Dukkah: An Ancient Egyptian Condiment

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Dukkah is a traditional Egyptian spice blend that has been widely used across the Middle East since the age of ancient Egypt. The name can be spelled dukkah, dukkha or even duqqa; translated from the Arabic, it means “to pound.” Traditionally, the herbs, spices and nuts used to make dukkah were pounded with a mortar and pestle until they acquire a consistency somewhere between a paste and a powder.

At the time that dukkah came about, Egypt lay at the crossroads of the ancient spice road where it would have access to a range of spices including coriander, cumin, and salt. These are all included in the most common dukkah blends. Average Egyptians all the way up to the present day have used the combination of these spices along with nuts, thyme, and garlic. Some blends include chickpeas and mint among the ingredients.

As with many old spice blends like curry powder and five-spice powder, the recipes for dukkah vary but many recipes contain the same set of ingredients. The nuts used are typically hazelnuts and almonds; they are toasted before being ground.

Flavor profile of dukkah

While there are different dukkah recipes customized to suit the maker’s taste, most have the same spices in common. The most common dukkah spice blends offer an earthy, bold flavor profile that can complement a wide range of foods. The combined spices and nuts provide a tanginess and mild heat. In addition, dukkah has a pleasing crunchy texture because of the nuts it contains.

Health benefits of dukkah

Dukkah’s many health benefits come from the spices contained in the blend.

  • Vitamins: Hazelnuts and almonds contain large amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E and of B-complex vitamins like folate and niacin. Thyme also has b-complex vitamins along with high levels of vitamins A, K and C. Both cumin and coriander have large amounts of vitamin C.
  • Minerals: Hazelnuts, almonds along with coriander and cumin are excellent sources of minerals. All of the ingredients in traditional dukkah contain rich stores of potassium, calcium and iron along with magnesium, zinc and selenium. Along with the aforementioned minerals, coriander and cumin contain manganese.
  • Antioxidants: In addition to the vitamin E from the nuts, dukkah will also have antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin from the thyme. Cumin contains antioxidants including some of the same ones in thyme along with carotenes.
  • Mono-unsaturated fatty acids: Both hazelnuts and almonds are rich in oleic acid, an essential fatty acid.

The ingredients of dukkah can provide several different health benefits including:

  • Lowering cholesterol: The fatty acids from hazelnuts and almonds are important for lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.
  • Diabetes: Hazelnuts are rich in dietary fiber, which can help to prevent a range of diseases, including diabetes.
  • Obesity: Fiber is also important for a feeling of fullness. If you feel satisfied, you will be better able to resist the temptation to overeat.

Common uses of dukkah

The most common use of dukkah is as a condiment. It is served as a dip for the Egyptian flatbread known as khubz. A piece of flatbread is first dipped in olive oil and then into the dukkah. The olive oil helps the dukkah to stick to the bread.

It can also be used as a rub for different meats including lamb, chicken, and beef. It can also work with pork, though this is obviously not a traditional use. In Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, it is not uncommon to see dukkah packaged in paper cones and sold as a snack.