From Peri-Peri To Peppadew: 10 African Spices That Will Tickle Your Tastebuds

African spices may not be as well-known as their Indian or Mexican counterparts, but they are rapidly gaining popularity. Fusion is happening around the world as we speak, in high-end restaurants and ordinary kitchens and everywhere in between. Check out these 10 African herbs and spices and don’t be afraid to do a little experimentation of your own. Trust us, you’ll be amazed.

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This spicy paste tastes incredible mixed into any burger patty or meat loaf. Its main ingredients include several varieties of hot chili peppers plus herbs such as coriander seed and a little vegetable or olive oil. The spice tastes particularly good in the bold flavor of a lamb burger. Here’s a great recipe using the red hot stuff.


Tabil is a Tunisian spice made of coriander seed, caraway seed, garlic powder and chili powder. The coriander is the most apparent flavor, making the spice rather peppery. Tabil is a great way to add flavor to otherwise bland items and tastes delicious on roasted vegetables. Here’s a simple recipe using Tabil in a vinaigrette.


Berbere is a complex spice mixture that includes familiar elements such as peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil and less familiar ones such as rue, ajwain, nigella and fenugreek. It’s most often found in Ethiopian and Eritrean recipes but its barbecue-curry-hybrid flavor tastes delicious when you’re barbecuing chicken. We like this recipe for a chopped chicken burger.

Grains of paradise

Grains of paradise are a member of the ginger family often known as alligator pepper or Guinea pepper. The mixture is peppery with a hint of lemon and tastes great in a rub for kebabs, steaks and just about anything grilled. But we liked it in this side dish perfect for a barbecue: watermelon and feta skewers.

West African pepper

West African Pepper comes from a dried fruit and is similar to cubeb pepper, only a little fresher and with a less bitter taste. It’s used a lot in Nigerian recipes but tastes delicious on chicken wings. Substitute it in for regular pepper in this African Chicken Wings recipe for a unique flavor.

Tsire powder

Tsire powder has a unique flavor that’s nutty, fruity and spicy. The recipe for the mixture varies. Some cooks include apple pie spice, chili powder, salted peanuts and salt. Such a unique spice tastes great on an item that’s often full of unique flavors: pizza! Here’s a delicious recipe for a peppadew pizza that incorporates tsire. 

Tunisian five spice

Tunisian five spice is made of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, peppercorns and grains of paradise (another one from our list!). It’s usually used to flavor meats and vegetables and has a mostly sweet taste. We love this recipe for five-spice vanilla ice cream. The main components are strawberries, coconut milk and cream cheese and the spice enhances each of them in unexpected ways.

Peri Peri

Peri peri may be the best-known African spice. A popular chili pepper that grows in several African countries, it’s the main ingredient in peri peri sauce and peri peri seasoning. You’ll find it throughout Africa — and the world, thanks to Nando’s — slathered on peri-peri chicken. Are you ready for the long ingredient list? Peri peri spice is made from: crushed chilis, citrus peel, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, paprika, pimento, basil, oregano and tarragon. It adds a bold and complex flavor to everything, but we love it in this recipe for homemade peri peri french fries (chips).

Zanzibar curry powder

Zanzibar curry powder is a dry-roasted spice with chili flavors mixed with some sweeter flavors. It tastes great in the standard meat/vegetable/rice bowl, but we like it in this fish recipe.


Madagascar, Zanzibar and Tanzania are three countries that do some major clove growing and harvesting. Cloves are usually used to flavor meats, curries and marinades. In the west, they’re associated with holiday flavors. We love them in these simple chocolate spice cookies.

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