glossary of middle eastern ingredients and terms


Advieh – A Persian spice mix containing dried rose petals, cinnamon, cardamom and cumin.
Allspice(Pimenta dioica) Ground Jamaican pepper berries, which smell of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Angelica – A giant member of the parsley family, its seeds and powdered leaves are used as souring agents in Persian recipes.
Anise or Aniseed(Pimpinella anisum) The seeds look like caraway, taste like licorice.
Aubergine – Eggplant.
‘Awwamaat – Lebanese doughnuts.


Baamiah – Okra.
Baba Ghanoush – Eggplant puré with tahini.
Bahar – See “Allspice“.
Baharat – A spice mixture used in Gulf and Iraqi cooking. Baharat commonly includes cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cumin, coriander and paprika, but the combination of spices varies by region. A recipe for the Saudi version was given to me by my friend, Amirah.
Banadoura – Tomato.
Baqdounis – Parsley.
Baqli – Purslane.
Barberries – The red fruit of the barberry bush. Its tart taste and bright jewel-like color make it a popular flavoring and seasoning in Persian dishes.
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Basmati – A thin, long-grained, fragrant Indian rice.
Basturma – A seasoned, pressed and dried beef fillet.
Batinjaan – Eggplant or Aubergine.
Beid – Eggs.
Besar – A spice blend used in the United Arab Emirates, which includes ground cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, peppercorns, dried red chilies, and turmeric.
Bouza – Ice cream.
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Broad Beans – See “Fava Beans“.
Bulghur or Burghul – Steamed, dried, crushed wheat kernals. Comes in three grinds. Use the finer grains (#1 and #2) for Kibbeh or Tabouleh.


Caraway – A seed most often used in Algerian, Tunisian and Croatian cooking.
Cardamom(Ellataria cardamomum) One of the world’s most ancient spices. Cardamom pods come from plants in the ginger family. Best when freshly ground.
Chick Peas – Garbanzo beans.
Cinnamon(Cinnamomum zeylanicum) The inner bark of a tree native to Sri Lanka and the Malabar Coast. Store in a cool, dark place.
Clarified Butter – Butter which has had the mild solids removed. Clarified butter may be used melted or cooled, and can be kept refrigerated for up to one week.
Coriander(Coriandrum sativum) The leaf is also known as “cilantro”. The seed is best freshly ground.
Couscous – A type of pasta which is used like a grain.
Cumin(Cumimum cyminum) Flavor is hot and faintly bitter. Seeds should be roasted in a dry skillet before grinding.
Curry Powder – A spice blend which usually includes coriander and cumin among other spices, and may or may not contain actually curry leaves. Curry powders vary from region to region, recipe to recipe.



Dajaj – Chicken.
Dibbis – Date syrup. An Iraqi sweetening agent.
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Farik or Firik – Immature or “green” wheat.
Fava Beans – Also known as broad beans. Sold shelled and frozen, but available fresh in the pod during summer months. When shopping for fresh fava beans, look for tightly closed, bulging deep green pods. To shell, press on the seam near the stem to split the pod open. Pop out the beans and remove the membrane surrounding each bean.
Fenugreek – Native to Iran, it’s ground seeds and bitter leaves are used in many Persian recipes.
Feta – White, flaky, sheep and goat’s milk curd cheese.
Filo – A paper-thin pastry dough which can be tricky to work with.
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Gereesh – Cracked Wheat.
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Habash – Turkey.
Halal – Pertaining to food, that which Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have allowed to be consumed in a lawful manner. We’ve provided a partial list of halal ingredients which may appear on product labels.
Halawiyat – Desserts.
Haleeb – Milk.
Halloumi – A cheese very popular in Syria and Lebanon. Excellent for grilling or frying.
Hamour – A Red Sea fish of the grouper family.
Haram – That which Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have forbidden. We’ve provided a partial list of haram ingredients to watch out for on product labels.
Harissa – A very hot chili pepper paste flavored with garlic and spices, and used in North African cooking.
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Hummus – Chickpeas.




Jamid – Dehydrated yogurt.
Jebne – A white cheese.
Juniper Berries(Juniperis communis) The pea-size purplish-black berries which grow on the common juniper bush. Commonly used in meat stews, and in marinades for roasted meats. Store in a cool, dry place.


Ka’k – Hard rolls or cakes.
Kafta – Ground meat patties.
Kamareddine – Apricot nectar.
Kataif – Stuffed, sweet pancakes.
Khodar – Vegetables.
Khubz – Bread.
Khyaar – Cucumber.
Kibbeh – Ground meat and burghul mixture.
KishkLaban fermented with burghul.
Kizbara – See “Coriander“.
Kousa – Marrow squash.
Kunaifa or Kunafa – A shredded dough, used for desert-making.


Laban – Yoghurt.
Labni – Yoghurt cheese.
Lahem – Meat.
Lahem baqir – Beef.
Lahe kharouf – Lamb.
Lavash – See “Marquq“.
Liyya – Rendered lamb or mutton fat.
Loubiah – Green beans.


Macarona – Pasta.
Ma’ez Zahr – Orange blossom water.
Ma’el Ward – Rose water.
Mahleb – The ground kernel of the sour cherry pit. Used in baked goods.
Mahshi – Stuffed.
Mai – Water.
Makrouh – Though not haram (forbidden), this is something that is disliked or offensive.
Malfouf – Cabbage.
Markat – Sauces.
Marquq – A thin Arab flatbread, also known as lavash, saj, shrak, tannour or Lebanese mountain bread.
Mashbooh – Meaning “suspect”, it applies to food or drink when it’s halal/haram status is unknown or in doubt.
Mastika – Gum Arabic.
Mekhalel – Pickles.
Melokhia – A green vegetable which becomes glutinous when cooked.
Mezze – Appetizers.
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Milaaq – Grilled.
Mish Mish – Apricots.
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Murabba – Jam.
Murabbiyat – Preserves.
Mushtabahat – The grey area between halal (allowed) and haram (forbidden), also considered questionable.


Najil – Saddle-back grouper.
Nigella Seed – Also known as “onion seeds” these tiny, piquant black seeds are sprinkled on breads.
Nockhodchi – Puffed peas, with a nutty flavor, used extensively in Persian cooking.


Olive Oil – Made by crushing the olives and extracting the oil. Olive oil is graded according to acidity and processing method. If possible, always use extra virgin or fine virgin grades.
Onion Juice – Produced by straining puréed onions into a bowl or measuring cup, onion juice is often called for in recipes for Persian marinade.


Panir – A soft, white Persian cheese — similar to feta.
Paprika(Capsicum annuum) Ground, dried, ripe red peppers.
Phyllo – See “Filo“.
Pine nuts – The small, white nut of the Umbrella Pine (Pinus pinea L.).
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Pomegranate Molasses – Pomegranate juice, boiled until it becomes a thick, concentrated syrup.
Pomegranate Seeds – The juicy seeds of the pomegranate fruit. Fresh, they are sprinkled on salads and tahina sauce for fish. Dried, they add a sharp flavor to hummus and tahina.


Qarnabit – Cauliflower.
Qata’if – See “Kataif“.
Qatar – Sugar syrup used in pastries.
Qawrama – Preserved meat.


Ras Al Hanout – Literally, “the grocer’s head”, this is a spice merchant’s “house blend” of spices. Here’s a great recipe from Clifford A. Wright.
Roz – Not as hot as most chili peppers, .


Saffron(Crocus sativus) The aromatic, dried stigmas of a purple-flowered crocus. Used for its beautiful golden color as well as its flavor.
Sahlab – The powdered bulb or tuber of a special type of orchid. It is used as a thickener and flavoring agent. Corn flour may also be used.
Saj bread – See “Marquq“.
Salatat – Salads.
Samak – Fish.
Samboosak – Hot meat-filled pastry.
Sammak – See “Sumac“.
Samna – Clarified butter.
Semolina – Made from the starchy part of hard wheat. It comes in coarse, medium or fine grain.
Sesame(Sesamum indicum) The seeds grow in pods and have a nutty, sweet flavor. Before using, toast in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Shamar – See “Nigella Seed“.
Shaour – A Red Sea fish of the emperor family.
Sharab – Syrup.
Sharbat – Beverages.
Shorbat – Soups.
Shrak – See “Marquq“.
Silq – Swiss chard.
Smeed – See “Semolina“.
Snober – Pine nuts.
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Sukkar – Sugar.
Sumac(Rhus coriaria) Ground dried berries from the sumac tree. Adds a pleasantly acidic taste to spice blends. Store in a cool, dry place.


Tabil – A Tunisian blend of coriander, carraway seeds, garlic and both sweet and hot chili peppers. Used to flavor stews. Here’s another great recipe from Clifford A. Wright.
Tahini – Sesame seed paste.
Taklia – Spice mix consisting of ground coriander and garlic.
Tamr – Dates.
Tannour – See “Marquq“.
Teen – Figs.
Turmeric(Curcuma longa) The ground rhizome of a plant in the ginger family. It is used both for coloring and for flavor. Store in a cool, dry place.
Turshi – Pickled vegetables.


Vanilla(Vanilla planifolia) Vanilla extract, or “vanillin” is haram, due to its alcohol it content. As an alternative, we recommend adding a vanilla bean to a small container of sugar, to be used in baking projects calling for vanilla.
Verjuice – The sour juice of green, unripened grapes. It is used in Persian soups and meat dishes. If it is unavailable, lime juice makes a suitable substitute.


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Yakhni – Stew.
Yogurt or Yoghurt – Use whole-milk rather than low-fat versions in recipes for better emulsifying.
Yufka – A “filo“-type pastry dough used in Turkish and Armenian cooking.


Za’atar or Zahtar – Wild thyme. Also the name of a mixture of thyme, sumac, sesame and marjoram or other herbs (varies by region). Here is a recipe from Matthew Kenney’s Mediterranean Cooking.
Zatoon – Olives.
Zayt – Cooking oil.
Zereshk – See “Barberries“.
Zhoug – A fiery Yemenite relish used to flavor soups and stews, salads, meat dishes, and as a dip for bread. Here is a recipe from The Yemenite Cookbook by Zion Levi & Hani Agabria.