7 spice powder, also known as 7 spice seasoning or baharat, is a staple spice blend in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. This aromatic blend typically contains 7 different spices that create a warm, earthy, slightly sweet and incredibly flavorful seasoning.
While there are regional variations, the core ingredients in most 7 spice powder recipes include allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg and coriander. When blended together, these spices create a complex flavor profile that adds depth to many savory dishes.
A Brief History of 7 Spice Powder
The origins of 7 spice powder can be traced back centuries to the Middle East and North Africa. As a region that was central to ancient spice trade routes between Asia, Africa and Europe, the Middle East became a melting pot of flavors and ingredients.
Spice blends like baharat emerged as a way to bring together the diverse spices and seasonings that were flowing into the region. These blends made it easy for cooks to add complex flavors to their food without needing multiple individual spices.
Over time, the blend evolved into a standard set of 7 core spices that created the perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy flavors. While recipes vary slightly, the foundation has remained the same for generations.
Today, pre-mixed 7 spice powder can be found in most Middle Eastern markets and spice shops. However, many cooks still prefer to make their own blend at home so they can customize the proportions and ensure freshness.
Common Ingredients in 7 Spice Powder
While there are many recipes for 7 spice blend, these core ingredients are used in most traditional versions:
Allspice comes from the dried berry of the Pimenta dioica tree. When ground down it provides a sweet, peppery and slightly clove-like flavor.
Adds a bit of heat and bite. Freshly cracked peppercorns are best for maximum aroma and flavor.
Warm, sweet and slightly spicy. Cinnamon adds comfort and depth.
The dried flower buds of the clove tree provide a strong, sweet and aromatic flavor. Used sparingly due to their potency.
Common in Middle Eastern cuisine, cumin has an earthy and slightly bitter taste. Provides a savory backbone.
Adds a sweet, woody aroma and a subtle heat. Use freshly grated nutmeg if possible.
Made from the seeds of the cilantro plant. Provides lemony, floral notes.
These core spices can be tweaked and customized to suit different tastes. Some recipes also add ingredients like cardamom, paprika, ginger or fenugreek. Play around with the blend to create your own signature flavor!
How to Make Homemade 7 Spice Powder
Making your own 7 spice blend at home is simple, and ensures you have the freshest, most flavorful mix possible. Here are two easy methods:
Method 1: Mixing Pre-Ground Spices
- Measure out equal amounts of each ground spice. Most recipes call for 1-2 tablespoons each.
- Combine all the spices in a bowl and stir thoroughly to integrate.
- Transfer to an airtight container like a jar or spice bottle for storage.
Method 2: Toasting and Grinding Whole Spices
- Toast whole allspice, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves and cinnamon sticks in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
- Let the toasted spices cool, then grind them, along with whole nutmeg, in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- Sift the powder through a sieve to remove any large pieces. Discard or re-grind these pieces if needed.
- Combine with ground coriander and transfer to an airtight container for storage.
Where to Buy 7 Spice Powder
While making your own 7 spice is ideal for freshness, you can also purchase pre-made blends at Middle Eastern markets or online spice shops. When buying, look for mixes with recognizable, high-quality ingredients rather than terms like "natural flavors."
You can also substitute a mix of common spices like cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice in equal amounts. Start with 1-2 teaspoons total for most recipes.
How to Store 7 Spice Powder
To retain freshness and flavor, 7 spice powder should be kept in an airtight container away from light and heat. Store in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard. Kept properly, it will last for 6-12 months before losing potency.
Key Takeaway: For maximum freshness and flavor, store 7 spice powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It will keep for up to one year.
Using 7 Spice Powder in Recipes
The complexity of 7 spice powder makes it incredibly versatile in both savory and sweet dishes:
7 spice can be used as a dry rub or marinade for grilled meats like lamb, chicken, beef and fish. It also adds wonderful flavor to stews, curries, soups and vegetable dishes.
It is commonly used in Middle Eastern recipes like:
- Mixed into ground meat for kabobs or meatballs
- Added to rice or grain pilafs
- Sprinkled on hummus, baba ghanoush or labneh
- Whisked into salad dressings and dips like toum
- Sprinkled on roasted vegetables
- Added to lentil or bean soups and stews
The warm sweet spices like cinnamon, allspice and cloves also make 7 spice powder perfect for baked goods like:
- Hot cereal
- Roasted winter squash
Start with 1 teaspoon per recipe and adjust to taste.
Substituting 7 Spice Powder
If you don't have 7 spice on hand, you can mimic the flavor by substituting a blend of:
Add a pinch each of allspice, cloves and black pepper if you have them available.
A Note on Japanese 7 Spice (Shichimi Togarashi)
It's important not to confuse Middle Eastern 7 spice powder with Japanese shichimi togarashi. While both blends contain 7 ingredients, the spices used are completely different.
Japanese 7 spice contains chili powder, dried orange peel, sesame seeds, nori and other ingredients that create a very different flavor profile. Be sure to read the label when purchasing 7 spice powder to ensure you get the right blend for the cuisine you are cooking.
Is 7 spice powder spicy?
Most traditional recipes for 7 spice powder are not inherently spicy on their own. However, some regional blends do add warmer spices like ginger, paprika or cayenne for a little kick.
What's the difference between garam masala and 7 spice?
Garam masala is a popular Indian spice blend that contains common ingredients like cinnamon, cumin and cardamom. But garam masala does not usually contain allspice, nutmeg or black pepper like 7 spice does. The flavors are similar but distinct.
Can I use 7 spice powder for grilling?
Absolutely! The blend of sweet and savory spices is fantastic as a dry rub or marinade for grilled meats, seafood and vegetables. It provides incredible depth of flavor.
What dishes use a lot of 7 spice powder?
Some popular Middle Eastern dishes that typically include 7 spice are kofta, kebabs, rice pilafs, lentil soups, roasted chicken and vegetable tagines. But it can be used to add flavor in small amounts to just about anything.
For cooks looking to add more depth, aroma and regional flair to their cooking, 7 spice powder is a must-have pantry staple.
With its complex blend of sweet, earthy and warm spices, it serves as an easy way to infuse dishes across cuisines with incredible layers of flavor.