Za’atar Recipe

Za'atar is an incredibly versatile Middle Eastern spice blend, one of my favorites. Particularly this time of year when it's a welcome addition to all sorts of roasted vegetables, soups and stews, or simply sprinkled over everything from yogurt, to eggs, to savory granola.

Za’atar Recipe

Za'atar is a wonderfully tangy, herb-forward Middle Eastern spice blend. Do you know it? I'm sure a many of you do. It's the sort of ingredient that has become a staple in my kitchen. Right now it sits on my counter next to essentials like sea salt and olive oil. This is the time of year I find za'atar a welcome counterpoint to the sweetness of deeply roasted winter squash and a nice wildcard element in big hearty soups. It is ideal sprinkled generously over eggs of all kinds, and is just the right accent on everything from quiche to breakfast casseroles, labneh to pasta salad. It's just good all around.

za'atar in a mortar with a pestle to blend

What is Za’atar?

Za’atar is a traditional Middle Eastern spice blend that varies from country to country, family to family, and cook to cook. Generally speaking it is quite simple to prepare. The base recipe for the version I make is a simple ratio of dried thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt. Pre-made za'atar is easy to find, and I've sampled a good range, but it's one of those things worth making yourself. Use good sesame seeds, recently dried thyme, vibrant sumac, and the za'atar you'll have will have an intensity nearly impossible to find in pre-packaged blends.
individual ingredients for making za'atar in small bowls

za'atar ingredients before blending

Why the confusion?

There is always some confusion surrounding za'atar because it is the name of the spice blend, and also the name of a class of herbs. We're talking about the blend here today. I believe the version I make is closest to what is typical in Lebanon, but there are times I like to add other components. za'atar in a mortar with a pestle to blend

Shaping Your Za’atar Flavors

If you do a survey of za'atar blends you'll find some use marjoram, or oregano. You read of pistachios, turmeric, hyssop. Like any other spice blend, it's great to start with a good, basic recipe, but it's even more important for you to tweak it from there to your liking. I like a very thyme-centric za'atar with just enough tangy citrus reaching through from the sumac - herb first and balanced. From there, not too many sesame seeds, and just the right amount of salt.

The Za’atar Recipe

I'll include the ratio of ingredients I use in the recipe down below. But related to my point above, sometimes I add to it. I like how this Mexican oregano tastes ground into the sumac and thyme. Or, a bit of fennel pollen is a kiss of magic - particularly when I'm planning on using the za'atar swirled with great olive oil into thick yogurt or labneh. Just remember, tweak it to your liking.

za'atar sprinkled over yogurt with olive oil

What is Za’atar used for?

Here are a few more ideas related to how you might use this herby, earthy, slightly green, sesame flecked seasoning. Za'atar can be used in place of fresh herbs in these deviled eggs. Whisk a teaspoon or two into an omelette before cooking. Use it to flavor your next batch of cottage cheese muffins. Sprinkle it generously across roasted cherry tomatoes after they are romped from the oven. Use it to finish your next grilled pizza along with a generous thread of great olive oil.

More Homemade Spice Blends

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Za'atar

5 from 3 votes

While you can used pre-packaged dried thyme here, I prefer to dry my own fresh thyme in the oven just before making this blend. The thyme retains a nice green color, the flavor is bright and fresh, and there is none of the mustiness you sometimes get with herbs or spices that are past their prime. It's one of those little details that make enough of a difference to be worth it.

Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, stripped from stems (or equivalent dried)
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac*
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Place thyme leaves on a baking sheet in a 300°F oven until dry, just ten minutes or so. Just long enough that they'll crumble between pinched fingers after cooling. Allow to cool completely.
  2. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the thyme leave finely. If your thyme is at all stem-y or fibrous, sift to remove any larger particles. Transfer to a small bowl, and aside.
  3. Crush the sumac finely with the mortar and pestle, add the salt and crush with the sumac. Add the thyme back, and grind together a bit. Stir in the sesame seeds, taste, and adjust to your liking, perhaps with a bit more salt, or sumac, or sesame seeds. Any za'atar you might not use in the coming days keeps best refrigerated (or in the freezer) if you make a double or triple batch. Or in a light-safe container on your counter for daily use.
Notes

Makes 1/3 cup.

*If you're having a hard time finding sumac, check the spice rack at your local market (it is increasingly common), specialty foods stores and/or Middle Eastern markets.

Serves
10
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 
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Comments

altho the zaatar may taste best made fresh, can you make a bigger batch of it and store it in a bottle in the freezer? (i've never heard of it before but it sounds lovely and worth a try.)

robin

Where can I find sumac in Hawaii?

Diana Fox

I've been sprinkling this on EVERYTHING but my favorite is using it to season a batch of freshly popped corn. The perfect snack for movie night!

Elizabeth

I've just made a delicious aubergine dish from Yottam Ottolenghi's Plenty book, and the za'atar sprinkled on top gives it a lovely taste. I will be trying it again with my own za'atar blend soon.

Tina

There's a restaurant in my area name with that name. I always wondered what it meant!

neo

the new ottolenghi cookbook, jerusalem, is (a) amazing; and (b) chock full of za'atar related recipes. everything i have cooked from it is perfect - second only to your books, heidi!

katy

Lovely to see za-atar here Heidi :) It is a very popular blend in Southern Turkish cuisine; we also love adding cuming and crushed/ground chickpeas in it, it is wonderful. Also works as a great rub for grilling vegetables. We also love dipping flatbread to olive oil and then to the za'atar (zahter, as we call it) - great treat!

Ozlem's Turkish Table

I live in the Mid East - I grow my own fresh Zaatar leaves- then make the dried spice mixture later in the season- the actual zaatar leaves look like fuzzy thyme leaves- they grow closer to the ground, and are larger than regular thyme- delicious fresh in salads and roasted whole fish ..the dry mixture is excellent with soft white cheeses and eggs, on breads, and just as a dip...I really appreciate you bringing this slightly different to the American palate spice mixture forward!! l truely enjoy getting inspiration from reading your blog for new ideas all the time for real food!

rosie

Za'atar is a widely known in Middle East in general and in Palestine in particular. If you love Za'atar, you will love Manakeesh, special flat-bread with olive oil and Za'atar on top!

Sharazad

Za'atar is yummy! I've never made it with fresh herbs, but I'm going to try using fresh thyme, especially for flavoring steamed and fresh vegetables! The best Za'atar I've had was brought to me by my friend, made with thyme grown in his mother's garden in Lebanon! Sumac, one of the ingredients for the Za'taar recipe, is a spice I use on its own merit, on all my salad recipes, even potato salad! It can be added to rice dishes as well to enhance the flavor, as used in Persian recipies. Enjoy and happy cooking!

Jihan Jamal

I love, love thyme so I am sure I will love this spice blend.... p.s. that is mortar and pestle is so beautiful!

Alexandra

Hi Love za'atar. Chanced upon a jar recently in my local health shop made by a women's co-op in the Lebanon. Love it, insanely good with eggs! I am putting it with everything too. My mix is with marjarom rather than thyme. it has been ground quite fine and the smell is fantastic. Recently I was making lamb burgers and threw some into the mix, which I made with some leftover green lentils to bind and paired them with roasted potatoes which I had covered in a cajun spice mix with cumin, paprika as they roasted. The two spice mixes paired brilliantly with each other..smoky and aromatic. Perfect Friday night with a raw kale salad.

Stacy feldmann

LOVE Za'tar and use it like some people do salt - on everything. Slice an avocado and sprinkle it on - yum. With a Penzey's spice store practically walking distance, I might be too lazy for this one... or not. Your recipes are always so good. Current favorite: Oatcakes.

Tricia

Thanks for posting this recipe! I'm going to make this to go with hummus. I've been making a batch of hummus every week using either of Deb's recipes on her blog.

Ally

I've had za'atar on my list for a couple weeks now - and now its crossed out and "sumac" is listed instead. thank you! I shall enjoy making this - tonight!

Leslie

Great basic recipe. Thanks for the ideas - I have only really dipped oil soaked warm bread into Za'atar - how deprived am I.

denise

Just wanted to send my gratitude for your amazing work, your gorgeous recipes, and your wholesome outlook on food which my family and I continue to love and praise. I just baked the Thinnest Oatmeal Cookies which are R I D I C U L O U S L Y good. My 13 year old promises to eat ANYTHING I make from your cookbook!! Double congrats to you on your new deal with Williams Sonoma which is a catalog that stands for quality. What a perfect pairing! Keep up the great work. THANK YOU!

Rebecca

Thanks for this - I've been wanting a recipe for za'atar for a while so I could control the quantities - there are great Middle Eastern markets here in London but I could never use as much as you get with the storebought mixes! :o) Will be making this during the weekend!

MrsNumbles

I love za'atar! I recently bought a pre-made package from the local Arabic market and have been adding to everything from chopped up cucumbers to sandwiches. Thanks for your basic recipe. I'll make it myself next time! :)

Puja @ Indiaphile.info

lovely post. For those who are having trouble locating Sumac to use in the mixture, I have had good luck with the Sumac I ordered from Penzey's spices online.

Jaclin

You have so many amazing spice blends! And I love the versatility of them all, the way they instantly take an ordinary dish up a huge notch. Making a big batch of dukkah or "magic sauce" on the weekend makes the rest of the week so much more delicious. (I think there may be a new cookbook idea/strategy in there). I also wanted to ask - I can't eat sesame seeds and I imagine they contribute a lot to the flavor, do you think any other nut or seed would do the trick?

Lisa

Oh. My. God. Half a day ago I had no clue what za'atar is, but then I came across it in a recipe and I've been all around (literally ALL around) the city (Budapest) to buy a pack. Tonight I made some feta dip using it... and yumm! It's a very nice spice mixture, I immediately got obsessed with it!! And now I don't need to go to all the shady places in town just to get hold of it :)

Oh My Foodness

I have never heard of this spice blend but happen to have all the ingredients on hand to make it! I am so excited to try it today. I read all the comments and have learned many ways to enjoy it. Thank you for expanding my food knowledge with your beautiful posts.

Tami@NutmegNotebook

I love Zatar!!! This is such a beautiful spice mixture. Gorgeous

Reem

I've recently come across your blog and love it. I also love Za'atar so was thrilled to see this post on making it yourself. I use it mostly when roasting veggies but you have now given me lots of ideas. thanks, its a lovely blog Angie

Angie

Yes lebanese. I'm portuguese but my best friend lives in ksa and is married to a libanise. I have learned with her eating bread with some olive oil and zaatar (thyme or any mixture) on top. It's fabulous.

nani

I can't wait to try this. I just found out that I am allergic to dairy and eggs - can you imagine?! So I am looking for new ways to invigorate my cooking and add new depths of flavor.

Alice Dishes

Great! I've only tasted this in hummus and I had no clue how to make it! I'm so glad to know now and be able to recreate the hummus that I loved so much!! :)

Allison Jordan

OH, I love Zatar!! My lebonese friend used to buy buttermilk biscuits, pound them flat, then bake with a mix of zatar and olive oil on top. I still do that. So yummy!

Ann

Popcorn! Za'atar is wonderful on popcorn. Here in SF you can find it either at Rainbow Grocery or at Haigs Middle Eastern Deli on Clement St. Haigs is a good resource for some hard to find herbs.

erica

Being of Syrian decent, my mother makes bread (shaped like pizza) with za'tar sprinkled on top, quite frequently, and I have always enjoyed it. In Arabic we call it hibiz za'tar.

Diane

Thanks for sharing this, I'm a big fan of za'atar!

Appetite Affliction

Glad to see Za'atar featured on your blog. i too grew up eating zaatar sandwiches for breakfast and now serve it to my little boy on weekends spread on whole wheat naan that has been warmed in a hot over until soft and pliable. In Lebanon, the thyme used to make za'atar is foraged for in te mountains. It is not the thyme that we have here in the US but rather a middle eastern oregano known as Origanum syriacum. It is pungent and citrusy and oh so delicious. Also, one may find at middle eastern specialty stores another blend of za'atar known as Aleppine Za'atar which is a special much sweeter recipe developed in Aleppo, Syria and equally delicious.

Dana

I love the idea of making my own Za'atar! I have never thought to make it myself, but it seems so easy. I love it on pita chips. Yum!

Katie@Cozydelicious

Wow, this is fantastic, thank you! I love za'atar and buy it in big bags at the Middle Eastern grocers here in Chicago. I won't make a batch of hummus without it--both blended in and sprinkled liberally on top--and I suspect that this homemade version is better than what I'm used to!

annieD

I love za'tar! I can't believe I never thought of making it myself; bottled as a gift, it'd be a great way to introduce friends to it. Question: where do you get your fennel pollen? That sounds all-around fabulous, but it'd an an extra something here especially. Cheers!

flynn

I'd never heard of za'atar but saw the notation of it being found at Whole Foods. Had a hard time finding it at WF--but thought I'd give your readers a tip. It's in the "bulk spice" section in a tiny green box by "spicerly." It smells heavenly. Thank you for sharing!

Sabrina

Being lebanese, I confirm that this is the lebanese mixture. In fact, Za'atar means thyme but we use the word for the mixture of thyme too. Its very good when simply spread with olive oil on bread. You can add some tomatoes and mint leaves. At breakfast, we eat what we call Man'oucheh which is a lebanese bread dough (pita) that went to the oven with the Za'atar and olive oil on top. Delicious!

lebanese

I love sprinkling it onto challah bread before baking ... And an interesting mix idea is to add a bit of brown sugar.

Misty

A lebanese friend introduced me to za'atar several years ago, explaining that lebanese children often eat it with breakfast to "awaken" the mind and prepare it for learning. Now, I can't even imagine eating scrambled eggs without za'atar sprinkled on top! It's become such a morning luxury. (I also enjoy the cumin-based syrian blend for a more earthy flavor once in awhile.) Thank you for encouraging us to embrace this spice for ourselves and infuse our own blends with personal flavors. I'm so glad more and more people are waking up to the pleasure of this aromatic delight!

Jennifer

Ha! "Some confusion," indeed. I read about za'atar a couple of years ago, and as I had recently moved to a big-city neighborhood with a large middle-eastern population, I went to one of our local grocery stores and asked for it by name. The man helpfully walked me to the large herb and spice selection and basically waved his arm. When he saw my confusion, he said that za'atar just meant "herbs" in arabic. Okay, so when I was in a different grocery store, I asked for za'atar and the young male clerk told me that was the name for oregano. Too bad women don't usually staff such stores. I might have more easily found what I was looking for (which I did eventually). Of course, the same term can mean different things across cultures and countries.

Joan M.

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