I can’t get enough of za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend that strikes the perfect balance of flavors. It’s savory, earthy, tangy and salty. This seasoning is often mixed with olive oil and salt and served as a dip for bread, though it’s also fabulous sprinkled over roasted meats and vegetables. 

a small white bowl filled with a dried herb and sesame seed spice blend

What is Za’atar Spice?

Za’atar, also spelled zahtar, is a pungent Middle Eastern spice blend traditionally made of sesame seeds, dried marjoram, dried thyme, and sumac. It’s often served as a dip for bread, mixed with olive oil and salt but is also commonly sprinkled over meats and vegetables. Just one taste and you’ll understand why this is easily one of my favorite spice blends!

Ingredients in Za’atar Seasoning

Like many traditional recipes, za’atar recipes vary in ingredients and amounts depending on the region and the cook (though many homecooks won’t share their exact recipe!). You can learn more about the history of za’atar here.

Most of the ingredients in za’atar are pantry staples, except for the ground sumac, which I rave about in this recipe for Pistachio Dukkah. It’s easily one of my top 5 spices. 

The ingredients you’ll need are:

Ground Sumac

I love ground sumac, and it’s an essential ingredient in za’atar. Sumac has a gorgeous red hue and a tangy, almost citrusy flavor.

It’s delicious sprinkled over salads, soups and toast. You can find ground sumac in most Middle Eastern grocery stores, though it’s becoming easier to find in major grocery stores. You can also buy ground sumac from Amazon.

Dried thyme 

I like a lot of dried thyme in my mix. It also pairs wonderfully with the earthy oregano. 

Dried oregano (or a mix of oregano and marjoram)

Most traditional za’atar blends use a combination of dried oregano and dried marjoram. To streamline the ingredient list and make things easier on you, I opted to just use one of the two dried herbs—oregano (a Greek or Turkish variety is best here).

By all means, if you have dried marjoram on hand, use it! Substitute half of the oregano with marjoram if you’re using it (you could also just add a tablespoon of marjoram to the mix—have fun with this). 

Toasted white sesame seeds

Sesame seeds add a lovely toasty/nutty flavor to the spice blend. But if you’re going to add sesame seeds, you must toast them first. Raw sesame seeds just won’t add the same flavor. Toast sesame seeds on a baking sheet in a 350ºF (176ºC) oven until light golden brown and fragrant, 5–8 minutes. 

Kosher salt or flaky sea salt

Use whatever you have on hand or prefer. Flaky sea salt is great for dips and when sprinkled over breads or rolls. Kosher salt works well when the za’atar is being used as a rub or seasoning for meat or veggies. 

spices measured out and arranged on a counter

How to Use this Za’atar Spice Blend

  • Sprinkle over salads.
  • Sprinkle over labneh or hummus. 
  • Season pita bread with za’atar before baking into pita chips.
  • Coat a log of goat cheese with za’atar.
  • Sprinkle over homemade naan dough before cooking.
  • Sprinkle over breads and rolls, such as these Sweet Potato Rolls.
  • Mix with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with warm crusty bread for dipping. Lemon zest would be a delicious addition here.
  • Use the spice mix as a dry rub for roast chicken or pork, or grilled white fish.
  • Season carrots, potatoes, cauliflower or fennel with the spice mixture before roasting. 
  • Make one of our favorites—this unique and delicious Miso & Za’atar Potato Salad.

Storage tip: store your homemade za’atar seasoning with the rest of your spices (preferably a cool, dark place). 

More Middle East-Inspired Recipes to Love…

close up image of a sweet potato roll with seasoning on top

Did you make this homemade za’atar blend?! Let me know how it went—leave a comment and star-rating below. And if you snapped a pic, share it on IG and tag me @zestfulkitchen. I love seeing what you make!

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a small white bowl filled with a dried herb and sesame seed spice blend

Homemade Za’atar Spice Blend

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Yield: about ⅓ cup 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

An earthy, nutty and slightly citrusy Middle Eastern spice blend. Mix with olive oil and serve as a dip for warm bread, or sprinkle over hummus, labneh, roasted meat, veggies or fish.


Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

Stir together all of the ingredients. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a few months. 



Notes

Make it a dip: mix 2 tablespoons za’atar with 1–2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (depending on how you want to enjoy it). 

How to toast sesame seeds: arrange sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in a 350ºF (176ºC) oven until lightly golden brown and fragrant, 5–8 minutes. Let cool completely then mix with spices. 


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
  • Calories: 15
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 215mg
  • Fat: 1g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 0.5g
  • Protein: 0.5g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: za’atar seasoning blend, za’atar spice blend, za’atar seasoning, what is za’atar, za’atar spice

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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