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Cafesano Italian & Mediterranean Bistro

What Spices Are Used in Mediterranean Food?

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest if not one of the most delicious, diets in the world. But what spices make Mediterranean food taste so savory and satisfying? 

Learn about the spices used in Mediterranean food from Cafesano in Dulles, VA.

The Mediterranean, which includes countries such as Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Spain, and Turkey, is home to some of the most flavorful spices and seasonings. For hundreds of years, people in this area have used these native spices in iconic and delicious dishes. 

Many of the spices used in Mediterranean food also have medicinal and healing properties, which contribute to the diet’s healthy status. 

When craving the earthy and fresh flavors of a Mediterranean dish, Cafesano Italian and Mediterranean Bistro is ready to satisfy it with our healthy, indulgent dishes. 

Before exploring our menu, though, read up about what spices are used in Mediterranean food so you know exactly what dishes will satisfy your craving. 

Most Common Spices Used in Mediterranean Dishes

While there is a long list of spices used in Mediterranean food, we’re going to dive into the flavor profiles, health benefits, and use of the most commonly used. 


Basil has a fresh and earthy flavor that is often paired with tomato-based dishes. Its round, flat leaves can be eaten fresh or dried and crushed. However, you’ll get the most flavor from fresh basil leaves. 

Full of fiber and antioxidants, basil is a healthy spice that puts the finishing touch on many Mediterranean dishes. 

Basil is often used on pizzas, especially Margherita Pizza and pasta dishes with tomato sauce. 


Cumin originated in Western Asia but made its way into Mediterranean cuisine when the people of Turkey, Morocco, Malta, and Lebanon started growing the spice. 

This spice has a distinct nutty flavor used in savory dishes such as soups and sauces. More specifically, cumin is often found in falafel and hummus recipes. 

You can use roasted cumin seeds or powdered cumin when cooking delicious Mediterranean food. 

Cumin also has great health benefits as it offers anti-inflammatory properties. It also aids digestion, reduces food-borne illness, and improves cholesterol and blood sugar levels.


Fennel is a vegetable that can be eaten raw or sauteed. You’ll often find it in salads or sauces. However, fennel seeds are also used as a common spice in Mediterranean food. 

Fennel’s distinctive, fresh anise-like flavor complements seafood and meat dishes. It is also used in soups and stews. Fennel may be used in pasta or sausage links to add extra flavor.

Fennel aids gastrointestinal illnesses and promotes digestion. For this reason, many households in the Mediterranean use fennel to make tea for digestion. 


Garlic is a common spice used in Mediterranean food.

Probably the most common spice used in Mediterranean food is garlic. Its tangy flavor adds a bit of spice and warmth to dishes such as pasta, meat, seafood, vegetables, hummus, pizza, and soups. 

This key ingredient in Mediterranean food can be used fresh or in powdered form. When cooking with it, it’s often sauteed in olive oil before adding the rest of the dish’s ingredients to the pot or pan. 

Garlic also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to be cardioprotective while also boosting your immune system. 


Oregano is slightly bitter in flavor and is often used as dried crushed leaves. You’ll often find oregano used in tomato sauces, on top of pizza, and sprinkled over fresh Greek salads. 

This Mediterranean spice also has anti-inflammatory properties, can aid in digestion, and fight bacteria. 


Rosemary promotes an earthy and woodsy flavor, often with hints of lemon, mint, and pepper. It can be used fresh or dried in dishes such as meat, potatoes, pasta, and bread. 

You will often find rosemary used in focaccia recipes, especially in northern Italy. 


The sage leaf offers an earthy flavor and can be used fresh or dried in seafood, potato, or pasta dishes. 

Many Italian pasta dishes use sage in a butter sauce over pasta such as tortellini. When cooking with sage, it’s best practice to add the leaves towards the end to get optimum flavor. 

Sage’s health benefits include anti-inflammatory and reduced blood sugar levels. 


Thyme’s flavor is described as sweet and peppery, often compared to cloves. It can be used dried, fresh, or in powdered form in pasta, seafood, meat, or vegetable dishes. 

It’s also packed with healthy minerals. It may also help fight bacterial and fungal infections as well as suppress coughs. 


Saffron is like gold when it comes to spices used in Mediterranean food. It comes from a flower and comes in thin crimson threads. 

The flavor is earthy and sweet, with delicate traces of flowers. It is one of the most expensive spices, and most dishes require only a little bit of it. 

Some of the most famous saffron dishes include Risotto Milanese and certain curries. 

Additionally, saffron also promotes heart health and may improve mood. 

Take Your Taste Buds on a Mediterranean Spice Tour at Cafesano Italian & Mediterranean Bistro

Visit Cafesano in Reston and Dulles to experience Mediterranean spices.

It has never been easier to enjoy the savory and unique spices of Mediterranean food right in your Northern Virginia hometown. Skip the jet lag and enjoy your next meal at Cafesano Italian and Mediterranean Bistro. 

Our chefs have diligently studied and perfected Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as baba ghanoush, hummus, pizza, pasta, Greek salads, and falafel. Our menu is packed with delicious food options for both meat lovers and vegetarians

Whether you come in and grab a bite at our happy hour, enjoy a family dinner, or hire us to cater your next event, Cafesano guarantees delicious and healthy food choices. 

Take a look at our menu and satisfy your Mediterranean craving today!