Za’atar Spice

If you've never tried the Middle Eastern spice blend za'atar, get ready to fall in love. Tangy, nutty, and herby, it's delicious on breads, dips, and more.

zaatar recipe

Have you ever tried za’atar? The word actually refers to two things: an herb related to thyme and oregano and a Middle Eastern spice blend. Here, we’ll be focusing on the spice. It’s herby, nutty, tangy, and salty, and it’s a seasoning that you absolutely want to be cooking with.

Though you can find za’atar seasoning at Middle Eastern grocery stores and spice shops, it’s still not widely available in the US. If you can get your hands on a good store bought blend, I encourage you to try it, but you should also make your own. That way, you’ll know all the components are fresh and potent, and you can customize it, choosing the ingredients and the ratios that you like best.

This recipe is my ideal za’atar spice mixture – it has lots of sesame and incorporates fresh herbs in addition to dried spices. I hope you love it as much as I do, but there’s no single right way to make za’atar. If you like yours a little tangier or a little saltier, taste and adjust to create a blend you love.

Sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, salt, and cumin

Za’atar Recipe Ingredients

No two za’atar recipes are the same – the exact ingredients and ratios vary throughout the Middle East and the world. Often, it includes toasted sesame seeds, ground sumac, salt, and dried herbs such as dried oregano, marjoram, thyme, and…za’atar! I keep my recipe simple with these 5 ingredients:

  • Fresh thyme – While za’atar is traditionally made with dried herbs, I love the unique flavor of the fresh thyme here. If you don’t have any on hand, or if you want your spice blend to keep for longer, feel free to use dried thyme in its place.
  • Sesame seeds – They add a slight crunch and a wonderful nuttiness. For a richer flavor, toast your sesame seeds before making za’atar.
  • Sumac – If you’ve never tasted this bright red spice before, you’re in for a treat. Popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, sumac has a tart, lemony flavor that gives this za’atar a delicious sour kick. If you can’t find sumac at your grocery store, look for it in a Middle Eastern market, a spice store, or online.
  • Sea salt – To make the fresh, nutty, and tart flavors pop!
  • Ground cumin – It’s not a traditional za’atar ingredient, but it adds a little extra complexity to this recipe. If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to skip it! The spice blend tastes great with or without it.

Just mix it all together, and enjoy! If you’d like your spice mix finer, crush everything in a mortar and pestle. Made with fresh thyme, it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you use dried thyme, it will keep at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Za'atar spice

Za’atar Spice Serving Suggestions

Once you have za’atar on hand, you’ll discover a thousand ways to use it! Throughout the Middle East, it’s commonly dusted over labneh, baked onto flatbreads called man’oushe, and sprinkled over meats and vegetables. Here are a few more ideas to get you started:

How do you like to use za’atar? Let me know in the comments!

Za'atar

More Favorite Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-Inspired Recipes

If you love this za’atar seasoning, try one of these recipes next:

Za'atar

rate this recipe:
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time: 3 mins
Serves 12
This flavorful za'atar spice blend will become indispensable in your kitchen! Sprinkle it over dips, vegetables, and breads, or find more serving suggestions in the post above. If you make this recipe with fresh thyme, it will keep for 5 days in the fridge. Made with dried thyme, it will keep at room temperature for a month or more.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, optional

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, mix the thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and sea salt. Alternatively, you can grind everything in a mortar and pestle for a finer spice.
  • Sprinkle onto labneh, hummus, baba ganoush, avocado toast, or follow any of the serving suggestions listed above.

6 comments

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  1. Miriam
    05.31.2020

    It must be za’atar season because we’ve been making za’atar chicken non-stop! We’ve put the chicken in homemade deep dish pizzas and made tacos with the chicken skin adding some harissa and Haitian pikiz (spicy coleslaw). We’ve been using a paste found at WF and added extra seasonings but we’ll have to try yours as well 🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.09.2020

      Hi Miriam, that sounds delish!

  2. Diane
    05.31.2020

    What is sumac? Flavor profile ?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.31.2020

      Hi Diane, it has a tart lemony flavor.

  3. Anna
    06.01.2020

    Hi Jeanine! Just stumbled on your website and your content is beautiful!
    Keep up the great work.
    P.s. I’ll have to try this sometime once I get hold of sumac.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.02.2020

      thanks Anna!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.