Is Mediterranean Food Spicy?

Trying Mediterranean food is a must for explorers of new tastes and seasonings. But is this cuisine easy for everyone, or is the food too spicy on normal occasions?

chilies used in mediterranean dishes

While many traditional Mediterranean recipes use warming spices to give meats, vegetables, and grains a lively taste, most Mediterranean cuisine is not particularly spicy. This cuisine has various options, but that depends largely on your preferences. 

The article below tells more about Mediterranean food and all its aspects. Read on to learn more!

Types of Mediterranean spices

Mediterranean food has a kick brought about by some amazing spices complementing each other. These are mentioned below, along with the specialty behind each of them.

  • Chives: Although they are related to onions, chives have a softer and more delicate flavor than onions. Chives taste delicious in soups, salads, baked potatoes, yogurt, eggs, and pasta dishes. In the garden, chives can deter insects and prevent pests.
  • Basil: Basil carries a sweet yet spicy, pepper-like flavor. It is not only used as a frequent garnish but is of great importance in making sauces such as pesto salads, soups, and marinades. It pairs well with parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and saffron, among other herbs and spices.
  • Cilantro: This herb is made from the coriander plant’s leaf and tastes strongly like sage and lemon. Mediterranean stews, soups, vegetables, salads, and tomato sauces can greatly benefit from the addition of cilantro.
  • Garlic: Not only in the Mediterranean, but several cuisines use garlic and often require it to complete the making of a dish. It has a strong flavor that adds a unique touch to any dish it’s added to. While generally added in controlled amounts, garlic can sometimes be used according to taste preference. 
  • Ginger: Ginger has a deep-rooted existence in most cuisines. It has a sharp taste that can be easily overpowering if used in excess. However, adding ginger in the right amounts can do wonders for both savory and sweet recipes. 
  • Oregano: A common ingredient in cookery, oregano grows abundantly all over the Mediterranean. Oregano is a common ingredient in Greek, French, and Italian cuisine, particularly tomato-based dishes. It is commonly used to flavor olives, cheese, eggplant, and other vegetables, egg-based dishes, grains, bread, casseroles, chicken, different kinds of meat, and seafood before grilling. Basil, garlic, thyme, parsley, and other spices go well with oregano.
  • Sea Salt: Mediterranean bread, pickled vegetables, sauces, cheeses, meats, grains, and most savory dishes—and a few sweet ones—all contain sea salt. Sea salt is a vital ingredient and a flavor enhancer that seasons food on its own. 
  • Saffron: Saffron is a regular ingredient in Mediterranean cooking but often in small quantities, considering it is one of the costliest spices. Apart from being a strong antioxidant, Saffron adds to the flavoring of dishes in several ways. It can give a dish a vibrant yellow-orange hue and a potent grassy, honey flavor, which can be (very positively) challenging to define and pin down. 
  • Sumac and Turmeric: These earthy spices help build the taste foundation of many Mediterranean dishes. Turmeric gives food a beautiful yellow tint, making for picture-perfect dinners.

Is Mediterranean food spicy?

Mediterranean food is not generally spicy, as some other cuisines might be. However, some foods may be the perfect choice for lovers of those eye-watering flavors! A list of such foods is mentioned below; read all the way!

  • Calabria style Mariana: This dish contains crushed and dried Calabrian pepper, similar to cayenne pepper, and tends to make it spicy. This can also be served throughout the warmer season, although it is better served during cold weather to warm up. You must try this if you enjoy extremely hot meals.
  • Bucatini All Amatriciana: In this Italian meal, pasta is mixed with a fiery tomato sauce containing red pepper flakes and guanciale. For those who enjoy spicy pasta, this recipe is ideal.
  • Speca te Mbushur me Oriz: This cuisine is current. This is frequently offered in many Mediterranean regions but is notably popular in Albania. This can be ordered at rural restaurants that specialize in regional cuisine. 

This meal consists of several rice-stuffed green bell peppers. Some people also add tomatoes and chopped lamb. After being roasted, the stuffed green pepper is served immediately. Albanians frequently add black and chili pepper to this food since the heat balances out the light flavor. Typically, feta cheese or yogurt is served with this.

  • Cacciatore: Italian for “hunter,” cacciatore is regarded as one of the tastiest and most traditional Mediterranean dishes. After a productive day in the woods, hunters would eat this delicacy. Tomatoes were omitted from the original recipe, which has changed nowadays. However, it is served with anchovies, olives, and hot peppers in the southern part of Italy.
  • Shakushuka: This breakfast dish is made with poached eggs, and fresh red tomatoes with cumin, smoky paprika, and a jalapeño pepper added for flavor, all simmered in olive oil. 

This hearty Sunday morning supper will be particularly enjoyable if you don’t have something urgent to do afterward. Whether it is a whole grain baguette or gluten-free cornbread, the extra juiciness of this meal lends itself to bread dippers. 

What gives this dish its exceptional Moroccan character are the spices. Fresh cilantro, cumin, paprika, and chili powder combine to create a delicious savory flavor. You should try this recipe as well, especially if you enjoy spicy food.


The cuisine served to visitors and locals makes the Mediterranean region famous, in addition to the beautiful weather and iconic landmarks. Even though Mediterranean food is not particularly spicy, some localities have begun to serve extremely spicy foods to cater to their visitors’ tastes. 

When making some of these dishes at home, one can try to balance out the spices or increase them according to their choice.

Andrea Arthur