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Greek Spices

Spices add color and piquant tastes, they bring out the best flavors in foods in subtle or strong ways, and they are an essential ingredient in Greek cooking. Explore the favorite spices of Greek cooks with photos, and buying and cooking advice.

Greek Spices Photo Gallery
Learn what Greek spices look like in this photo gallery showing close-up photographs for easy identification.

List of Greek Spices Names & Pronunciation
Spices listed include those native to Greece and spices from distant lands that have found a home in Greek cooking. The list includes the English name, Greek alliteration, pronunciation, and the name in Greek.

Allspice is a favorite in stews, red sauces, and marinades. The berries are also used in pickling.

Anise seeds impart a licorice taste that is used in many food dishes, but this spice is perhaps best known for giving its taste to the Greek national drink, Ouzo, a licorice-flavored liqueur.

Cardamom pods contain seeds that, once ground, give off a complex aroma reminiscent of eucalyptus, camphor, and lemon. It is used in baked goods and in foods needing a touch of lemon flavor.

Cinnamon is a favorite for making sweets of all kinds, from puddings to cakes and creams, however the Greek cuisine also includes cinnamon in recipes for many meat sauces, giving a surprising and pleasing new taste.

In Greek cooking, cloves are mainly used in sweets, cakes, and preserves, however they can also be used in meats and, in combination with other spices, in red sauces.

Coriander seeds have a flavor somewhere between cinnamon, rose, orange, and clove, with a warm and nutty after taste. Coriander is a main ingredient in curry powder and a spice in stuffed sausages.

Ground cumin is mainly used in making sausages and meat balls, and combined with other spices can be found in red sauces.

Curry powder is new to Greek cooking and is used in rice, seafood, and other dishes.

Ginger has a lemony aroma, and a pungent and warm taste. Fresh ginger may be stored frozen, a bit grated, then re-stored.

Hot Peppers
Hot peppers are a matter of taste, but many Greeks enjoy them sautéed, mixed with cheeses, and added to other dishes.

Mahlab is ground cherry stone from a cherry tree native to West Asia. Mahlab is used to flavor Greek sweet bread traditionally baked and eaten at holidays.

Mastiha (or masticha) means "gum mastic" and is a product of the Greek island of Chios. In cooking, it is used to make sweets, ice cream, cakes, and cookies. The original "chewing gum," it is not produced anywhere else in the world.

Mustard Powder
Mustard powder is used to make homemade mayonnaise, salad dressings, and marinades for meats and fish.

Black, white, or green, pepper is a widely used spice in Greek foods, and where and when it's added to foods determines the fineness of the grind.

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice because it takes 75,000 blossoms or 225,000 hand-picked stigmas (the 1-1.5" long thread-like filaments) to make one pound of saffron. Used mostly as a coloring agent, its aroma and flavor have been compared to honey.

Sumac has a tart, sour lemon taste that adds a kick to stews and meats, rice and vegetables, and as a sprinkled topping on dishes like hummus.

Vanilla is one of the world's most expensive spices and one almost universally used. In Greece, vanilla is sold in powdered form rather than in the liquid extract.

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