Mediterranean Spices and Flavors

Mediterranean Spices and Flavors - Colorful spices shown in measuring spoons

When it comes to seasoning your food herbs and spices go hand in hand. Did you know that herbs are the leaves of a plant, while spices come from the seeds, root and bark of plants? Using fresh herbs and spice when you cook can help eliminate the need to adding a lot of salt to a dish, when you have a flavorful dish, you don’t miss the excess salt. There are many spices that can be used to give a dish the Mediterranean flavors you know and love.


Basil has a mild flavor that works well in baked bread. It can add a zestiness to potatoes, pasta, and vegetable dishes. It mixes well with yogurt for a good marinade for your chicken. Basil has several varieties, sweet and lemon, are common, but another is holy basil or tulsi, which has more of a spicy flavor to it.


Coriander is the seed from cilantro plants. The leafy part of the plant is cilantro. These flavors are distinctly different in taste, the coriander seed has a mild, slightly spicy and nutty flavor, and a big part of Mediterranean cooking, it is complements plant-based dishes, such as beans.


Cumin has a savory, nutty flavor that gives warmth to a dish, it is used a lot with legumes, meat, and rice dishes. It is also a rich source of Iron.


Fennel has a milder flavor, it offers a touch of sweetness and body to citrus foods, pumpkin, peaches, pears, and legumes. The aroma is like that of licorice, but does not have the licorice flavor. It is used to compliment salads and sauces.


Garlic has a very intense flavor and strong aroma. It pairs well with beef, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, potatoes, bread, and vegetables. It can be used as a powder or fresh, it can enhance the flavor of most dishes, just use sparingly unless you are really familiar in cooking with it.


Marjoram has a delicate, sweet flavor, it pairs well with soups, tomato dishes, eggs, vegetable, and beef.


Parsley is a very versatile herb, it has a mild, bitter flavor that pairs well with many dishes. Parsley can be a main ingredient in a dish (such as pesto), or a garnish (finely chopped and sprinkled on top of a dish to complete the flavors)


Oregano adds a woodsy, robust flavor to dishes, it is very popular in pastas and pizzas. It can also help deepen the flavor of poultry, beef, pork, fish, and tomato dishes. Pairing it with basil can add an extra pop of flavor.


Rosemary adds a warmth to a dishes, it is best to use sparingly, as it has a very bold flavor that can overpower your dish. It works well with seafood, poultry, vegetable, and potatoes.


Be cautious, Saffron can be very expensive. The flavor is hard to nail down, it will add a grassy, slightly sweet like honey flavor and a yellow-orangish tint to your dish. You don’t have to use a lot, a little goes a long way. It is most often used in risotto and paella.


Sage has a bold, strong flavor that adds a savory note to poultry, stuffing, and legumes. You will find it is a go-to herb for the Thanksgiving turkey.


Tarragon has a tangy, sharp yet slightly sweet flavor that can perks up your veggies, poultry, and fish. It gives a nice punch to dressings and is used to infuse oils and vinegar.

No matter which spices and herbs you choose to use to add flavor to your dish, you can’t go wrong. Understanding and know what the flavors will bring and what pairs well together is the first step in making a great Mediterranean dish.