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Spice up your meals without salt by trying some of these exotic spices and spice blends.

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Looking to add pizzazz to your meals? Consider tantalizing spices from locales around the world, like Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Some spices from these regions may already be familiar to you—such as cumin, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and bay leaves. But others can provide an array of new tastes that are sure to spice up any meal.

These international spices and spice blends can spark some creative inspiration in the kitchen. As an added bonus, using these spices means you can skip the salt, which is good for you blood pressure and heart. In addition, many can enhance digestion and/or contain antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties to deliver extra health benefits.


  • Berbere: A combination of spicy, sweet and bitter spices that includes dried red chili peppers, allspice, ajwain seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns, ginger, cloves, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds and fenugreek
  • Harissa: Can be used as a marinade, seasoning or condiment and is made from dried chili peppers, garlic, cumin, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, mint, salt and olive oil
  • Banga: A blend of spices with mild heat made from oburunbebe stick, beletete, aidan fruit and chili peppers
  • Dukka: A mix of toasted nuts (hazelnuts) and seeds (sesame seeds, coriander and cumin)
  • Peri Peri: A spicy seasoning made from peri-peri peppers
  • Ras el Hanout: A seasoning mix of cumin, clove, allspice, cardamom, chili peppers and fenugreek
  • Iru: A unique umami flavor that comes from fermented locust beans


  • Chinese Five Spice: A mix of sweet, sour, salty, savory and bitter flavors that includes star anise, fennel, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves
  • Garam Masala: A mix of cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods and mace that is toasted and then ground into a powder
  • Gomasio: A condiment of toasted sesame seeds ground with coarse salt
  • Curry Powder: A mixture of turmeric, cumin, ginger, black pepper and sometimes garlic and cinnamon
  • Curry Paste: Comprised of fresh ingredients like ginger, lemongrass, galangal, chili peppers and/or herbs that are ground into a thick puree

Middle East

  • Za’atar: A savory spice blend that typically contains sumac, sesame seeds, marjoram, salt and thyme or oregano.
  • Baharat: A spice blend that varies by region but typically contains coriander, cumin, paprika, cardamom, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  • Sumac: A condiment made from dried berries that’s known for its tart lemony flavor and deep wine color.
  • Aleppo Pepper: A relatively mild chili pepper that has a somewhat fruity flavor.
  • Fenugreek: An herb with a nutty, sweet flavor

Although you likely won’t find these spices in your regular supermarket, they may be available in specialty stores or you can order them online.

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Date Last Reviewed: December 16, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RD

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