Mediterranean Flavors: Herbs & Spices Used in Mediterranean Cuisine.

Embark on a tantalizing journey through the Mediterranean, where a symphony of enchanting flavors awaits. This article is an adventure for the senses as we unveil the secret to the region’s culinary prowess – the vibrant and aromatic world of Mediterranean herbs and spices

They are as diverse as the cuisine in which they are used and each herb or spice has its own unique quality, aroma, and flavor. Mediterranean herbs and spices are essential ingredients commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, which encompasses the culinary traditions of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. 

From the sun-kissed coasts of Italy to the ancient spice markets of Morocco, these delightful seasonings have been treasured for centuries, infusing dishes with character and transporting taste buds to distant shores. Unlock the essence of Mediterranean cuisine, where every plate tells a tale of rich history and timeless allure. Together, let’s explore “Mediterranean Flavors: Herbs & Spices.”

Mediterranean herbs

Some popular Mediterranean herbs include:


A versatile herb with a sweet and slightly peppery flavor, often used in Mediterranean salads, sauces, and pasta dishes. In the Mediterranean, basil thrives in a warm and sunny climate, which is similar to its tropical origins. 

Countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey, and southern parts of France are known for cultivating and using basil extensively in their traditional cuisine. It is often found growing in gardens, farms, and even in pots on windowsills, thanks to its popularity in Mediterranean cooking.


An aromatic herb with a pine-like flavor, often used to season roasted meats, vegetables, and bread. Rosemary is a hardy herb that is well adapted to the Mediterranean climate, and it grows abundantly in various countries around the Mediterranean region. It is native to the Mediterranean region, particularly in areas like Spain, Italy, Greece, and southern parts of France.

Rosemary thrives in hot, dry, and sunny conditions, making it well-suited to the Mediterranean’s warm summers and mild winters. It is often found growing wild in the hills and coastal areas, and it is also cultivated in gardens, farms, and even in pots as a popular culinary and ornamental herb.


A fragrant herb with a slightly earthy and lemony flavor, used in various Mediterranean dishes like stews, soups, and marinades. Thyme is a herb that is native to the Mediterranean region and is well-suited to its climate — it thrives in dry and sunny conditions. 

It’s commonly found in countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, southern France, Turkey, and other parts of the region. It is often found growing wild on hillsides, rocky slopes, and in coastal areas.


A pungent herb with a strong flavor, it’s commonly used in pizzas, pasta sauces, and with grilled meats. Oregano is another herb native to the Mediterranean region and is widely cultivated and found growing in various countries around the Mediterranean Sea.


Also native to the Mediterranean, sage is an herb with a savory, slightly peppery taste, often used to flavor dishes like pasta, risotto, and roasted meats. Sage loves the sun and can be found in the mountains and along the coast. 


Widely used as a garnish and flavor enhancer in Mediterranean dishes, with a fresh and slightly peppery taste, parsley is used to make dishes pop with flavor.

While parsley can be found growing wild in some areas of the Mediterranean, it is mostly cultivated for culinary and ornamental purposes. Its vibrant green leaves and fresh, slightly peppery flavor make it a staple ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. Parsley is used as a garnish, a flavor enhancer, and as a key ingredient in various dishes, including salads, sauces, soups, and stews.


Refreshing and aromatic, mint is used in Mediterranean salads, teas, and desserts like Greek Tzatziki and Moroccan mint tea.

Mint is commonly found growing in Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, southern France, and other parts of the region. It can be found in the wild in moist and shaded areas, such as near streams, near river beds, and in damp soil.


Dill is native to the Mediterranean region and provides a lovely fresh burst to dishes and dressings. It goes very well with certain types of fish like salmon and trout but is also great in some stews or as a garnish on salad.

Dill is probably best known for its role in giving pickles their unique flavor profile. It’s also popular to use in potato salads.


Cilantro, also known as coriander leaves, is not native to the Mediterranean region, but it has found its way into many dishes in the area. Cilantro leaves have a citrusy flavor and are used in many Mediterranean salsas, sauces, and salads, while coriander seeds are used as a spice in some dishes.


Similar to oregano but milder, marjoram is used in meat dishes, salads, and tomato-based sauces. 

The Mediterranean climate, with its warm, dry summers and mild winters, provides an ideal environment for marjoram to flourish. It’s used to add a fragrant and slightly citrusy flavor to stews, soups, tomato-based sauces, marinades, salads, and herb blends.

Bay leaves

Bay laurel trees, which produce bay leaves, are commonly found in countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, as well as other parts of the region. The fragrant leaves are used to add subtle depth to soups, stews, and sauces. 

Fresh basil leaves, chopped garlic, parmesan cheese, and a bottle of olivee oil on a kitchen counter.

Mediterranean spices

Some popular Mediterranean spices include:


Cumin is a warm and earthy spice commonly used in Mediterranean spice blends and dishes like falafel, hummus, and couscous. Cumin spice is most commonly used in Mediterranean cuisines that have been influenced by Middle Eastern and North African flavors. It’s particularly popular in countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Spain.

Cumin adds a warm and earthy flavor to dishes like tagines, couscous dishes, and meat-based stews. It is also a crucial ingredient in ras el hanout, a popular Moroccan spice blend used to season a wide range of dishes.


Paprika is made from dried and ground peppers and comes in various varieties, such as sweet, smoked, and hot. It is widely used to add color and flavor to dishes like the famous Spanish paella.


Saffron is a highly prized (and priced!) spice and is commonly used in Spanish recipes like paella, particularly in the region of Valencia, where paella originates. Besides paella, saffron is also used in seafood stews, and rice-based recipes. 


Sumac is a spice made from the dried and ground berries of the sumac plant, which mostly grows in countries from Italy to Lebanon. It is used to add tangy (think vinegar) and citrusy flavors to dishes like meats, salads, and even desserts.

Coriander seeds 

Coriander seeds have a slightly citrusy and warm flavor. It’s often used in stews, marinades, and is included in many spice blends. If you haven’t tried coriander seeds, the flavor might be different from what you’d expect if you’ve had cilantro/coriander leaves before. 

Fennel and Fennel Seeds

Fennel is a plant that is native to the Mediterranean region and fennel seeds have a sweet and slightly licorice-like flavor, which adds a unique taste to dishes. They are widely used in including Italian and Greek recipes for pastas, salads, and meat-based recipes. 


Cinnamon is more commonly used in sweet Mediterranean desserts like baklava and rice puddings. But, some recipes also use cinnamon in savory dishes like stews and rice dishes. 


Nutmeg has a warm and nutty flavor and is often used in dishes like meatballs, spinach pies, and creamy sauces.


Cloves have a sweet and aromatic flavor and are used to add a touch of spiciness to recipes like Mediterranean mulled wine and meat dishes.


Allspice has a complex flavor reminiscent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves combined. It is used to enhance the taste of various meat dishes, stews, and sauces.

Moroccan Spice blend 

Also known as “Ras el Hanout,” translates to “top of the shop,” and it’s considered a premium blend of the best spices available. The exact ingredients in Ras el Hanout can vary but typical ingredients include a combination of the following:

  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Cloves
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Mace
  • Fenugreek
  • Rose petals

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