If you glance through our recipes, you may notice a few ingredients which you may not have in your pantry. For the most part, you won’t be able to easily replace them, so be sure to visit a quality Middle Eastern market to stock up on whatever you are missing.
These are a dried berry with an earthy flavor and aroma that look somewhat like peppercorns which are usually ground up and added to a lot of meat dishes.
Cardamom isn’t cheap but luckily a little goes a long way so you don’t need to buy too much at a time. If you do spring for the good stuff, definitely don’t buy anything pre-ground - buy them in pods and grind them yourself before you use them - the flavor will stay the best that way. For Arabic coffee, you’ll need green cardamom - not black.
Turmeric doesn’t have a very strong flavor, though it is slightly peppery or spicy like ginger. We mostly use it to dye rice bright yellow.
This is simply pomegranate juice reduced down, sometimes with sugar added. It’s a little sweet but mostly tangy and is usually added to savory dishes to deepen the flavors.
Sumac is a dark red or purple berry that you’ll usually find already ground up and ready for use. It can be used as a garnish on just about anything you’d like, but is also a major component in some dishes like fattoush and musakhan. It has a strong tangy flavor, similar to lemon.
Tahini is made by grinding up sesame seeds - you can get a wide variety of brands these days, each with their own flavors. The lighter colored kind is the most common. It’s a thick and nutty flavor and used in many dishes or even as a sauce on its own.
Mastic is a resin that has a bitter herbal flavor that adds a very distinctive taste to dishes. You can find this pretty readily at any Middle Eastern or Greek market, though it’s somewhat expensive.
Sahlab is the ground up dried tubers of an orchid called Orchus Mascala which is used as a thickening agent. In addition to being an amazing Heavy Metal band name, it’s also nearly impossible to get your hands on. I got mine through some back alley international dealings (thanks Mom!) but barring a contact in the Middle East or Turkey, you’re probably out of luck. You can get by replacing it with corn starch mixed with orange blossom or rose water.
Dukka and Zaatar
Dukka and Zaatar are popular spice blends. Dukka is made of ground up almonds, hazelnuts, sesame, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper while zaatar is a mixture of wild thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. It can vary pretty wildly between regions, but you can almost always find a pre-made blend at your local Middle Eastern market.
Orange Blossom Water and Rose Water
Orange blossom water is a little secret ingredient you can use in any dessert. Rose water can be used similarly, depending on your taste or what flavors you’re trying to put together.
While not necessarily a part of every recipe here, rice is a staple food and you’ll almost always have some at any dinner meal. You can get by with whichever kind you prefer, though medium grain rice does best since it’s a bit stickier than long grain.
Shareeya is Arabic for vermicelli noodles - it’s often lightly pan fried and added to rice dishes. Make sure you pick up the short noodles made from wheat flour instead of rice flour - the rice flour kind don’t crisp well.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Everyone has this in their pantry but it’s worth mentioning that since so many Palestinian dishes are served fresh, the olive oil acts imparts a lot of flavor and so you should, as always, get the best that you can find. High quality olive oil should be tangy and retain some sharp bitterness from the first pressing.