Za’atar Spice Blend

zaatar 4

I just love Za’atar, a simple Middle Eastern spice blend that has many uses. The ingredients and quantities vary between countries and even differ between families within each country. Often you will see it with just thyme, sesame seeds and sumac, particularly shop bought blends. After much discussion with Persian friends, and trying out various blends, I have landed on my favourite recipe. I usually double or triple this recipe and keep it in a jar close to hand as it has many uses such as sprinkling on salads, yoghurt, roast veg, adding to pizza or bread dough… One of the favourite ways to eat it in the Middle East is to simply tear off some bread, dip in olive oil and then dip that in the za’atar. A dish of za’atar is usually placed on dinner tables in the same way we have salt & pepper; it really is a versatile condiment that adds another dimension to many dishes. I use this in my Persian inspired recipe for Butternut Squash with Za’atar Tofu and Pistachio & Pumpkin Seed Pesto, as well as some of my dips and my Persian Half Moon Stew which I will share with you all later.


  • 2 Tbsp Sesame seeds
  • 2 Tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp dried marjoram
  • 4 Tbsp Sumac (see tip at bottom of recipe)


  1. Dry toast the sesame seeds in a pan until they are just turning golden and releasing aroma; be careful not to burn them. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to a jar.
  3. Crush the toasted sesame seeds either in a pestle and mortar or in a bowl using the back of a metal dessert spoon. Add to the jar with the other ingredients.
  4. Put the lid on the jar and shake really well to mix all the ingredients evenly.

Notes: Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice made from dried Sumac berries that has a tangy citrus type flavour. It is available from most supermarkets and health food stores, but if you are caught short you can substitute the Sumac with 2 teaspoons of lemon zest instead.

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