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Home » A Guide to Masalqseen: Tunisia’s Spicy Secret

A Guide to Masalqseen: Tunisia’s Spicy Secret

Ever wonder what gives some Tunisian dishes that distinctive kick of flavor? It’s probably masalqseen. Masalqseen is Tunisia’s spicy little secret, a vibrant spice blend that will transform how you cook and experience North African cuisine.

You’ve likely never heard of it, but masalqseen has been a staple in Tunisian pantries for centuries. The rust-colored blend of cumin, caraway seeds, dried chili peppers, and more gives classic Tunisian dishes like shakshouka, chorba, and kebabs their characteristic heat and robustness.

What Is Masalqseen?

Masalqseen is a spice blend originating from Tunisia, North Africa. The aromatic blend typically contains cumin, coriander, caraway, and chili peppers. Mix in a bit of olive oil and you have a flavorful paste perfect for meats, seafood, eggs, and vegetables.

What gives masalqseen its distinctive flavor is the combination of spices. Cumin provides an earthy, nutty flavor. Coriander has citrusy notes. Caraway adds a touch of anise. Red chili peppers provide heat and spice. Blend these together and you get a complex, savory blend with a kick of heat.

With its blend of aromatic spices and chili heat, masalqseen brings Tunisian flair to any dish. Try this flavorful spice paste and unleash your inner Tunisian cook!

The Origins and History of Masalqseen

Masalqseen has been used for centuries in Tunisian cooking to add flavor and heat. This aromatic spice blend originated from Berber tribes in North Africa, who were renowned for their knowledge of indigenous plants and herbs.

The Unique Spices in Masalqseen

Masalqseen contains a blend of spices that give Tunisian cuisine its distinct flavor. Some of the unique spices in this savory blend include:


Cumin is an earthy, nutty spice used in masalqseen. It comes from the dried seed of the cuminum cyminum plant and is commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. Cumin adds a warm, aromatic flavor to masalqseen.


Caraway seeds have an anise-like flavor and aroma. They come from the carum carvi plant and are frequently used in Tunisian cooking. Caraway helps give masalqseen its licorice-like undertones.

Chili Peppers

Dried red chili peppers provide masalqseen a kick of heat and spice. Chili peppers originate from Central and South America but were later introduced to North Africa. They are responsible for the blend’s fiery and zesty flavor.


Coriander comes from the dried seed of the coriandrum sativum plant. It has a citrusy, floral flavor that balances out the earthy and spicy notes of the other spices in masalqseen. Coriander is also commonly used in harissa, another staple Tunisian spice blend.

Masalqseen would not be complete without this combination of aromatic and flavorful spices. They blend together to create a savory and complex blend that is essential to Tunisian cooking. No two masalqseen blends are alike, allowing for creativity and personalization based on individual tastes and preferences.

The Versatility of Masalqseen in Cooking

Masalqseen is incredibly versatile and adds flavor to many Tunisian dishes. Its blend of spices complements both savory and sweet foods.

Savory Dishes

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of masalqseen to stews, tagines, couscous or pasta sauce for extra flavor.
  • Rub masalqseen on meat, fish or vegetables before grilling for a spicy crust.
  • Mix a pinch of masalqseen into hummus, baba ghanoush or other dips and spreads.

Sweet Treats

  • Add a tiny pinch, about 1/8 teaspoon, to muffins, cakes or cookies for a warm, earthy kick.
  • Mix a little masalqseen into fruit salads, especially those with stone fruits like apricots, plums and peaches.
  • Add a tiny bit of masalqseen, about 1/16 teaspoon, to whipped cream or frosting and spread on desserts. The spices complement the sweetness.

Masalqseen’s balanced blend of coriander, cumin, cinnamon and chili peppers pairs wonderfully with Tunisian flavors. experiment by adding small amounts to your favorite savory and sweet foods. You’ll discover why masalqseen is Tunisia’s spicy secret.

How to Make Your Own Masalqseen Spice Blend

Making your own masalqseen spice blend at home is easy and rewarding. All you need are a few common spices and a couple minutes of your time.

Gather whole spices like cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, black peppercorns, and dried red chiles. Toast the whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. 

Grind the toasted spices into a coarse powder using a spice grinder, blender or mortar and pestle. Mix in ground spices such as turmeric, paprika, fenugreek and crushed red pepper flakes. Add dried herbs such as mint, oregano, thyme and bay leaves if desired.

Store your homemade masalqseen in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Making your own masalqseen allows you to customize the blend to your tastes and ensures the freshest, most vibrant flavors. Your kitchen will be filled with the warm, earthy aromas of Tunisian spices. Share the blend with friends and family so they too can discover the secret of masalqseen.  For a deeper dive into how this spice blend elevates Tunisian cuisine, visit the masalwseen guide.

5 Delicious Masalqseen Recipe Ideas

Masalqseen spice blend adds flavor to many savory dishes. Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started:

  • Rub masalqseen on chicken, lamb or fish before grilling for a burst of flavor. The earthy, aromatic spices pair well with meat and seafood.
  • Toss masalqseen with roasted or steamed veggies like carrots, broccoli, green beans or bell peppers. The spices enhance the natural flavors of the vegetables.
  • Add a teaspoon of masalqseen to tomato sauce or chili to give it a kick of spice. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes so the flavors blend.
  • Sprinkle masalqseen on hummus, baba ghanoush or other dips. The blend of cumin, coriander and chili powders complements the sesame and eggplant flavors.
  • Make masalqseen olives by marinating pitted olives in a mixture of olive oil, masalqseen and fresh lemon juice. Let the olives soak up the vibrant flavors for at least 2 days before enjoying.

Masalqseen’s blend of aromatics like cumin, coriander and chili lend a hand in transforming ordinary recipes into extraordinary meals. Experiment by adding a pinch of masalqseen at a time to your favorite dishes until you find what you like! The possibilities are endless.

Where to Buy Masalqseen Spice Blends

Once you’ve got your hands on masalqseen spice blend, you’ll want to keep it well-stocked in your pantry. Fortunately, masalqseen can be found at many grocery stores and spice shops, as well as ordered online.

  • Middle Eastern grocery stores and spice shops are your best bet for finding masalqseen locally. Look for brands from Tunisia or other North African countries for an authentic blend. Some recommended brands are Sfax and Chemlali.
  • Many mainstream grocery stores now have an expanded international section which may carry masalqseen, especially stores with a strong selection of Middle Eastern, African and Asian ingredients. Check larger chains like Whole Foods, Kroger and Safeway.
  • If you can’t find masalqseen locally, there are many retailers that sell it online. Some highly-rated options include Zamouri Spices, The Spice House, and Penzeys Spices. They offer masalqseen spice blends from Tunisia and other North African regions.
  • As a last resort, you can make your own masalqseen at home using whole spices and a coffee grinder. Combine coriander, caraway, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Grind the spices and mix well. Homemade blends may need adjustment to match the flavor of authentic masalqseen.

With the growing popularity of Tunisian and Middle Eastern cuisine, masalqseen and other North African spices are becoming more widely available outside of specialty stores. But when you find a high-quality, authentic blend, stock up—you’ll want to use it in everything!

Masalqseen FAQs: Your Top Questions Answered

Have some burning questions about masalqseen? We’ve got you covered. Here are the answers to your top FAQs about this Tunisian spice blend.

What exactly is masalqseen? 

Masalqseen is a blend of spices like chili peppers, cumin, coriander and mint that gives many Tunisian dishes their characteristic flavor. The blend can vary but typically contains harissa (a spicy chili paste), as well as aromatic spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and bay leaves.

How spicy is it? 

Masalqseen packs some heat due to the harissa and red chili peppers. The level of spiciness depends on the amount and type of peppers used. Some blends may be quite fiery while others have a mild kick. You can adjust the heat to your taste by using more or less harissa.

What foods is it used in? 

Masalqseen is versatile and used to flavor many Tunisian meat, seafood and vegetable dishes. It is commonly used in tagines, stews, soups and salads. Masalqseen helps create the signature flavor of dishes like tagine kebabi (lamb tagine), chorba frik (spicy lamb and chickpea stew) and salata mechouia (roasted vegetable salad).

Where can I buy masalqseen? 

Masalqseen can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores, especially those specializing in North African or Tunisian ingredients. Some well-stocked spice shops may also carry masalqseen spice blends. If unavailable locally, you can find masalqseen from online retailers that sell Middle Eastern and North African spices and ingredients.

How do I use masalqseen? 

Masalqseen is usually used as a dry rub or marinade. Coat meat, seafood or vegetables in the spice blend before cooking in olive oil. You can also add masalqseen to soups, stews and sauces. Start with 1-2 teaspoons and add gradually to suit your desired level of heat and flavor. A little goes a long way!


So there you have it, a primer on masalqseen, Tunisia’s spicy little secret. Now that you know all about this flavorful Tunisian spice blend, you’re ready to start experimenting in your own kitchen. Add a pinch of masalqseen to stews, tagines, soups, or scrambled eggs and transform an ordinary dish into an exotic Tunisian-inspired meal. The blend of spices like cumin, coriander and chili peppers gives it an earthy, smoky and mildly spicy flavor that complements so many ingredients. Whether you want to impress dinner guests with an authentic Tunisian dish or just spice up your weeknight meals, masalqseen is sure to become a staple in your pantry. So what are you waiting for? Get your hands on some masalqseen and unleash your inner Tunisian chef!



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