Learn how to make your very own Homemade Za’atar spice blend – a classic, Middle Eastern spice mix made up of dried herbs, toasted sesame seeds and a generous helping of sumac. This herbal blend joins together earthy, tangy, citrusy and savoury notes that work together to create a spice that is as unique as it is versatile. Whip up a batch of this Za’atar spice in minutes and use it to use spruce up veggies, meats, fish, dips and more! | Gluten Free + Low FODMAP + Vegan + Paleo
What is Za’atar?
Za’atar refers to two things: a plant and a spice blend.
Plant za’atar refers to a herb that is similar in flavour and taste to thyme/oregano. There’s good evidence to show that this plant is the hyssop plant that is referenced in the Bible.
Spice za’atar refers to a Middle Eastern seasoning that combines sumac, sesame seeds, za’atar (or in this case to make it more accessible: thyme + oregano) and salt. Because of over harvesting, za’atar (the plant) is now declared a protected species which is one reason why the spice blend uses thyme and oregano instead.
What’s in Homemade Za’atar Spice?
- Sumac is a dried, reddish spice often found in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It comes from Sumac bushes which produce bright red berries that are dried and ground down into a course powder. It’s got a citrusy, almost sour taste that’s great for adding an unexpected burst of flavour to a dish. While Za’atar spices do vary depending on what region you’re in, sumac is a staple ingredient in almost every Za’atar blend.
- Toasted Sesame Seeds
- Like sumac, sesame seeds are another staple found in Za’atar. While you can certainly make this spice with untoasted sesame seeds I highly recommend taking a few extra minutes to toast them yourself. Toasting sesame seeds unlocks their natural nutty flavour, not to mention elevates their crunch level. All you need is 3-5 minutes and a small pan over a low heat and you’re good to go.
- Oregano & Thyme
- For a more authentic take, I recommend looking for a Mediterranean variety of oregano over a Mexican version. Mediterranean oregano belongs to the mint family and has more savoury/earthy notes as opposed to Mexican oregano that’s more citrusy with hints of liquorice. Mediterranean oregano is also known as wild marjoram which is ideal for this recipe because marjoram is sometimes found in Za’atar spice as well.
- Thyme offers a woodsy, herbal like flavour that is often found in za’atar.
- The plant za’atar is sometimes refereed to as Middle Eastern oregano but is also locally known as wild thyme.
- Salt & Pepper
- Beyond sumac and sesame seeds, salt is one of the few spices that is common throughout all za’atar recipes.
Other Spices Often Found in Za’atar
There is no one, universal za’atar spice blend. Depending on the region, you might find a spice blend that contains cumin, coriander, marjoram, fennel and/or chili flakes to name a few.
Feel free to play around with this blend, adding and subtracting spices based on what you have, what you enjoy and how you’d like to use the za’atar.
How to eat Za’atar?
The most common way to enjoy za’atar is with a little bread and olive oil. You can brush oil over the top of a pieces of flatbread and sprinkle za’atar over the top or mix the oil and spice together and dip torn up bread pieces in the mixture. I recommend making your own za’atar manakish – it’s basically a Middle Eastern pizza made with pita-like dough and za’atar spinkled over the top.
The blend keeps well so you can whip up a batch, store it in an airtight jar or concealer and keep it on hand at all times.
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- 2 tbsp sumac
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon finely crushed sea salt alt
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper (optional)
- Add everything to a small bowl or jar and mix together until fully combined. Taste and season with additional spice as you see fit.
Keep this stored in an airtight container.