grains of paradise, orris root, monk’s pepper, cubebs, dried rosebud, fennel seed or aniseed, galangal, long pepper.