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Syrian spice, a Pantry Special (Recipe: chicken shish kabob) {gluten-free}


Syrian spice, Syrian allspice, Arabic spice, baharat: what's in a name? The basic ingredients in the Syrian version of this popular North African spice blend -- black peppercorns, allspice berries, cinnamon and nutmeg -- can be enhanced with a bit of sumac, cumin, cardamom, cassia or cinnamon, paprika, cloves, rose petals, dried lime, saffron or mint. A rich and peppery (spicy, not hot) mix, Syrian spice makes a delicious rub for grilled chicken, or the base of a flavorful dip for roasted vegetables. My local Middle Eastern market blends its own, letting the pungent, complex flavor of allspice take center stage. I love it.

Is this Pantry Special new to you?


How to make your own Syrian spice:
Syrian spice mix (my favorite basic blend, from Saveur)
Syrian mixed spices(from Paula Wolfert)

Where to buy online (be sure to check ingredients; each blend is different):
Arabic baharat (World Spice Merchants), $1.75/oz
Egyptian spice mix (Zamouri Spices), $4.95 for 1.7 oz
Baharat (My Spice Sage), $2.25/oz

How to use Syrian spice/baharat:
Walnut and fig-braised lamb
Moroccan couscous
Tunisian stuffed potatoes
Quinoa cakes
Makhouda d'aubergine

Chicken shish kabob

A slight variation on our favorite shish taouk, this chicken is cooked off skewers, on the grill, and makes a perfect filling for pitas or a topping for rice or couscous. Serves 6.


6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-4 cloves garlic, sliced, plus 4 cloves mashed (or from a jar)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Few grinds of fresh nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp Syrian spice/baharat
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil


Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Add remaining ingredients, and mix well (with your hands). Marinate, covered or in a ziploc bag, in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours, or overnight.

Heat grill to high. Place chicken on a barbecue grid, and cook over direct heat for 10-15 minutes, turning frequently. (Can also be made under the broiler.)

Serve with rice pilaf, over couscous or in pitas, with chopped iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber, and a tahini or tzatziki sauce.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Lentil, herb and feta salad
Pomegranate fish
Rice pilaf

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Oh man do I love the look of that chicken and I think that the look of the spice on the chicken. I'm interested!!

I just discovered a great little Middle Eastern market on Saturday and was thrilled! I scoured every inch of it with the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy shop, although I'm sure some of the other shoppers found my raw curiosity a bit odd :) Oh well.

Next time I visit, I'll check for Syrian spice. I don't cook many Middle Eastern-style meals at home, but between this market and your international recipes, I may be inspired to give it a whirl. Thanks for the inspiration!

Those spiced chicken morsels look outrageously flavorful and delicious! We are a spice freak family - from Cajun to North African to Indian, and strangely enough our Provincial French town does have a pretty good selection of shops that sell great spices. As my hubby learned a lot of cooking while living in Marocco, ras el hanout, harissa, cumin, coriander, turmeric, etc are standard staples in our cooking. A friend of mine also brought me back from Hawaii a super blend of spices with coffee that is wonderful in sauces.

Now, this spice blend I have not heard of but I'd love to try it. I'm going to pop-in to a Mid-Eastern market to try and find it.

This looks great! I love the "sweet" spices... And yes, it's new to me. I rarely buy spice blends because I don't use them often enough, and when I do, I usually make from scratch. But this looks delicious, and better still, i have all the ingredients in my pantry.

I think this spice would be great on a whole small roaster with oranges and lemons stuffed inside!

I haven't had this mixture, but it does sound great. Love the recipe for kabobs too. One of my favorite things to do with chicken breasts, because the little pieces of chicken cook so quickly. Maybe my barbecue will be out of the garage and set up soon (but first, a deck has to be built!)

My uncle was Lebanese, my aunt would always make chicken with some kind of awesome spice mixture on it for family gatherings. I'll have to stop by Not Just Spices up on Hope St and see if they have this blend.

I've seen this at my local Mediterranean market. I'll have to pick some up the next time I go there. I'm thinking your chicken with Greek yogurt and cucumbers on fresh pita. I wonder how the spice would be mixed with ground beef or lamb.

This one is new to me. I bookmarked it, sounds great!

This chicken sounds great - I made some fresh hummus this past weekend that would be a delicious starter for this meal!

This reminds me that I need to try out my new shawarma spice blend I picked up last week. Thank you for the reminder!

I'm curious. What is a barbeque grid? We cook on a gas grill often (even in winter!) but usually directly on the grill itself. This sounds wonderful!

Oh yum! sort of the middle eastern version of garam masala?

Sounds a little like the concept of "curry powder" - everybody has their own favorite mix, with slightly different herbs/spices included in slightly different proportions. Anything that can include sumac is worth trying!

This is the first time I heard of Syrian spice. I have to check at the local Asian store if they have it. :) I sure would love to try out this recipe of yours. Looks delicious and just right on time - season for BBQ :)

This is so good. Now I can make middle eastern fayre. Actually some friends are planningto do a middle eastern night at one of the hotels in my country...so I am planning to make my versions of food to compare. T

Always love another variation on shish kabobs because they are awesome on the grill.

Great links on making your own and shockingly I own all the stuff already. Woo hoo!!! Now time to defrost some chicken and fire up the grill. Oh wait it has to stop raining first.

What a neat blog, I just found you! I'll be back! This looks great.

That's a new one for me and I want to try it ASAP! Seems like it would make a great base for wings, not to mention those kabobs!

Lydia - You gotta stop reading my mind. I was going to mention to you Baharat which is one of my favorite spice blends. I discovered it by way of another recipe for a dish called Maqluba (pronounced Maaluba) which is really upside down Rice and Eggplant Casserole. I almost always make my own spice blends. I did find a recipe for Baharat and I do have to admit that I was scratching my head for a bit but I made it anyway (I was having a bit of trouble understanding the pepper, allspice thing). Making the dish is a bit tricky and I am still trying to work out the kinks. But even with my mistakes (which are quite tasty) I can see the beauty in the dish and how Baharat just brings the whole thing together.
Thanks for another recipe to use Baharat.

MyKitchen, I think you'd like this spice mix.

Sandie, I love going to a market for the first time. There's a bit of kid-in-a-candy-store about it, but also you get to take in the smells and colors and packages. If nothing is written in English, I'm even happier!

Jamie, if you love the spices of the Moroccan cuisine, you'll definitely love Syrian spice, too.

Peter, you're so lucky to live in a city with wonderful spice markets!

Julia, this is one that's so easy to make, from common ingredients we all keep on hand. You can really blend to taste, too, depending on how you're going to use it.

Carol, these spices definitely work well with oranges -- a kind of Provencal flavoring. Love your idea.

Kalyn, cooking this chicken on the grill gives it a crusty, smoky coating that brings out the flavor of the spices. You will really enjoy this -- and of course you'll like having a new deck, too!

Anne, if they don't, try Hallak Middle East Market in North Providence.

Janel, I've used this on lamb, with great results. Try it!

Natashya, you can mix up a little bit from your own pantry and give it a try.

Maris, hummus is the perfect started. Sounds like we have the making of a potluck, with your hummus and my chicken.

Maggie, here it is: http://www.crateandbarrel.com/family.aspx?c=500&f=32860

Laura, Sandra: Yes, you're both right -- a Middle Eastern version of a ubiquitous spice blend, just like garam masala (which is often a substitute for Syrian spice) or curry powder. Of course it varies from cook to cook, just like those other spice blends, too.

Ninja, not sure if an Asian grocery will have it, but the supermarket has all of the components and you can mix up your own.

Bendita, that sounds like fun! I have many recipes here from that part of the world, because I love the Middle Eastern cuisines.

Jeff, you can send some of the rain here to Rhode Island, where it is dry, dry, dry!

Michelle, welcome!

Mike, wings would be terrific. Please let us know how that works out.

Kim, you must promise to send a photo when you get the upside-down eggplant casserole working. It sounds amazing!

I have allspice berries in my peppermill, so I know this is right up my alley. And, I just bought some sumac but other than a grilled fish for a wrap, haven't used it. & local butcher is having a sale on chicken legs. Can you say, "synchronicity"? This is perfect! thanks!

Wonderful--I just took a class where I learned to make this spice from scratch, and then went to our wonderful Mid Eastern market here in Denver for the first time. This is the perfect accompaniment!

Jenna, what a great idea to have allspice and pepper in your peppermill. I'll have to try that.

Rebecca, how nice to know there's a great market in Denver. I have a friend who travels to Denver often; next time she goes, I'll send her with a shopping list!

I'm happy I still have baharat left, the chicken sounds delicious. Thank you for including me in how to use the spice mix as well.

For those of you who cannot find the spices or harissa the hot pepper paste, I found it at the Hallak Middle East Market in North Providence, RI. Check itout its a very neat store with a greaty variety.

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