Homemade Zaatar
Homemade Zaatar

Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice, is slightly tart and delicious when sprinkled over almost anything.

Za’atar is a blend of herbs and spices popular in Levantine cuisine. It is a complex marriage of musk, citrus and nut aromas. It’s a flavorful and versatile kitchen staple for Middle Eastern cooks, often sprinkled on top of hummus, salads, roasted vegetables, and grilled meats and fish. Mixed with olive oil, it becomes the perfect dip or spread for flatbreads. There are countless ways to use za’atar.

What’s in Za’atar?

Za’atar: In addition to being a spice, za’atar also refers to an herb that grows wild in the hills of Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. It looks like oregano and belongs to the wild thyme family. The leaves are dried in the sun and on the ground. It smells like a mixture of oregano, thyme and cumin. For this reason, some za’atar spice blends include them to mimic the aroma of za’atar leaves.

sumac: Sumac are crimson berries that are dried and ground to be used as a spice in many Middle Eastern cuisines. It tastes like lemon lime. Iranians, like me, keep it on our dining table alongside salt and black pepper to sprinkle over kebabs and salads.

I buy sumac from a local Middle East supermarket here in London. Look for pure sumac with no added salt. In the US, you can buy unsalted sumac online.

Sesame seeds: For the best flavor, buy raw sesame seeds and toast them yourself. In the blink of an eye, it’s okay to use toasted sesame seeds.

Simple tip!

Can only find salted ground sumac? Omit the salt in the recipe.

Many ways to use Za’atar

There are endless uses for za’atar and I have no doubt that you will find innovative ways to use it in your everyday cooking. Here are a few ideas:

The best way to store za’atar

Store za’atar in an airtight spice jar or container in your pantry as you would any other dried herb or spice. It is likely to lose some of its flavor and aroma after a month. If you keep it tightly closed in the fridge it will last up to 3 months.

Spice Blends = Delicious Magic

  • Dukkah spice mix
  • Berbere
  • Garam Masala
  • Adobo seasoning
  • The best dry rub for chicken

Homemade Za’atar

preparation time
8 minutes

cooking time
5 minutes

total time
13 minutes

1/2 cup

I buy za’atar leaves from a Lebanese supermarket in London. If you can’t get your hands on this extraordinary herb, use 3 tablespoons dried oregano, 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme, 1/2 tablespoon dried marjoram, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin instead.


  • 2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds

  • 4 wrapped tablespoons dried za’atar leaves or 2 tablespoons ground za’atar

  • 2 tablespoons ground sumac

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

special equipment

  • Mortar and pestle or spice grinder


  1. Roast sesame:

    Put the sesame seeds in a small pan. Set over medium-high heat and toast, stirring occasionally to make sure the seeds don’t burn, until golden brown, shiny and occasionally popping, 3 to 5 minutes. Place the toasted sesame seeds in a bowl to cool for about 5 minutes.

  2. Grind the Za’atar:

    Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind the za’atar leaves into a fine powder.

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients:

    Place the sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and salt in the mortar or spice grinder. If using a mortar and pestle, grind for about 2 minutes to easily crush and release the aromatic oils in the sesame seeds.

    If using a spice grinder, pulse it a few times. The sesame seeds should remain mostly whole. They’re simply trying to release some oils and bring out the nutty flavor, not finely grind them.

  4. Save the Za’atar:

    Transfer the za’atar seasoning to an airtight container and store in your dry pantry for up to 1 month or in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. I hope you find yourself sprinkling it on everything!

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!