Saudi Women and Their Spices

All Saudi women take pride in their cooking.  Many women will make the same traditional and popular dishes but none will necessarily taste the same.  The secret is in the spices.  And I have learned that Saudi women do not like to share the secret of their spices for that in turn is giving away the secret of success to their special dishes.  Most times when I have asked a Saudi women how she prepared a delicious dish she will most likely respond by telling me to let her know when I’d like her to fix it for me rather than give me the recipe!

I have also found it very enlightening and educational to watch Saudi women at the spice markets.  They carefully inspect and choose which spices they ultimately select.  And here is where one can also learn the true secrets and talents of the Saudi woman.  Many of the women will have the spices mixed together creating their own unique blend.  Mama Moudy, my own mother-in-law, also mixes her own spices but will typically do so after she returns home as she has her own special containers for each of her spices.

If you enjoy cooking Saudi food and also wish to cook the various Saudi recipes which I’ve been sharing each month, you may want to take this opportunity to write down these list of herbs, spices, nuts and seeds, and next time you go to the spice market or spice section of the grocery store, stock up on the following:

Herbs: parsley, dill, coriander, cilantro, thyme, marjoram, shayba (dried moss), mint, lemon grass, rose petals, sumac, zaatar
Spices: black pepper, red pepper, cumin, coriander, turmeric, saffron, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mastika (gum Arabic), fennel, anise, ginger, marjoram, oregano, thyme, basil (rehan), bay leaves (waraq ghar), lemon salt, black lemon
Nuts and seeds: Nigella (habat al baraka), almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds

These are some of the most popular spices and herbs used in cooking and baking Saudi dishes.  No Saudi woman’s kitchen would be found without them.  And of course, enjoy making your own mixes from multiple spices too!

9 Responses

  1. Its interesting that you mention nutmeg in you spices list. I cant find it anywhere (tho I’ve yet to visit a real spice souk) and I read that it was a restricted import. If any of your Riyadh based readers could let me in on their secrets of where to find it I’d be very appreciative.:)

  2. Hi Stacy,

    I have found it at Tamimi. I believe at the traditional spice markets it goes under a differing name which I cannot recall as I’m writing this.

  3. Some places keep it “under the counter” though I’m in Jeddah. It is restricted. Apparently nutmeg taken straight, is a hallucinegenic. I’ve never heard of anyone getting carried away by it, however.

  4. I’d love to get receipt to prepare Kabsa.It was so delicious.

  5. @Zahra,

    I found that in 2007 I shared a kupsa recipe:


  6. AB: Thanks. I did check one Tamimi but there’s plenty more in this city I’ve yet to go to. I think I’ll just have to keep checking.

    Sandy: I heard that a long time ago about nutmeg. Tho a quick search of the web turns up that you’d need to eat a lot more than you’d find in your average apple pie to get that effect.

  7. Yes, but I think that’s why it is restricted. Unrestricted amounts could lead to the unraveling of society😛

  8. My hubby makes the best Khabsa!
    As he is so good at cooking it: I politely step aside and let him cook😉
    His rice is always perfect too!
    In the very rare case I can’t find a spice I order it online.

  9. save the women…….

    stop everything…… just said your man can cook? is willing to cook? does he have a brother?:)

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