Y’all know I love my spice mixes and today’s post is all about the beauty that is Dukkah, the Egyptian Seed and Nut Spice Mix. Without going into the intricacies of the Arabic alphabet, (because this is a food blog, after all), Dukkah or Duqqa is pronounced this way: du-kha, the “h” being a very, very soft sound. The word means to pound or to grind, and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing.
This is one of those spice blends that knows few rules: every household is going to have its own proprietary mix. In the spice markets in Egypt, you’ll find different mixes sold in paper cones by different vendors, some containing only nuts, salt and pepper! That has always reminded me of the south Indian vendors in Singapore who used to sell all sorts of fried, dried and steamed nuts in paper cones, usually at cinemas. We’d buy them along with the popcorn!
How to Make Your Own Dukkah at Home
Ok, you might ask me, why make it when it can be found fairly easily in larger towns outside of North Africa. Because anything homemade is immeasurably better, it’s fresher and it’s made to your taste. And most likely, more economical too. Then there is the satisfaction that comes with everything homemade!
Having tasted Dukkah many times over, I can confidently say that the base of a good Egyptian Dukkah is almost non negotiable! You need some sort of nuts, usually hazelnuts, you need sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and salt. From there, you can experiment and add 2 – 3 more ingredients, always keeping in mind that less is more. I think that many cooks struggle to practise restraint in the kitchen, always adding more than is necessary. Celebrity chefs are especially guilty of this. In their attempt to make a recipe their own, a simple 6 ingredient list becomes a dozen ingredient long, a totally unnecessary complication, in my opinion. Ok, rant over.
So what can you add to Dukkah to make it your own? The list is probably as long as your culinary imagination: mint, thyme, marjoram, oregano, chilli, other nuts and other seeds. Because Dukkah is a dry spice mix, whatever you add, has to be dry too, including the herbs.
So my Dukkah mix always has the 5 ingredients listed above: hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and salt. Then, I add some pistachios and some pepper; pistachios because I love them and cannot say no to the colour green! And pepper? Well, freshly ground black pepper just makes everything taste better! This is the blend that I sell under “LinsFood” locally. Sometimes, for home use, I skip the hazelnuts and just use the pistachios.
What I never add to the mix are thyme and oregano, because it then becomes too similar to Za’atar. When you play around with lots of spice mixes, you have to draw the line somewhere, otherwise, they’ll all start smelling and tasting the same!
On a trip to North Africa some years ago (can’t remember if it was Algeria or Tunisia), I came across a Dukkah mix that was a touch sweet. That was a rather interesting experience, I did quite enjoy it and I can see how it would go quite well on its own or even with yoghurt, as part of a savoury spread, much like you have raisins, apricots and other fruits in savoury dishes. And I can just imagine how good this sweet version would be with cheese.
How to use Dukkah?
My favourite way and as is traditional in Egypt, serve dukkah alongside freshly baked bread with some extra virgin olive oil, as in the image above. Although I can almost never resist balsamic vinegar in the mix, as you can see. The idea is to dip the bread in the oil, then dip it in the dukkah. The dukkah mix will stick to the bread, giving you a mouthful of flavours, sensations and textures. I absolutely love serving my guests this as I’m finishing off in the kitchen. Be careful though, it enslaves you, so warn your guests to not get carried away because someone will have to eat that meal you’re cooking!
Dukkah is so versatile, and because of its nut and seed content, makes a wonderful coating for all manner of food, like:
Cheese – think mozzarella, paneer, halloumi coated before lightly frying or grilling.
Yoghurt – natural yoghurts are meant to be spiced up! You could add some dukkah to yoghurt and serve it like you would raita, like the za’atar yoghurt here. Or, use the yoghurt to marinate fish and meat before cooking.
Flavour and texture enhancer – as with all the spice mixes you see on LinsFood, this is great for lifting plain rice and couscous to another level.
For more of our favourite spice mixes, check out the Ingredients Page.
- 60 g (2 oz) hazelnuts
- 30 g (1 oz) pistachios
- 200 g (7 oz) sesame seeds
- 100 g (3.5 oz) coriander seeds
- 30 g (1 oz) cumin seeds
- half - 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Dry roast the nuts together in a frying pan over medium-low heat for 2 - 3 minutes, until aromatic and until they take on a slightly golden colour.
- Do the same with the sesame seeds.
- And finally, give the coriander and cumin seeds a turn in the hot frying pan for about a minute or two only. We want them only lightly roasted.
- Cool everything down for 10 minutes or so.
- Place in a pestle and mortar and pound away to a coarse grind. The sesame seeds will probably defy you and stay whole, but that's ok!
The total time doesn't include cooling time.