Za’atar – the Middle Eastern spice blend you didn’t know you needed! It’s earthy, nutty, layered, and goes a long way in Middle Eastern favorites, like hummus, and labneh. It’s also great as a dry rub and enhances marinades. Yep, it’s that versatile.
What Is Za’atar?
While za’atar can vary between Middle Eastern regions, the basic formula for this spice mixture is a blend of thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac and sea salt. It’s herby, nutty, salty, savory, and slightly tangy thanks to sumac. It really encompasses what you would imagine a multi-dimensional Middle Eastern spice tastes like.
As far as how it’s used, there’s copious amounts of ways to let it shine. I personally love to mix a spoonful of it with olive oil and drizzle it onto my homemade hummus. But keep reading for more ideas on how to use your jar of freshly made za’atar (hint – it’ll elevate numerous meals!)
This version is fairly similar to the basic formula, except for the addition of marjoram. Fun fact: marjoram has long been used for medicinal purposes due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Which gives this za’atar recipe a healthy boost!
- Oregano: The oregano you probably use most often is Mexican oregano. But for this recipe, a Mediterranean oregano (specifically Greek oregano) is best for a more robust, earthy flavor.
- Marjoram: This wild herb is actually a part of the oregano family, but with a sharp, sweet, and citrusy note to it. It can be found in more health-related stores. But if you can’t find marjoram, you can substitute it with more oregano.
- Thyme: Thyme’s sharp minty flavor balances out the contrasting earthy flavors from oregano and marjoram.
- Sesame Seeds: You can use raw sesame seeds, but toasting them really takes this spice blend over the top.
- Sumac: This tart and lemony spice is essential in Middle Eastern cuisine – it’s used for marinades, dyes, and even medicine. Look for it in either the spices or international section of your local market.
- Salt: Typically sea salt is used, but you can use kosher salt as well.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
How To Make Za’atar Spice
Since I’m an advocate for toasted sesame seeds in this spice blend, that’s what you’ll do first before stirring all the spices together. Just toss the seeds into a small pan, and toast them on medium for 2 to 3 minutes until golden. Don’t forget to give them a shake or stir in between to make sure they don’t burn. Once that’s done, stir all the spices in a small bowl. And that’s it – your za’atar spice is ready to be used!
Ground vs Whole Za’atar
One thing to note is that Za’atar can be made 2 ways – ground or whole. This recipe is made with all dried spices taken straight from their containers, for a chunkier texture. But if you want a finer texture, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind all the spices, except for the toasted sesame seeds (which, you’d add last).
Ways To Use Za’atar Spice
Za’atar works beautifully to enhance dippable appetizers. But keep it in your back pocket for dry rubs and marinades for your favorite proteins. Here are a few ideas on how to use za’atar:
- Sprinkle onto Middle Eastern dips. From hummus, to baba ganoush, to labneh, you can sprinkle za’atar directly on top or mix it with a bit of olive oil before drizzling.
- Add to roasted vegetables: Za’atar elevates simple vegetables like roasted cauliflower or roasted broccoli with extra seasoning.
- Mix it with just olive oil! Dip toasted bread into a bowl of olive oil and za’atar. It’s like your classic Italian appetizer, but with a major flavor twist.
- Use it in meatballs. Almost all meatballs have spices mixed in for added flavor. So for a Middle Eastern-inspired meatball, mix za’atar spice with ground lamb or beef!
- Use as a dry rub or marinade. Not only does this taste amazing on meats such as chicken or steak, but also on grilled or roasted vegetables.
How To Store Spices
I love to store homemade spice blends in these glass spice jars. Then use a water based paint pen to label it! But you can also keep them in a small sealed container. Either way, this spice blend will stay fresh for up to one year.
More Homemade Spice Blends
If you love having homemade spice blends on hand (as I do), give these other flavors a try!
Having a jar of homemade za’atar will give your meals some major oomph. So once you’ve tried it, let me know what you think in a comment below!
Easy Za’atar Spice Recipe
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon marjoram (or substitute with more oregano)
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- In a small sauce pan, toast the sesame seeds for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly golden.
- Mix all the spices together in a bowl. Use immediately or store in an airtight container.
Wonderful! I love it not ground actually though we have it both ways in my home. Thank you for this recipe (and all the others!).
5 Stars for trying to make Zaa’tar and for having an appreciation for ME spices and foods, and BTW I love your recipes, but please don’t butcher the Zaa’tar. the thyme/Oregano should basically be ground, you just used herbs from a jar. I am sure you can buy the real thing from middle eastern grocery stores. You can still mix your own, but you’d still have to by the zaatar (ground Thyme).
Hi Patricia – I’ve enjoyed za’atar both whole and ground on travels in the Middle East. Like many recipes, there’s no one authentic way to make it. And I do mention that you can grind the herbs in the post. :)