Adventure into Moroccan Blends - Exploring Chermoula and Ras el Hanout - THE SPICE & TEA SHOPPE

Adventure into Moroccan Blends - Exploring Chermoula and Ras el Hanout

The Art of Spice Blending: Exploring Moroccan Chermoula and Ras el Hanout 

In the realm of culinary artistry, the use of spices transcends mere seasoning—it transforms dishes into vibrant expressions of culture and history. Among the myriad of spice blends that enrich global cuisines, Moroccan chermoula and ras el hanout stand out for their complex flavors and deep cultural roots. This blog post delves into the origins, uses, and recipes of these two iconic Moroccan spice blends, offering insights into how they can inspire culinary creativity. Read on to discover their rich histories and find delicious recipes that will bring the enchanting flavors of Morocco to your kitchen.


Chermoula: A Northern African Marvel:

One of the most captivating blends often used is chermoula (pronounced “cher-MOO-lah”). Chermoula is inspired by a marinade and sauce used in northern African cuisine, particularly in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. This blend is celebrated for its robust yet versatile flavor profile, making it a staple in many kitchens. The chermoula blend typically features a complex combination of nineteen spices, which include:

  • Heat: Derived from various chiles including cayenne pepper, providing a mild to moderate spiciness that enlivens the palate.
  • Warmth: Contributed by spices such as cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom, which add a comforting depth and richness to the blend.
  • Zest: Brought in by lemon, ginger, and parsley, these ingredients offer a refreshing and slightly tangy undertone, balancing the overall flavor profile.

Chermoula’s versatility makes it suitable for a variety of dishes. It is particularly popular for marinating and seasoning fish, grilled meats, and vegetables. For instance, chermoula can transform a simple dish of grilled chicken and vegetables served over couscous into a culinary delight, infusing it with layers of intricate flavors.

Historical and Cultural Roots of Chermoula:

The origin of chermoula is deeply rooted in Moroccan cuisine, a gastronomic tradition rich in history and cultural influences. To understand the significance of chermoula, one must explore the broader context of Moroccan culinary history. An excellent resource for this exploration is the blog “My Moroccan Food” by Nagrisse, a Moroccan woman based in London. Her writings provide valuable insights into the evolution of Moroccan cuisine, starting with the Berbers, Morocco's original nomadic inhabitants.

The Berbers were instrumental in developing many of the cooking techniques and staple ingredients that define Moroccan cuisine today. They introduced the slow-cooking utensil known as the tagine, a conical clay pot that allows for gentle, even cooking. They also brought essential ingredients such as couscous, chickpeas, and beans into the Moroccan diet. These staples formed the backbone of the region’s cuisine and were pivotal in the development of dishes like chermoula.

In the 7th century, Arab conquerors arrived in Morocco, bringing with them a wealth of spices from the East. These spices, including turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and paprika, were quickly assimilated into Moroccan cooking. They became fundamental components of many spice blends, including chermoula and another iconic blend, ras el hanout. The Arabs' influence on Moroccan cuisine was profound, creating a fusion of flavors that still defines the region's culinary identity. 

Chermoula Seasoning


Ras el Hanout - The Jewel of Moroccan Spice Blends:

Ras el hanout, another cornerstone of Moroccan spice blends, translates to “top of the shop” in Arabic. This name implies that the blend consists of the very best spices a shop has to offer. The literal translation, “head of the shop,” reflects the blend’s esteemed position in Moroccan culinary traditions. Unlike chermoula, which has a relatively consistent recipe, ras el hanout can vary widely from one shop to another. Each version is unique, reflecting the spice merchant’s personal touch and preferences.

Ras el hanout is a complex blend, often containing up to thirty different spices. Common ingredients include:

  • Cinnamon: Adds warmth and sweetness.
  • Nutmeg: Provides a slightly sweet, nutty flavor.
  • Ginger: Contributes a pungent, zesty kick.
  • Turmeric: Imparts a vibrant yellow color and earthy taste.
  • Paprika: Offers mild heat and sweetness.
  • Cardamom: Adds a fragrant, slightly sweet flavor.

These spices combine to create a blend that is both aromatic and flavorful, perfect for enhancing a variety of dishes. Ras el hanout is traditionally used in Moroccan pastilla meat pies, tagines, and stews. Its ability to elevate these dishes makes it a staple in Moroccan kitchens.

The Role of Ras el Hanout in Moroccan Cuisine:

Understanding the historical and cultural significance of ras el hanout requires a deeper dive into Moroccan culinary traditions. As previously mentioned, the blend's name itself indicates its high status in Moroccan spice shops. This blend is often used in dishes like mrouzia, a lamb and honey dish that features intense seasoning. Mrouzia showcases the rich, sweet, and savory balance that ras el hanout can bring to a dish.

Another traditional use of ras el hanout is in pastilla, a Moroccan meat pie made with layers of thin pastry, spiced meat (usually pigeon or chicken), and almonds, often dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. The blend’s complex flavor profile complements the sweetness of the pastry and almonds, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

Tagines, the slow-cooked stews named after the conical clay pot in which they are prepared, are another prime example of dishes that benefit from ras el hanout. The slow cooking process allows the spices to meld with the other ingredients, resulting in a rich, flavorful stew. Whether it’s a lamb tagine with apricots and almonds or a chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives, ras el hanout adds depth and complexity to the dish.

Ras el Hanout


Exploring Moroccan Cuisine - Recipes and Techniques:

For those interested in exploring Moroccan cuisine, here are two recommended recipes that showcase the versatility and richness of these spice blends:


Chickpea and Couscous Falafel

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked couscous
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Chermoula Seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
Olive oil for frying


In a food processor, combine chickpeas, cooked couscous, chopped onion, minced garlic, chermoula, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt, black pepper, parsley, cilantro, and flour.

Pulse until the mixture is well combined but still slightly chunky.

Form the mixture into small patties or balls.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the falafel patties in batches, cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy.

Drain on paper towels and serve warm with tahini sauce or yogurt.


Moroccan Lamb with Raisins and Pine Nuts

2 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro for garnish


Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the lamb chunks and brown on all sides.

Remove the lamb from the pot and set aside. In the same pot, add the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent.

Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.

Stir in the ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ras el hanout, and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Return the lamb to the pot and add the beef broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the lamb is tender.

Add the raisins and pine nuts and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.


Incorporating Moroccan Blends into Everyday Cooking:

Moroccan spice blends like chermoula and ras el hanout are not only for traditional Moroccan dishes. Their unique flavor profiles can enhance a wide range of everyday recipes, bringing a touch of exotic flair to your meals. Here are some ideas for incorporating these blends into your regular cooking routine.


Chermoula as a Versatile Marinade:

Chermoula can be used as a marinade for various proteins. Mix chermoula with olive oil and use it as a rub for grilling chicken, lamb, or fish. The blend’s complex flavors infuse the meat, making it tender and flavorful. Shredded chermoula-marinated chicken can be used in tacos, sandwiches, or salads, adding a burst of North African flavor to these dishes.

For a refreshing summer marinade, combine chermoula with yogurt. This mixture is excellent for marinating chicken or vegetables before grilling. The yogurt’s creaminess balances the spices’ heat, creating a delightful marinade that enhances the dish's overall taste.


Ras el Hanout in Soups and Stews:

Ras el hanout can be used to add depth and complexity to soups and stews. A pinch of this spice blend can transform a simple lentil soup into a rich, aromatic dish. The blend’s warm spices meld beautifully with the legumes, creating a comforting and satisfying meal.

In stews, ras el hanout’s flavors intensify over time, making it an ideal spice for slow-cooked dishes. Whether it’s a beef stew, chicken stew, or vegetable stew, a dash of ras el hanout will elevate the dish, adding layers of flavor that develop as the stew simmers.


Enhancing Vegetarian Dishes:

Both chermoula and ras el hanout are excellent for enhancing vegetarian dishes. Use chermoula to season roasted vegetables, adding a burst of flavor to a simple side dish. Tossing vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers in chermoula before roasting brings out their natural sweetness while adding a spicy kick.

Ras el hanout can be used to spice up vegetarian tagines or grain dishes like quinoa and couscous. The blend’s complex flavors make these simple grains more interesting and delicious. Try adding ras el hanout to a vegetable tagine with chickpeas, tomatoes, and zucchini for a hearty and flavorful vegetarian meal.


Exploring the World of Moroccan Tea:

No Moroccan culinary adventure is complete without experiencing traditional Moroccan Mint Tea. This refreshing beverage is a staple in Moroccan culture, often enjoyed with meals or as a welcoming gesture to guests. Traditional Moroccan Mint Tea is made by steeping green tea with fresh mint leaves and sweetening it with sugar. At The Spice & Tea Shoppe we have made it even easier by creating a delicious and refreshing blend that simply needs water and sugar.


Loose Leaf Moroccan Mint Tea | The Spice & Tea Shoppe

How to Make Moroccan Mint Tea - 

1 heaping tablespoon loose leaf Moroccan Mint Green Tea
4 cups very hot water (just under a boil)
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)


Rinse the teapot with a little hot water to warm it up.

Add the sugar to the teapot.

Add the loose leaf Moroccan Mint Green Tea to the infuser in the teapot and pour in the hot water.

Steep tea for 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove infuser with tea leaves.

Pour the tea into glasses from as high as you can without spilling it everywhere to aerate the tea and create a frothy top. This enhances its flavor and is the traditional preparation method but not always easy to master so is optional.

Serve hot and enjoy with your meal or as a refreshing drink on its own.

Moroccan Mint Tea is more than just a beverage; it’s a cultural experience. The process of making and serving the tea is a ritual that reflects Moroccan hospitality and tradition. Whether you’re enjoying it with a Moroccan meal or simply savoring it on its own, this tea offers a delightful taste of Morocco’s rich culinary heritage.

Loose Leaf Green Tea - Moroccan Mint Tea - Loose Tea


Embracing the Flavors of Morocco:

Exploring Moroccan spice blends like chermoula and ras el hanout opens up a world of culinary possibilities. These blends bring the rich, diverse flavors of Moroccan cuisine to your kitchen, allowing you to create dishes that are both authentic and innovative. From marinating meats to spicing up vegetarian dishes, these blends offer a versatile and flavorful addition to any cook’s repertoire.

By incorporating these Moroccan blends into your cooking, you not only enhance your dishes but also connect with a rich culinary tradition that spans centuries. Whether you’re an experienced chef or a home cook looking to try something new, chermoula and ras el hanout provide an exciting way to expand your culinary horizons.

For those seeking to delve deeper into Moroccan cuisine, exploring traditional recipes and cooking techniques can be both rewarding and educational. The rich history and cultural significance of these blends add an extra layer of appreciation for the flavors they bring to your table. And, of course, no Moroccan culinary adventure is complete without a cup of traditional Moroccan Mint Tea, a perfect way to round out your meal and savor the tastes of this vibrant and storied cuisine.