Mahlab (or mahlepi) is an aromatic spice derived from the ground kernel of St Lucie cherry wood (Prunus mahaleb or mahaleb cherry).
Mahlab is exactly like a miniature almond, with a scent between almond and cherry, all subtly reminiscent of orange blossom. The spice is produced by reducing the almond to powder.
On this cherry tree, the wood, bark, leaves, fruits, roots, resin, and of course the seed (mahlab) are all used.
The name St Lucie comes from the monastery of Meuse Sainte-Lucie-de-Mont, where this wood was used extensively in the manufacturing of objects of worship. It is used for its medicinal and cosmetic properties, or as a spice, herb, dye, condiment, firewood, ornament, crafts (e.g. pipes), etc.
The fruit is also used in the preparation of alcohols including Mirinello di Torremaggiore in Italy or Quenot in Burgundy
Its use is more common in desserts. In the Near East and in Greece, especially among the Orthodox, it is used to flavor Easter buns. Mahlab is a great addition to a number of desserts: cakes, cookies, pies, brownies, cream, muffins, cheese, fruit salad and it is also excellent in chocolate preparations.
But it would be a pity to only use it in sweet recipes. You should definitely try mahlab in your savory recipes!
You can sprinkle it on sautéed vegetables or creamy soups, especially dishes with carrots or pumpkin.
What are mahlab’s health benefits?
It has anti-inflammatory and sedative properties due to the presence of coumarin in the seed. It is also a natural vasodilator that lowers tension. In the Middle East, yet it is prescribed for patients with kidney and urinary stones.
Where can you find mahlab?
In the United States, you will find mahlab in Middle Eastern markets and most commonly Egyptian as well as Greek stores under the name mahlepi. You will also find online, including on Amazon.