Tabil (in Arabic تابل) is a favourite spice mix or blend from Tunisia and Algeria. Unlike the the “busier” Ras El Hanout, Tabil is very, very basic, containing only coriander, caraway and chilli flakes in its simplest form.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Flavours of Tabil
Tabil is a warm and earthy spice mix with hints of anise, from the caraway.
In Tunisia, I’ve had mixes that have had garlic, onions and/or cumin added to it. That’s it. Start adding anything else, and it’s no longer Tabil! Its predominant flavour should be that of coriander, the clue is in the name: Tabil means coriander in Tunisian Arabic (Darija).
My first introduction to Tabil was in a souk in Tunisia. It was just amazing seeing rows of garlic and onions drying in the sun, along with the coriander, caraway and some dried chillies. I remember being fascinated by the display and like a child, followed the scent and came across this old lady making Tabil from scratch, using a grinding wheel. No frying pan or spice mill in sight!
That was a priceless experience for a born and raised city girl!
How to use Tabil?
Tabil has so many uses:
- as a marinade for meats.
- to flavour dips and yoghurts. Flavoured yoghurts are great as a condiment in Middle Eastern and Indian spreads.
- it is also great spread over flatbreads, like za’atar on man’oushe and focaccia.
- tabil can also be used as a flavour enhancer in stews and tagines.
- stir it through rice, couscous or any grains.
And now, shall we get our aprons on?
Tabil, a Tunisian and Algerian Spice Mix
- 3 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Dry fry the coriander, caraway and cumin seeds in a frying pan over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes until fragrant.
- Leave to cool completely, then place in a spice mill with the chilli flakes and blitz to a smooth powder.
- Store in an airtight jar and keep with the rest of your spices.