It was in 2005 that duqqa entered my life; when my dad decided one day to whip it together. I had never even heard of duqqa, let alone taste it (don’t think he had either). “It’s Egyptian street food,” he said. I mentioned this to an Egyptian coworker the next day (who shot back, “It’s poor man’s food!”).
Anyhow, I remembered duqqa out-of-the blue a decade later, while teaching a class on basic nutrition. Inspired to share a traditional and simple nutritious snack, I looked up the recipe and duqqa’s humble origins.
Duqqa (also dukkah, pronounced doo-ah), which means “to pound” in Arabic, is a wonderfully nutrient-dense nut and spice blend. It’s usually made with hazelnuts, sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper, and eaten as a snack with bread (typically pita) dipped in a good extra virgin olive oil. Sounds simple, but in reality, duqqa’s crunchy texture and savory flavor adds a “wow” factor to just about anything. Try it on scrambled eggs, roasted veggies, salads, soups, avocado-toast or wraps….just try it already!
And, it’s so versatile.
Don’t have hazelnuts? Use almonds, pistachios or whatever nut you have on hand. No cumin? Try it with toasted fennel seeds. Want another twist? Throw in dried mint or oregano or basil if you like. [Note: Za’atar is another spice blend, which seems to consist of thyme, oregano, sumac and sesame seeds. If anyone knows the technical difference between duqqa and za’atar, please share in the comments below.] There are countless variations to duqqa out there, so get creative!
In any case, for this version, I used this recipe by rosichops. It seemed easy enough and had the shortest list of ingredients; which is always a win. Whatever recipe you use, start with a small quantity that you can store in an airtight container and a cool dry place, and finish within a week or two. Toasted nuts (like the ones in this recipe) have a tendency to get rancid, which damages the healthy fat content, and no one wants that.
Hazelnuts contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which give it tremendous cholesterol-lowering properties (also lowering the risk of heart disease); good amounts of protein and fiber, which together work wonders for maintaining blood sugar levels; and high amounts of copper, which is required for the body’s production of a key antioxidant enzyme “superoxide dismutase” (SOD). Antioxidants help clean up the free radicals that cause cell damage – so this is all good news! Be sure to store raw hazelnuts in the fridge or freezer as they can get rancid (damaged) quick.
Sesame seeds – Talk about good things coming in tiny packages! Sesame seeds are touted for their rich protein (excellent amino acid) content; as well as lignans (a polyphenol found in plants), which are potent antioxidants that have shown to inhibit the body’s production of cholesterol, and in some cases even lower it! Sesame seeds also contain other important nutrients like fiber, monounsaturated fats, B vitamins and a whole host of minerals including magnesium, copper, iron, zinc and calcium (rivaling the amount found in milk)! Finally, some of sesame seeds’ incredible benefits include relieving constipation (and overall digestive health), nourishing the intestines, stimulating blood circulation and soothing the nervous system.
Cumin seeds – Used extensively in Indian, Middle-Eastern and Mexican cuisines, cumin has a distinct savory flavor but also doubles up as a digestive aid. Cumin’s benefits include stimulating the pancreatic enzymes which optimize digestion, liver detoxification and nutrient assimilation; carminative properties, which means it keeps the tooting at bay; and anti-cancer properties, thanks to its antioxidant and liver-detox enzymes. Cool stuff, huh?
Duqqa (AKA dukkah)
- 2/3 cup hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp. cumin seeds
- sea salt & black pepper to taste
*use organic ingredients whenever possible
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and bake for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. While the nuts are still hot, pour them onto a tea towel. Fold the towel over them to cover, and rub vigorously to remove the skins. If you can’t remove all the skins, don’t sweat it and move on. Set aside to cool.
In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until light golden brown. Pour into a medium bowl as soon as they are done so they will not continue toasting. In the same skillet, toast the coriander and cumin seeds while shaking the pan or stirring occasionally until they begin to pop.
Transfer to a food processor, hand blender or mortar & pestle. Process or crush until finely ground, then pour into the bowl with the sesame seeds.
Place the cooled hazelnuts into the food processor, hand blender or mortar & pestle, and process until finely ground.
Stir into the bowl with the spices. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Serve with crusty whole-grain, sourdough or pita bread and good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Sprinkle everywhere like pixie dust, and enjoy with your loved ones!
“Dukkah” (Rosichops). In All Recipes Blog. Retrieved from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/79684/dukkah/
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.