Za’atar Seasoning

The word za’atar (pronounced “zah-tahr”) literally translates to mean “wild thyme” in Arabic. Za’atar is one of the most ancient and traditional spice blends in the world with origins in levantine culture dating back to the 12th century. Although there is very little history about this herb, it is known that Za’atar dates back to Ancient Egyptian times. Thyme, oregano and sesame seeds are native plants of the Levant and grow pervasively in the Middle-East and is native to Greece and Palestine. 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, savoury, and slightly tangy thanks to sumac.

The Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons dried Oregano: The oregano gives a robust, earthy flavour.
  • 1 tablespoon 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.
  • 1 tablespoon Thyme: Thyme’s sharp minty flavour balances out the contrasting earthy flavours from oregano and marjoram.
  • 1 tablespoon Sesame Seeds: You can use raw sesame seeds, but toasting them really takes this spice blend to the next level.
  • 1 tablespoon Sumac: This tart and lemony spice is essential in Middle Eastern cuisine – it’s used for marinades, dyes, and even medicine. 
  • ½ teaspoon Salt: Typically sea salt is used, but you can use normal salt as well.
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin: an anti-inflammatory 

How To Make Za’atar Spice:

Toast the sesame seeds in a small pan for 2-3 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!

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).

Lastly, store in an airtight glass jar.

Ways To Use Za’atar Spice:

There are countless ways that you can put za’atar seasoning to use. Some of my favorites include sprinkling or stirring it into:

  • meats, fish and seafood
  • all kinds of veggies (grilled, roasted, sautéed, etc.)
  • roasted chickpeas
  • dips (hummus, baba ganoush, tahini dip, etc.)
  • salads and salad dressings
  • soups (especially lentil soup!)
  • breads and pita chips
  • olives
  • popcorn

Artist, critic and a self proclaimed historian. I write about the this and thats, odds and ends, and etceteras of the art world.

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