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18 May 2019

Za’atar is a popular Middle Eastern spice blend or seasoning made from a mixture of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, and often sumac. Learn more about it.

Za’atar seasoning is, without a doubt, at the top of the seasoning heap when it comes to Middle Eastern cooking and cuisine. It is a highly esteemed spice mix, often ached for. It is said that Za’atar – also spelled as Zaa’tar, 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 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.

What is Za’atar Made of?

Za’atar is primarily made from a mixture of 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?

It is easy to find an expertly mixed blend of za’atar in stores, but in case you cannot, here are a number of alternatives:

Make Your Own Za’atar 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, and dried marjoram in a small bowl. When making your own mix, add a half measure of sumac, and a large portion of toasted sesame seeds. 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.

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 thyme and mint, 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 supplment 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.


The delicious and versatile blend of mixes in Za’atar can be used to make a number of dishes, including:

Savory Za’atar Challah. To make Savory Za’atar Challah, you’ll need dry active yeast, sugar, lukewarm water, unbleached flour, salt, za’atar spice, sumac, chopped garlic, vegetable oil, eggs, and water. Once prepared, you can serve this challah with hummus, tahini and baba ganouj. Add roasted potatoes and chicken and you’re ready for a feast.

Za’atar and Lemon Grilled Chicken. For this you will need olive oil, za’atar, lemon juice, lemon zest, minced garlic, salt, pepper, chicken thighs, lemon and green onions. It will take you about 30 minutes to prepare the dish, and you will be able to serve 4 people a feast for dinner.

Roasted Carrot & White Bean Soup with Za’atar. You can serve 6 people easily when you incorporate carrots, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, za’atar, white beans, tomato paste, lemon juice, sea salt, black pepper, turmeric, vegetable stock cubes, and water. Perfect for cold weather when all you want to do is curl up on the couch with a bowl of soup.

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!).


Got any questions? Contact me anytime. I’m happy to help.


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