Authentic Za’atar spice mixes are delicious Middle Eastern blends that are useful for many dishes. They’re the perfect rub for any meat or chicken and are absolutely mouthwatering on pita. Mix it with olive oil for a ridiculously delicious marinade.
Za’atar is an herb and a spice blend with the same name. A mix of thyme and oregano is typically used because it’s easier to find and tastes very similar. Another name for za’atar is Syrian oregano, which tells you how closely they’re related.
The reason I used plural when referring to zaatar spice mixes is that everyone has their favorite blend. And no matter who tries it, someone is always going to say, “This isn’t like my grandma’s.” That’s because everyone’s grandma has her own special recipe, and probably the region she’s from greatly influenced her recipe.
Suddenly, several of my friends are raving about za’atar and how addictive it is and how it goes so well on just about everything. Of course, I had to check it out. Mistake! I now have a new addiction.
I’ve always loved Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, but this incredible spice blend takes it to a new level.
Going to a Middle Eastern grocery store always fills my nose and brain with deliciously spicy smells. Of all the ethnic grocery stores, they smell the best (IMHO). It’s so easy to sprinkle this stuff on bland food and making it taste-bud exciting.
What is Za’atar Spice?
This delicious spice mix called za’atar is a spice mix in which za’atar (Origanum syriacum), related to oregano, thyme, and marjoram, is the star ingredient.
The taste is somewhere between oregano and thyme, which are what I use. Without the namesake, it’s not an authentic zaatar. Unfortunately, we can’t always find this aromatic herb. If you have it, please add it to the mix.
My recipe assumes you don’t. All you authentic Middle Eastern cooks, please forgive me.❤️
Za’atar spice combines savory dried herbs like, of course, zaatar with thyme, oregano, and marjoram. Toasted cumin, coriander, and sesame seeds add a wonderful earthy flavor. Then, surprise, sumac (a delightfully sour berry) gives it the delicious, fantastic tartness that makes the best zaatar.
You can buy zaatar at an ethnic grocery store, but why do that when you can make it yourself? I asked around and developed my own blend based on what I found out.
One of my favorite ways to use it is on roast chicken. Lemon and thyme are so good on chicken, and this baby has sumac (lemony) and thyme. My friends had me try it with olive oil and garlic on Italian bread. Oh my!
What is Za’atar Seasoning Made Of?
- Sesame Seed – Toasted for an intensified flavor, this adds an exquisite nuttiness.
- Sumac – An extraordinary, bright red berry that has the tanginess of lemon.
- Thyme – This is related to za’atar typically used in this blend; it’s best used dried in this recipe.
- Oregano – You can use the Mexican variety if that’s what you have. For this recipe, I like to use Greek oregano. But who’s watching?
- Cumin – An earthy spice that is irreplaceable in Middle Eastern and Mexican food.
- Coriander – An essential spice in many ethnic dishes, it has a lemony taste that adds depth of flavor.
- Salt – This pantry staple is not only a flavor enhancer but also a natural preservative.
- Oregano and Thyme – A mix of two of three herbs is necessary if you don’t have za’atar, oregano, thyme, and marjoram. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to find the mix that you love most.
- Sumac – If you can’t get sumac or are allergic to it, you can substitute it with ground lemon zest.
- Sesame Seeds – You can leave them out if you don’t like them or can’t eat them.
Tips & Tricks
Just a note on serving it with olive oil and bread: you can toast the mix in hot (not scorching) olive oil or butter to bring out the best of this incredible spice mix.
Heat the oil, remove it from the heat and throw in your za’atar. Just that little bit of heat enhances the flavors.
The marvelous thing about this spice mix is that it’s a one-spice-cooks-all. You can stop with the za’atar spice mix or throw in some garlic and ground cayenne to kick it up some more.
Of course, it is! Thyme, oregano, and Syrian oregano are all part of the aromatic mint family that is very good for most people. Sesame seeds are nutritious, and so are the rest of the spices included in the recipe. If you make your own incredibly easy mix, it’s even healthier because you can control the amount of salt, and you know there are no hidden ingredients, like anticlumping agents and preservatives.
This exquisite spice originated in the Middle East, and the name is Arabic. It is used in Israeli and Arabic cuisine.
Za’atar is a mouthwatering spice mix of Arabic origin. Duqqa (or dukkah) is an Egyptian spice mix that is similar. The main difference is that duqqa has more nuts, specifically hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds, depending on what you have available. It does include the herb za’atar, but it’s not the main ingredient.
How to Use Za’atar
Try it over homemade pita. Mix za’atar with olive oil and smear it over the dough as it rises. You can do the same thing with pizza dough. One part olive oil and one part za’atar spice mix will make a topping you can drizzle.
Stir in some garlic and olive oil for a spectacular marinade or serve as a dip with fresh crusty bread. One part olive oil with two parts za’atar will make a thick paste perfect for dipping.
Mix it with cream cheese and sour cream for a fantastic dip for fresh veggies or chips.
Sprinkle a little in your salad dressing or on top of your salad before dressing it.
More Awesome Spice Blends to Try
- Creole Seasoning – This spicy blend is perfect for any time you want to spice up your food with a Creole or Cajun zing. Garlic, onion, hot pepper, and oregano are the main players, but they have some tasty friends with them, too.
- Italian Seasoning – Basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and oregano with some other flavors mixed in make a super-easy way to give any dish an Italian flair.
- Jamaican Curry Powder – If you want a good goat curry, this is the perfect spice mix. But don’t limit it to just goat. It’s awesome with chicken, rice, and fish, too. The ginger, allspice, and nutmeg give it a unique and tempting aroma.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice – This versatile spice mix works great for more than pumpkin pie. I love to put a dash in my morning coffee for an extra-special pick-me-up. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg make the kitchen smell like a holiday.
How to Make Homemade Zaatar Seasoning
It’s as easy as pie. Oh wait, it’s way easier than pie.
Mix all the ingredients and store them in a labeled glass jar.
- 2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons sumac
- 2 tablespoons thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon cumin spice
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl or jar with roasted sesame seeds, sumac, dried thyme, dried Greek oregano, cumin, coriander, and salt. Stir or shake the jar so that all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined.
- Store in an airtight container (or zip lock bag) and use as needed. I include it when I am cooking Mediterranean recipes for added flavor. And it is great on pita chips.
- Store in an airtight container.
Tips & Notes:
- Just a note on serving it with olive oil and bread: you can toast the mix in hot (not scorching) olive oil or butter to bring out the best of this incredible spice mix. Heat the oil, remove it from the heat and throw in your za’atar. Just that little bit of heat enhances the flavors.
- The marvelous thing about this spice mix is that it’s a one-spice-cooks-all. You can stop with the za’atar spice mix or throw in some garlic and ground cayenne to kick it up some more.
- Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.