This homemade Za'atar seasoning recipe is a popular Middle Eastern spice blend made from a mixture of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, and often sumac. Let's make it!
How to Make Za'atar Seasoning
Za'atar seasoning is, without a doubt, at the top of the seasoning heap when it comes to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking and cuisine. It is a highly esteemed spice mix, often ached for.
It is said that Za'atar - also spelled as Zaa'tar, Za atar, Zaatar, and Zatar - is not just a seasoning or ingredient, but actually a symbol that shows authenticity, ethnicity, and culture all by itself.
This sweet-smelling mix of dried herbs has been around for a very long time, but as Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine demand rises, this striking spice blend has shown increasing interest and curiosity.
Let's talk about Za'atar.
What is Za'atar?
Za'atar is a popular Middle Eastern seasoning made from a mixture of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, and often ground sumac. The word "za'atar" literally means "thyme" in Arabic, though the mix fuses different herbal flavors in an acrid, olive green mix that is as delectable as it is general-purpose.
The versatility of this spice mix is admired in various regions all over the world and is available in simple already-made mixes, all of which can vary greatly based on the region.
The flavors of this spice blend can range from nutty to herbal, tangy, or salty, depending on the region and the dominant ingredient used to make it.
What is Za'atar Made of?
Za atar seasoning is primarily made from a mixture of lightly toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, and often sumac, along with salt. Some variations include roasted flour and mint, and there are variations depending on the region and the spice maker.
How Do You Pronounce Za'atar?
Za'atar is pronounced like "zah-tar".
What Can I Substitute for Za'atar?
You can often find za’atar spice in stores, but in case you cannot, here are a number of alternatives:
Make Your Own Zaatar Seasoning. The best part about za’atar is that it can be made very easily for those looking for a more authentic version in which you can add your own magic.
To make your own za’atar, blend identical measures of dried oregano, dried thyme, dried marjoram, ground sumac and toasted white sesame seeds in a small bowl.
Don’t forget to add coarse salt. As you blend the spice mixture, you will see your brand new homemade za'atar come to life. Taste and adjust to your preference, then store in a cool, dark place.
See the za'atar recipe below.
Dukkah. Just like za’atar, this Egyptian spice mix has nearly the same number of varieties. Dukkah offers the crunch of sesame seeds along with rich hazelnuts.
You can see the herbal element in Dukkah from dried wild thyme and mint herb and spice, the two of which are found in numerous za'atar mixes.
Dukkah is available in various Middle Eastern shops, or you can even create your own mix. It is important to remember that dukkah mixes incorporate flavors such as coriander and cumin, so try to use it as a za'atar substitute only if the additional ingredients will supplement the flavors in your dish.
When preparing your dish, you may need to alter the measurements to make up for the different flavors in dukkah. Use dukkah in a similar amount that you would use za'atar and adjust to your own taste.
Harissa. Just like za’atar and dukkah, harissa also has many versions around North Africa and the Middle East. It can likewise come as a paste or a powder.
Popular mixes will, in general, contain smoked peppers along with mint, cumin, and coriander. It is a powerful, zesty blend that can really make your recipes pop with flavor.
You'll most likely find harissa in a Middle Eastern market, but you may also find it in the ethnic area of some supermarkets.
What Do You Cook with Za'atar?
The delicious and versatile blend of mixes in Za’atar can be used to make a number of dishes, include challah, baba ganoush, labneh, hummus and more.
It is popular with grilled or roasted chicken, and I enjoy it with roasted carrots and white bean soup, or sprinkled over warmed pita bread.
It is also popular when incorporated with oil and/or vinegar as a salad dressing.
Where Can I Buy Za'atar?
You can often find za'atar in specialty stores and sometimes your local grocery store in the seasoning aisle, or you can buy za'atar from Amazon (affiliate link, my friends!).
Try These Other Popular Seasoning Blends
Got any questions? Contact me anytime. I'm happy to help.
Homemade Za'atar Seasoning Recipe
- 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds toasted
- 2 tablespoons ground sumac
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoons dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Add all the ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine.
- Store in an airtight container. Use as needed.
NOTE: This post was updated on 4/6/22 to include new information and photos. It was originally published on 5/18/19.
Christine B says
I've made several versions of Za'atar, including a traditional Egyptian one, but this is the most delicious and zingy one of all. I halved the oregano and thyme but kept everything else as written. This is the Za'atar I will always make from now on. Thanks, Mike.
Mike Hultquist says
Excellent! Glad you enjoyed it, and glad to be helpful, Christine! Thanks for sharing.
I love zaatar! I prefer the red variety but they're all delicious. I like to blend with olive oil and spread it over pita bread and toast in the oven. But yeah, it's good on meat, in soups, on salad, in yogurt dips, you really can't go wrong. My family is Lebanese and I grew up eating it on everything and it's always fun to see people enjoying it 🙂
Mike Hultquist says
David Clements says
My Lebanese wife's family (including her grandpa who came to the USA in 1913 and made his own because the store bought wasn't salty enough for him) pronounced it Zau tA. IN spite of the amount of salt, anise whiskey and cigarettes' he lived to 107. Zaatar mixed in olive oil toasted on pita bread is still one of my favorite breakfasts.
Mike Hultquist says
Thanks for the story, Dave. So interesting. I appreciate you sharing this. Sounds delicious.
I do this too and call them pita snacks. Sometimes I crumble some feta over the top too and toast it. So good!
I made it and I didn't have any majora, so I used half oregano and half thyme more in this recipe. It turned out good anyways. Love it!
Mike Hultquist says
Glad you enjoyed it, Laura!