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Spices And Seasonings To Shop For At An African Store

by Jeffery Howard

If you really want your African dishes to taste authentic, you will need the right seasonings and spices. After all, there are plenty of unique spices and seasonings used in African cuisines, and they really do give the food unique characteristics. The next time you're at an African store, head down the seasonings aisle. Here are some top seasonings and spices to pick up if you want to make more authentic African dishes at home.

Poivre de Penja

Poivre de Penja is a good African spice to start with since it should feel familiar. This is a specific variety of black pepper. Its flavors are similar to those of the black pepper you're probably used to, but poivre de penja tends to be a bit more aromatic with a warming quality similar to that of cinnamon. This spice is often used in Cameroon and is delicious on almost any vegetable dish.


Sumbala is a seasoning made in Niger and Ghana. It's made by fermenting locust beans. The scent can be a little heavy and may remind you of blue cheese. However, the body of flavor that comes from sumbala is incredible, and it can really round out a stew or soup. You'll see it used in egusi, ogbono, and other traditional soups.


If you see mitmita being sold at an African store, definitely bring home a bottle. This is a spice blend hailing from Ethiopia. Most versions contain a combination of ginger, chili peppers, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves. It's meant to be an all-in-one seasoning that you can sprinkle over any dish for a pop of balanced flavor.


Berbere is another well-known spice blend from Ethiopia. This one is pretty popular in North America, so you should have no trouble finding it in an African food market. Berbere is made with chilies, garlic, fenugreek, coriander, and cinnamon. It is often sauteed with oil to bring out its flavors and then added to stews and soups.

Res el Hanout

Hailing from Morocco, ras el hanout is a spice blend of turmeric, peppercorns, nutmeg, mace, paprika, clove, and sometimes cinnamon and cardamom. It's very warming and complex, and it tastes lovely on grilled meats such as lamb and beef.

If you experiment with these different seasonings and spice blends, you'll become more familiar with the flavors of African cuisines. Research an online African food market to find some today.