Known as the” King of Herbs” in the Middle East, za’atar is both a class of herbs and an aromatic and alluring blend of spices.

Za’atar, the spice blend, is such an incredibly versatile mix of spices that it is easily one of my favorites. I’m sure many of you may be familiar with it already. I have bags of it—brought from friends from Lebanon and Jordan—in my freezer. This wonderfully tangy Middle Eastern spice blend is generally a mixture of dried and ground thyme, oregano, sumac, toasted sesame seeds and often, salt. Other variations include marjoram, mint, sage, or savory. Sumac is a beautiful deep red color. Its fruity-tart flavor makes it a great substitute for lemon juice.

Za’atar’s distinctive styles—the choice of herbs, proportions and color—vary from country to country and culture to culture. Each family develops its own special blend. I prefer za’atar blends with more thyme and sesame seeds, as they invoke deep nutty and woodsy accents.

I love za’atar’s versatility. Frequently used as a table condiment, it adds an element of zest and enhances almost any dish. It’s often stirred with olive oil and served on soft flatbread; other times the mix is spread on bread rounds drizzled with olive oil which are then baked; it can also be sprinkled on labneh or hummus; and I find it also lends an incredible depth of flavor to roasted tofu, sweet winter squash, and other starchy vegetables.

In Lebanon, the word za’atar also means thyme, but they also have their own version of za’atar (the spice blend) that is most associated with breakfast foods. Za’atar is sprinkled on eggs, oatmeal, or plain yogurt—labneh, in particular). Perfect in both sweet and savory foods, za’atar is truly a delightful companion in any kitchen.

You can purchase za’atar in Middle Eastern markets and in some mainstream grocery and specialty stores. I recently saw various blends at Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma. However, it’s best blended at home if you have recently dried herbs, good sesame seeds, and vibrant sumac. This way you can control what goes into your blend, and tweak it to your liking.

Have you tried making za’atar at home? Do you have a favorite way of eating za’atar? If so, I’d love to know. Please let me know in the comments below.

À bientôt,
Martine

13 thoughts on “Za’atar

  1. You have made many middle eastern people proud with your wonderful and accurate description of one of our staple treats! I always loved my mother’s freshly baked mena’eesh – fresh dough flattened down, drizzled with olive oil and topped with zataar before being put in the oven. When it’s fresh out of the oven….perfection! Thanks for posting this!

    1. Thank you so much Tina! I’m glad you approve of my description of such a wonderful and awesome blend of spices! I’m sure your mom’s mena’eesh IS perfection. YUM! Thanks again for taking the time to visit the site and leave a note!

  2. Za’atar is indeed my favorite flavor from the Middle East! When I was first introduced to mena’eesh, I fell in love. The first stop on a trip to Beirut is definitely to Faisal’s on Bliss for mena’eesh. We like it mixed with cheese. We made mena’eesh from scratch just this weekend. I could barely stop eating them. We had 3 different flavors from Lebanon, Palestine and one with pomegranate. All delicious – the Palestinian blend was the best. Do try if you don’t know this delectable treat!

    1. Hi Libby, I know the feeling. I last had mena’eesh in Dubai and I could barely stop eating them too. I’ve never made mena’eesh myself, is it difficult? I would love to learn. Do you get your Palestinian blend locally? I’d love to try it!

  3. Hi, Martine,

    You are such a beautiful writer. The way you describe food is glorious.

    “I prefer za’atar blends with more thyme and sesame seeds, as they invoke deep nutty and woodsy accents.” – OH, I couldn’t agree more. You portray the flavors perfectly.

    Za’atar is such a beautiful blend. I have enjoyed it Lebanese restaurants (I love this cuisine!) on hummus with olive oil. Also, long ago, I worked part-time at a bakery owned by an Israeli. We used to make a soft, thick flatbread that was sprinkled with za’atar, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and baked. It was one of my favorite breads.

    I have never made my own blend – this is something to try, for sure. Thank you for sharing. Have a great day and stay warm!

    Best,
    Shanna

    1. Hi Shanna, you’re too kind! Thank you so much. Lucky you to have worked at a bakery where you could eat man’oucheh/mena’eesh! I too once worked at a bakery but we didn’t bake such delightful Middle Eastern delicacies!! You are so right, za’atar is such a beautiful blend. I’ve never made my own either. Perhaps I’ll try one day. Thanks so much for your comments. They are so motivating! Thank you! —Martine

      1. Martine,
        There is something very special about your blog – and the way you see the world and life in general. I would love to hear more about your bakery job. I hope that you and your family have a lovely holiday.
        Best,
        Shanna

        1. Hi Shanna, Thank you. I worked at a bakery while I was in college. My job was to decorate cakes. The baker and owner baked all the bread and the cakes. His wife, children and I did the decorating. It was a great job and I still enjoy cake decorating. What did you do at the bakery? — Martine

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