If there is one seasoning blend I absolutely cannot live without, it's za'atar! This aromatic Middle Eastern blend of herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac will transform your cooking. Not all za'atar is created equal, though. Today, let's dig into what is za'atar (spice or herb?). What does quality za'atar consist of? And the many delicious ways to use it!

Be sure to grab my list of 11 BEST za'atar recipes below.  From amazing salads to the best roast chicken, breakfast, and more!

Za'tar Spice. What is Za'atar and How to Use it

What is za'atar (zaatar)?

I love highlighting my favorite Mediterranean pantry ingredients, like I do in my Aleppo pepper guide. Today, I'm sharing everything you need to know about one of the most-used seasonings in my spice cabinet, za'atar.

Za'atar (pronounced Zaah-tar) is most identified with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. A combination of herbs, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt, it is one of the world's unique and best seasonings. It's loaded with bold flavors, has great texture, and even boasts some health benefits--from soothing inflammation to boosting cognition!

Many don’t know this, but the Arabic word Za’atar (zaatar) also describes an actual herb that's in the wild thyme family which starts its life looking more like oregano (Blends that stick to the traditional taste will include Mediterranean wild thyme in them.)

Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers with Za'atar spice and a sprinkle of feta

What’s in it? Not all za'atar is created equal 

So, we said Zaatar is a combination of herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac (a tangy red spice from sumac berries - get more info about it in our sumac guide!). How much sumac? White or toasted sesame seeds?  What else is added?

There are no official standards out there, and that's why you'll find different variations of zaatar seasoning on the market.

As someone who’s of Mediterranean origins and who has tried many blends over the years (more than I care to remember), I can tell you, not all za’atar is created equal. Taste, texture, and quality will vary a lot.

Sadly, many blends will not include quality herbs. To increase volume and lower prices, cheaper za'atar blends include a large amount of fillers in the form of wheat, flavored ground straw or husk. And many will substitute citric acid for sumac.

The Mediterranean Dish Za'atar Spice Blend

Quality all-natural za'atar seasoning and where to find it

You can find za'atar in the spice section at health food stores or Mediterranean and Middle Eastern grocery stores. My best advice to you is to look at the the label carefully and ask questions. Look for za'atar that contains quality wild thyme (or hyssop) and sumac (not citric acid.)

Make sure the ingredients are all natural and nothing else is added. Look at it carefully, it should have good texture and look more on the green side (like the picture above).

Let me tell you about the blend I use

The Mediterranean Dish za'atar is sourced from trusted suppliers, includes only quality all-natural ingredients, and stays true to traditional taste and texture. An aromatic blend with both earthy and subtle citrus undertones, and just a hint of nuttiness, it includes:

  1. High quality, fragrant French wild thyme, which adds robust flavor along with oregano.
  2. Toasted sesame seeds (as opposed to the standard white), which adds a sweet, nutty flavor
  3. A good amount of quality ground sumac from Mediterranean sumac berries, which adds a subtle lemony and earthy flavor; the perfect balance to the wild thyme and oregano. And a small pinch of kosher salt to round everything out.

Remember, many lower quality zaatar blends substitute citric acid for sumac and add other fillers like wheat and flavored straw to increase volume.

Where to Buy? If you live in the USA, you can find our all-natural za'atar at our online store.

Collage of best zaatar recipes

How to use za'atar (zaatar): 11 BEST Za'atar Recipes

I use zaatar on a regular basis. It's great to simply season some avocados or tomatoes for a snack (drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil), to generously season pillowy homemade bread rolls, to jazz up some breakfast eggs, or to include with olive oil for dipping as part of a big Mediterranean spread.

But I also use it to season salads, meats and even fish. Here are 11 favorite recipes using za'atar:

Za'atar Chicken
Za'atar Roasted Chicken
Za'atar Chickpea Salad with Fried Eggplant
Chickpea Salad with Za'atar and Fried Eggplant
Flatbread with hummus, arugula, tomatoes, smoked salmon and more. Sliced in small pieces to serve as appetizer
Mediterranean Flatbread with Arugula and Smoked Salmon

Head over to The Mediterranean Dish Store to grab some today!

Try our Ultimate Mediterranean Spice Bundle Or the Exotic 4 Bundle!

Za'atar from The Mediterranean Dish

You may also like:

How to make dukkah (Egyptian Dukkah Recipe)

How to make falafel

How to make labneh

 

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. Hi....I've been following your page for awhile now and even receive emails with the weekly menu ideas...wich I LOVE LOVE LOVE by the way. My question is, does it matter which olive oil you use (Spanish/Greek/Italian) for any given dish? Are they interchangeable or does one do better in certain recipes? TYIA

    1. Hi, Kimberly. I typically choose the olive oil I'm going to use based on the flavor profile I'm trying to achieve. In many recipes, it really doesn't matter too much, but sometimes, it does. Sorry I can't give you a very straight answer here. It can often just come down to personal preference.

  2. I heard about zaatar on some of the cooking shows so I bought some not knowing how it tasted! I must say I tried some just on my finger and it was horrible !!!!! I hope if I try it in one of your recipes it tastes good. By itself is it supposed to taste terrible?

    1. Hi, Joyce. On its own, it might be a bit strong, but I've not know it to taste terrible. We use it quite often in recipes and to top veggie side dishes and dips and find it to be a wonderful addition.

    1. From what I've read, Middle Eastern wild Thyme is what's traditionally used, but since it's hard to get outside of the Middle East, French Thyme has roughly the same flavor profile, and so is a good substitute.

  3. Looking too use big bag zaatar in new ways I first learned of the spice working with the Lebanese client he had the pizza and when send me to the Lebanese store to buy it I mean the Mediterranean store

  4. can i use zaatar as dry rub for pork ribs? I will then finish the pork ribs with bbq sauce. Do they go together?

  5. Hello,
    I found your site by accident, am so glad I did. Your recipes are great and you make it look so easy.
    Thank for your lovely dishes, I cant wait to try the Hummus, for starters!
    keep them coming.

  6. I am a new here but I love your recepies and I bought 3 spice blends, one of them is za'atar.