Dukkah – not a passing fad, but a kitchen boon

“Dessert is a blow-torched nectarine, gouged and stuffed with dukkah.”

-Janan Ganesh, describing his fantasy dinner party, with guests including Catherine de’ Medici and Noel Gallagher, in The Financial Times

Dukkah is currently having A Moment. You know it’s the new go-to ingredient when you hear that Ottolenghi swears by it.

Where does it come from?

In fact there is nothing new about dukkah. The word in Arabic (sometimes transcribed as duqqa) simply means ‘pound’ or ‘grind’, and it’s pronounced, ‘doo-ka’.

It comes from Egypt, where it’s been made by every household, and sold for centuries in marketplaces. To eat it truly authentically you need some fresh Egyptian baladi bread which you dip into oil, and then into the dukkah.

what is dukkah
Dukkah has been sold for centuries in Cairo marketplaces.

Sweet version of dukkah

You can make a sweet version of dukkah which you can sprinkle over ice cream, caramelised fruit, cheesecakes, and all kinds of other things. Mix together pistachios, granulated cane sugar, cardamom and cinnamon.

Coarse or fine

If you want a finer grind, you can use in an electric grinder. Our view is that coarse is better – the whole raison d’être of dukkah, well, half of it at least, is to add texture. The other half is the taste.

Why is it worth making your own?

If you toast or dry fry the hazelnuts and cumin seeds you will release the essential oils within – there will simply be more flavour.

But if you really don’t have time one of the best ready-made dukkahs is made by Steenbergs. Their blend includes mustard seeds, garlic and spearmint, and also some wonderful rhomboid-shaped salt crystals.

Steenbergs dukkah - with mustard seeds and appropriately pyramid-shaped salt crystals.
Steenbergs dukkah – with mustard seeds and salt crystals.

We were introduced to homemade dukkah during the cook-along organised for Saucy Dressings by Matthew Pennington and Mark McCabe, where it was served sprinkled over roast hispi cabbage.

I have since watched Ottolenghi’s Masterclass on dukkah. He makes his with a mix of hazelnuts and pine nuts, but suggests experimenting with pistachios (don’t dry fry for too long or they will lose their attractive green hue) and walnuts.

Things to do with dukkah

  • Over fried white fish fillets
  • Over grilled or roasted vegetables
  • Yotam Ottolenghi uses his over many of the suggestions above, and also over grilled carrots on labneh. He says the dukkah adds texture and flavour to the sweet carrots and sour labneh
  • Matthew Pennington served his scattered over roast hispi cabbage
  • Over salads
  • Over all kinds of dips… hummus, labneh
  • Mixed with oil and then used to top focaccia, pitta, flatbreads…
  • Add to breadcrumbs as a coating for chicken
  • Add some, plus a little olive oil to boiled potatoes
  • On lamb chops
  • Sprinkle over marinated feta
  • Top your avocado and toast
  • Even on scrambled eggs!

What can you substitute for dukkah?

Za’atar is made with sesame seeds, and dried oregano and thyme. It includes sumac, but it doesn’t have the crunchy texture provided by the nuts in dukkah.

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