The culinary world is still reeling from increased demands in the past several years, when American diners were brought closer to exotic, worldly cuisine. 

With a newfound yearning for spices from across the globe, Americans have embraced harissa, za’atar, and Chinese five spice blend that many had never heard of, much less tasted, a few years ago.

This expansion has opened some exciting doors for chefs and food manufacturers, who can now experiment with additional cuisines, spicier flavor profiles, and fusion dishes without necessarily alienating an American audience. What are some new spices heating up the American marketplace, and how can you get them?



A year ago, smoky harissa was all the rage in spice. Today, sumac has taken center stage. This tangy, crimson powder hails from the Arabian Peninsula, where it has many uses.

The mild, lemony flavor is frequently found in meat preparations, and it’s a notable ingredient in the zesty dressing for Lebanese fattoush salad. It’s also included in the popular za’atar spice blend, along with ingredients like thyme, oregano, cumin, coriander, sesame, and salt.

Sumac is a great addition to meat rubs, marinades, and breading, pairing well with both savory and spicy recipes. It can also add a citrusy zing to fish, hummus and other dips, and pickled vegetables.


Baharat and Berbere

Although Baharat spice mixes can vary by region, they tend to contain cumin, cardamon, cloves, and paprika as a base. Common additions include coriander, nutmeg, and black pepper. This mix brings a pleasant heat to Middle Eastern cuisine, including soups, lentils, rice dishes, and meats.

For something a little spicier, head south to Eritrea and Ethiopia, where Berbere uses similar ingredients but turns up the heat. Cumin, cardamon, cloves, and coriander are also found in berbere, but this blend adds cinnamon, fenugreek, and ginger, along with hotter elements like peppercorns and red chili peppers. 

As with Baharat, berbere is typically used as a dry rub for meats, as well as a flavorful additive to stews and grain or lentil dishes.


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Panch Phoron

Chinese five-spice blend has gained popularity in the U.S., possibly because it artfully blends the five major flavors — sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami. Less well-known stateside is panch phoron, a blend of five spices popular in eastern Indian cooking.

Composed of cumin, nigella, fenugreek, fennel, and brown mustard seeds, this spice blend is warm, earthy, and mildly peppery, making it a great addition to stews or a rub for meats. It’s also used for pickling vegetables and could be added to oil as a dressing for salads or simply sprinkled on eggs or roasted veggies.


Related: Stir-Fry Noodles: 2024 Trends and Insights



Americans are already familiar with a bevy of spice blends from their neighbors to the south, including taco, fajita, carne asada, and Jamaican jerk seasoning. Adobo is slightly less well-known, although it’s gaining recognition.

Found in Caribbean and Latin American cuisine, adobo is a combination of salt, black pepper, paprika, cumin, oregano, and onion and garlic powders. Chili powder may also be a component.

This warm, savory blend is typically used to season meat dishes, soups and stews, vegetables, and beans. It’s also found in Puerto Rican pastelón, a lasagna-like recipe made with layers of sliced plantains, sofrito, meat, and cheese.


Sourcing Your Spices

One of the great things about many exotic spice blends is that you can make your own with a range of common components. 

That said, certain ingredients like fenugreek, popular in Middle Eastern and African blends, aren’t so easy to find stateside. Substitutions could be an option, but you may want to consider partnerships with spice suppliers to ensure you get the real deal.


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