What Is Za’atar?

Plus, make your own za'atar spice blend.

January 25, 2023
Za'atar. Old spoon filled with za'atar on a tin plate. Za'atar is mix of sesame seed, sumac and thyme.


Za'atar. Old spoon filled with za'atar on a tin plate. Za'atar is mix of sesame seed, sumac and thyme.

Photo by: annick vanderschelden photography/Getty Images

annick vanderschelden photography/Getty Images

By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

What Is Za’atar?

Za’atar is a savory Middle Eastern spice blend made with dried oregano, thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. Traditionally, za’atar is made with its namesake herb, also known as hyssop, which grows plentifully across the Levant. Sometimes, marjoram, dill, orange zest or salt are also added to the mixture, and the combination and proportions vary by region. In the Middle East, za’atar is used to top man’oushe, a chewy flatbread, served with oil and bread for dipping, or sprinkled on top of yogurt or sliced, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

Raw Organic Zaatar Spices in a Bowl


Raw Organic Zaatar Spices in a Bowl

Photo by: bhofack2/Getty Images

bhofack2/Getty Images

What Does Za’atar Taste Like?

Za’atar has an earthy, herbaceous flavor profile that gets a burst of tartness from lemony sumac and a toasty crunch and nuttiness from the sesame seeds.

A traditional Middle Eastern spice blend in a measuring spoon


A traditional Middle Eastern spice blend in a measuring spoon

Photo by: Candice Bell/Getty Images

Candice Bell/Getty Images

How to Make Za’atar

It's very easy to make homemade za'atar. Here's what to do.

Step 1: Reach for the freshest ingredients.

Be sure to use the freshest dried herbs possible and make small batches to ensure the blend stays fragrant and fresh.

Step 2: Mix together the base ingredients.

To make homemade za’atar, combine crushed dried thyme, oregano, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. Many recipes combine 1 part of each of these ingredients, so the spice blend contains equal amounts of each--but feel free to adjust to your preference. Don't be afraid to play with the proportions.

Step 3: Experiment with other add-ins.

You can also experiment with adding dried marjoram, dill, orange zest or salt to the mix.

Step 4: Store the mixture in an air-tight container.

A rinsed and dried leftover herb jar or a small mason jar is the perfect container. Store the za'atar in a dry, dark space.

Photo by: Andrew Purcell

Andrew Purcell

How to Use Za’atar

Za’atar can be used as a seasoning, to finish dishes and as a condiment. Use za’atar anywhere you want to add or accentuate bright, herbaceous and earthy flavors, and in dishes that would benefit from a nutty, toasty crunch. Use it as a spice rub for grilled or roasted proteins including chicken, beef, lamb or fish. Za’atar is great on vegetables too. Sprinkle it on raw, sliced tomatoes or cucumbers, use it to season roasted vegetables or whisk it into an oil-and-vinegar dressing to dip romaine hearts into. Za’atar can also be mixed with olive oil as a dip for bread or to finish dishes, as with these Za’atar Chicken Thighs with Pearl Couscous (pictured above). You can bloom za’atar like you would other spices by adding them to warmed olive oil or butter—it’s ideal for finishing dishes and is especially nice drizzled over popcorn or avocado toast.

Recipes with Za’atar

This simple yet elegant chicken recipe proves that double the za’atar is twice as nice. Za’atar is employed first as a spice rub to bring a lemony, herbaceous pop to grilled chicken breasts, then as a finishing agent that complements a refreshing cucumber-watermelon salad bolstered with lemon and mint.

Photo by: Heather Ramsdell ©Food Network 2016

Heather Ramsdell, Food Network 2016

Za’atar’s aromatics shine through in this easy sheet pan supper to complement lemony, juicy chicken thighs, earthy chickpeas and sweet roasted carrots. Serve with warm pita to mop up the extra juices.

Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm 
Prop stylist: Robyn Glaser


Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm Prop stylist: Robyn Glaser

Halved carrots roasted with olive oil and za’atar until caramelized and tender make for a simple, crowd-pleasing side. We love how the sprinkling of za’atar lends a nutty earthiness that plays off the natural sweetness of the carrots.

Most za’atar spice mixes include oregano, thyme, sumac and sesame seeds, making them a great all-purpose savory blend. Here, za'atar imparts loads of flavor to a mixture of lemon zest, pistachio and panko, which coats mild halibut in a crunchy, flavorful crust.

Food Network Kitchen’s No-Yeast Whole Wheat Za'atar Bread, as seen on Food Network.


Food Network Kitchen’s No-Yeast Whole Wheat Za'atar Bread, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

This simple, no-yeast bread recipe calls for a mix of whole wheat and bread flour to impart a subtle nuttiness and extra gluten, resulting in a chewy yet airy texture. The dough is finsiehd with a hefty sprinkling of za’atar and white sesame seeds which creates a crisp and flavorful crust. Try dipping warm slices into olive oil sprinkled with za’atar.

Related Links

Next Up

What Is Falafel?

Plus how to make falafel.

What Is Date Syrup?

Plus, get our homemade date syrup recipe.

What Is Old Bay Seasoning?

This powerhouse spice blend goes way beyond seafood.

Kosher Salt vs Sea Salt: What’s the Difference?

Learn what they're best for, and whether you can substitute one for the other.

What Is Tajín?

There's so much to learn and love about this pantry power player.

What Is Garam Masala? How to Make It and Cook with It

How to cook with this warming Indian spice blend.

Cilantro vs Coriander: What’s the Difference?

Everything you need to know to buy and cook with confidence.

What Is Curry?

We consult two experts and delve into its complicated history.

What Is Paprikash?

Hungary’s famous one-pot stew is perfect comfort food: easy, affordable and great with buttered noodles.

What Is Five-Spice Powder? And How to Make It

Here, all the basics, including what’s in five spice powder and how to use it.

More from:

Cooking School

What's New