From the Wikipedia entry for allspice:

Allspice is also indispensable in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in the Levant, where it is used to flavour a variety of stews and meat dishes.

I am confused by this because I thought allspice was a Central American spice. Is this spice an American commodity that has been widely adopted in the Middle East (after the age of exploration), or is there a source of allspice that is native to the Levant?


3 Answers 3


Allspice is, indeed, the only commonly used spice* native to North America. It is also very commonly used in various Arabic, Central Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is a standard part of the cuisine-defining North African spice mixes baharat and ras al hanout. The vast majority of global Allspice is still grown in Central America.

You ask a good question, because I can't find any information about how it got to North Africa and the Middle East. Allspice was original brought back to Europe by the Spanish and Portuguese as "Jamaican Pepper" or "myrtle pepper", back when they were still claiming that North America was China/India.

Given this, I have two theories about its introduction into those areas:

  1. Allspice was traded to North African slave traders as part of the slave trade into the Americas in the 17th century. From there, it spread through the Arabic-speaking world.
  2. Allspice was traded to Indians (who also use it) in exchange for black pepper (just as capsicum peppers were) by the Portuguese. From India, it spread through the Arabian trade routes of the Indian Ocean.

I don't have any documentary evidence towards either of those theories; my books on the history of spices largely omit allspice.


(* spice, as opposed to herb or fruit)


Allspice is very widely used in the Levant, and it is from Central America originally, and it's not a contradiction. Corn, potato, tomato, bell pepper, chili pepper, vanilla, tobacco, beans, pumpkin, cassava root, avocado, peanut, pecan , cashew, pineapple, blueberry, sunflower, cacao (chocolate), and squash/gourds are also all native to the new world and many of these have become staples clear on the other side of the world.

Chili peppers, for example, are widely associated with Asian cuisines, but were brought there by the Portuguese. Global trade has over hundreds of years spread foods far from their areas of origin.


In Jordan, we have a universally used spice mix that is consumed throughout the country. I don’t know of “allspice” being part of this mix, so I theorize that it’s somewhat of a misnomer. What I mean is that, in the Levant, our spice mix may sometimes be referred to as “allspice” but it’s not necessarily a reference to this particular plant.

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