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Zaatar Spice Blend (Usages & Recipe)
If you’re into Middle Eastern cooking, you’ve surely heard about zaatar. Zaatar is a true all rounder in Arab cuisine. From bread, meat, vegetables to spreads, there’s hardly anything that doesn’t go well with zaatar.
While you can find zaatar spice blend in most Middle Eastern grocery stores, you can also make your own with just a few ingredients. Let me introduce you to the usages of zaatar and how to make zaatar at home.
What is Zaatar?
Zaatar (za’atar) is the most popular spice blend in Middle Eastern cuisine. It consists of a combination of dried herbs, mostly thyme, oregano, sesame seeds and sumac. Zaatar has a savory and slightly nutty flavor profile. It can be used for anything from seasoning meats, breads, vegetables, salads and sauces, as well as for garnish.
Originally Middle Eastern, Zaatar spice has become increasingly popular in recent years. The craze for Za’atar is partly thanks to chefs like Ottolenghi or Jamie Oliver who are bringing this iconic Middle Eastern spice blend into households around the world.
Zaatar is not only extremely delicious, it’s also very healthy. Thanks to its main ingredients, zaatar is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Dried thyme: Thyme is the main ingredient of zaatar. In fact, za’atar translates to thyme in Arabic. Use dried thyme for your zaatar blend. You can buy it in any grocery store or make it from fresh thyme by yourself.
- Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are the second most important ingredient to zaatar. They release their full flavor when you toast them beforehand. However, you can also add raw sesame seeds (untoasted) to the mixture.
- Sumac: Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice. It’s made from fried ground stone fruits. You can find the ground spice in any Middle Eastern grocery store. High-quality sumac can be identified by its reddish shimmer.
- Dried oregano: Dried oregano compliments the flavor of dried thyme without overpowering it. Same as with thyme, you can buy dried oregano or make it from fresh herbs by yourself.
- Ground coriander: Ground coriander has a floral and slightly sweet note which brings your zaatar to the next level.
- Salt: A pinch of salt is all you need. I generally use fine salt. If you have coarse salt, I recommend that you grind it before you add it to your mixture.
Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe.
How to Make Zaatar (Step-by-Step)
There are many variations of za’atar. Every region and even every family has their own way of preparing it. I’m going to show you my zaatar recipe the way I make it. This is how many people prepare it across the Levant, from Lebanon, Jordan to Egypt.
Step 1: Toast sesame seeds
Start off by toasting sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat until slightly golden. Once they are done, set them aside for a couple of minutes. Once cooled, transfer to a small mixing bowl. Don’t let the pan get too hot.
Step 2: Mix with ground spices and herbs
Add the ground spices and dried herbs to the toasted sesame seeds. Stir well to combine.
Step 3: Transfer and store
Transfer the zaatar mixture into an airtight container or spice jar.
How to Use Zaatar
Zaatar is a true allrounder in Middle Eastern cuisine! There are many usages of zaatar, from raw to cooked, on baked goods, pastries and meat dishes.
In the simplest way, zaatar is part of any Middle Eastern breakfast, alongside olive oil. Bread is dipped in olive oil and then in zaatar, known as zeit wa za’atar in Arabic.
In the Middle East, za’atar is used the same way as Americans or Europeans use salt and pepper. Arabs use zaatar as a garnish and to level up everyday dishes. I almost always sprinkle some zaatar when serving cut up vegetables, such as tomatoes or cucumbers. It’s a great way to enhance their flavors without having to prepare a dressing or sauce.
In addition to its pure form, zaatar can be used for Manakeesh (Arabic pizza), pastry rolls, as a seasoning for roasted chickpeas and many more.
If you’re into fusion food, you can use zaatar to give everyday Western dishes such as toast bread or scrambled eggs a Middle Eastern touch.
Make Ahead & Storage
Although zaatar takes only 5 minutes to prepare, most people will prepare a larger batch to consume over several days or weeks.
Zaatar can be stored in an airtight container or spice jar for 3-6 months.
Additional Tips for Making
- Some people use untoasted sesame seeds which is fine too. I generally toast them as it will release their full flavor.
- Most zaatar recipes suggest that you add whole sesame seeds (toasted) to your mixture. That’s how I do it too and that’s what I’d recommend. Some people like to grind the sesame seeds after toasting. Either way, it will be delicious.
- Some people use whole spices (cumin seeds instead of ground cumin) for their mixture. These spices are then grinded in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Generally speaking, using whole spices and grinding them yourself is the best way to do it. However, when using quality ground spices, your za’atar will still be very delicious even when using spice powders. I tried both ways myself and could hardly feel any difference. For this reason, I stick to ground spices when making zaatar.
Any Questions or Feedback?
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Zaatar Spice Blend
Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture and a true staple in Arab cuisine. It’s made from a few staple ingredients. Here’s how to make Middle Eastern zaatar seasoning at home.
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp ground sumac
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat until slightly golden. Set aside a couple of minutes until cooled. Then transfer to a small mixing bowl.
- Add the ground spices and dried herbs to the toasted sesame seeds. Stir well to combine.
- Transfer the zaatar mixture into an airtight container or spice jar.
- The nutrition facts are rough estimates and can vary according to the exact weight, brand and type of ingredients used.
Calories: 40kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1165mgPotassium: 86mgFiber: 3gSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 110IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 124mgIron: 4mg
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