Za'atar Spice Blend

Za’atar


Za'atar

A Transformative Spice Blend

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If it’s not already, za’atar should be a staple in your kitchen, like it has been in Middle Eastern families for centuries. It will not only offer you flavors bouncing from savory to woody to tangy but is also so versatile. You can find all about what food it’s used for and what za’atar really is below.

The Origin of Za'atar

Za’atar is native to the Levant region and flavors so many dishes. The spice blend has been around a while, dating back to the 12th century, and has been upheld as a household staple in Middle Eastern families. Some say it may date back to Ancient Egyptian times. Countries that have used the spice in their cuisines include Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Syria, and Jordan. The blur of its origin comes from secrecy held in households on their exact blends.

Magic Spice Blend

The spice blend is a savory mix that includes tart sumac, sesame seeds (roasted), and the za’atar herb with a note of thyme, oregano, and marjoram. The exact combination differs across regions in the Middle East. The Lebanese, for instance, often add coriander to their mix. Sometimes the za’atar blend in stores contains salt.

A New Taste Sensation

How is a spice savory, tangy, aromatic, and earthy at the same time? Well, the sumac provides a tangy flavor. The herb gives woodsy, citrusy, and floral notes. And the sesame seeds are nutty. 

Note: This is not a fine spice blend, but rather a little coarser and nuttier.
Zaatar Spice Blend
Za'atar Spice Blend
Homemade buns with fresh zaatar, oregano leaves

A Local Herb

Za’atar is not only the name of a spice blend. One of the characteristic ingredient of all variations of the authentic spice mix is a herb called za’atar.

The herb za’atar refers to a local plant that is not found elsewhere. Some say that it is a herb in the mint family called hyssop.  Depending on the region and its flora, the aroma profile of za’atar has notes of oregano, thyme, savory, and marjoram.

Mediterranean Thyme

As the popular spice, Za’atar is an herb that is native to the Middle East. Za’atar can also refer to a blend of spices with this herb as the main focus. The use of this spice has been recorded back to the biblical era. Some even say that it was used before then, during Ancient Egyptian times.

This herb can be used for both cooking and as a sort of medicine due to its antioxidant qualities. This is an adaptable spice that goes well with meat, seafood, and sauces.

Sumac - A Popular Middle Eastern Spice

Sumac is another key ingredient of most za’atar blends. It is popular as a tabletop condiment from Turkey to the Middle East. Sumac can also be added to the dukkah spice blend.

We recommend to sprinkle sumac over salad and grilled meat and vegetables.

Ground Sumac

Versatile Za'atar - Mix It, Spread It, Dip It

As you can imagine, if it originates from the Middle East, it can be used in many dishes from this region. A classic way to add flavor to your fresh bread is by mixing za’atar with olive oil to create a tasty dip or topping. Another common way is to season yogurt with za’atar for a fresh dipping sauce. You can also sprinkle it on top of eggs, hummus, avocados, salads, vegetables, and meats. So not only is the spice incredibly easy to use but also quite versatile. Try za’atar with tabbouleh or in one of our other recipes.

Recipes for Salads, Chicken & Veggies with Za'atar

Middle Eastern Za'atar Tabbouleh
Middle Eastern Za'atar Tabbouleh
Israeli Za'atar
Israeli Za'atar

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cornstarch

Starch

Cornstarch has Plenty of Alternatives

From Arrowroot to Tapioca

Starches are known for their ability to thicken and stabilize liquid dishes. Starches are also commonly used in baked dishes. There are many different kinds processed from various plants around the world. Here we have listed a few starch options, each with its own benefits. Try them all, discover a favorite, and find your new pantry staple!

Cornstarch

Cornstarch is an essential ingredient in pantries and kitchens around the globe. What many don’t know is that corn starch comes from the endosperm of a corn kernel. 

It was invented in the mid-19th century by a man named Thomas Kingsford and it was used originally as a laundry aid. Cornstarch is a great thickening agent for stews, sauces, and other liquid ingredients. 

cornstarch
potato starch

Potato Starch

Another common starch ingredient is potato starch. The starch extracted from potatoes becomes a white powder, similar to flour. 

This is a great gluten-free substitute for recipes that require flour. It can also be used as a thickening agent and as a fried food coating. A great reason to use potato starch is that it is lighter than other starches and maintains color to a dish.

Arrowroot Flour

Native to Indonesia, arrowroot is a tuber that is similar to ginger. Extracting arrowroot flour is done by taking the plant’s rhizome and processing it into powder. 

The rhizome is the underground stem of the plant that stores the plant’s starch and energy. Arrowroot is a great choice for those who need ingredients that are easy to digest, like children or seniors.

Arrowroots

Tapioca Flour

Tapioca Flour is a starch that has a slight sweetness to it. It is made by extracting the starches from the roots of a mature cassava plant, also known as yuca or manioc. 

This ingredient is also gluten-free and used similarly to the other starches. Bakers love this ingredient as it gives golden brown crusts to the dish. Use it in batters, as a crispy coating, and to thicken liquids.

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‎Zimbabwean Pumpkin Soup

Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spice

Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spice

Make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte or get inspired by the following recipes for an African pumpkin soup or a quick holiday movie snack! All you need is our freshly ground pumpkin pie spice blend with a hint of oriental cardamom. 


SpiceBreeze Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spices:

Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardamom

‎Zimbabwean Pumpkin Soup

Nhopi - Zimbabwean Pumpkin Soup

In a POT,

  • cook 1.5 lb pumpkin cubes
  • in 1 cup salted water.
  • When the pumpkin cubes are soft, mash them.
  • Add 1-2 tbsp peanut butter,
  • 1-2 tsp Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spices,
  • and salt to taste.
  • Mix well. Simmer for 5 minutes. 

Optionally, add hot chili powder to taste and top with milk** or heavy cream.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

In a MUG, add:

  • 1/8 cup of strong coffee (One espresso shot brings the best result.)
  • 1/2-2 tsp Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spices
  • 2-4 tbsp syrup or honey
  • Fill the MUG with hot milk*. Mix well.

Optionally, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spices.

Variation with Figs

Transfer the latte into a nice tall glass in layers in the following order:

2/3 latte, 1/2 inch whipped cream, 2 halved figs,

1/3 latte, 1/2 inch whipped cream, 2 halved figs.

Oriental Pumpkin Spice Latte
Pumpkin spiced baked apples

Pumpkin Spiced Baked Apples

The perfect combination of tart, sweet, and spicy: pumpkin spice baked apples deconstruct the apple pie in a forgiving way and goes with anything. Create your own simple snack with our Pumpkin Spice blend!

Mexican Hot Chocolate

In a MUG, 

  • dissolve 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • in 2 tbsp milk*. 
  • Stir in 1-2 tsp Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spices
  • and 2-4 tbsp agave syrup or honey
  • Fill the MUG with hot milk*. Mix well. 

Optionally, add hot chili powder to taste and top with whipped cream and sprinkle with Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spices.

Pumpkin Spice Nuts​

Preheat OVEN to 350°F. 

In a BOWL,

  • add 2 tbsp agave syrup or honey,
  • 1-2 tsp Oriental Pumpkin Pie Spices,
  • and salt to taste. Mix well.
  • Add 2 cups chopped nuts and mix well.

In a BAKING DISH lined with PARCHMENT PAPER, spread nut mixture evenly. 

Bake nuts for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Let them cool.

Pumpkin spiced holiday nuts

Notes/ Variations: Mexican Hot Chocolate works just as well with only cinnamon and chili. Try Nhopi without spices.

Recommendations: * Whole milk or almond or soy milk. ** Coconut milk.

Panch Phoron

Panch Phoron

Bengali Panch Phoron

Bengali panch phoron is a seed mix of equal quantity of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, mustard (black and yellow), and nigella, with a bittersweet anise flavor. This mix is used without grinding the seeds.

Try this exotic spice mix in three selected recipes:

Panch Phoron
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Chios Mastic Tears

Greek Mastic Tears

Mastic tears of Chios in a Greek bowl
No Tears Left?

Unique Mastic Tears

If a spice deserves to be labeled “unique” it is mastic, also called mastiha. There is only one place in the world where it is produced, on Chios, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. The rarity and complex production are reflected in a price much higher than most spices.

The Mastic Tears Culinary Spice Kit includes the following spices:

  • Small Mastic Tears
  • Green cardamom pods (organic)

In case you get hooked on this distinctive spice, your “PEPPER” rewards secure you an attractive offer in our online store.

The Tears of Chios

The Mastiha tree grows in other parts of Greece and the Mediterranean, but it only “cries” in Chios, as the locals sometimes call the slitting-tearing process the tree must undergo in order to produce its resinous spice.

natural mastic drop on the tree close up
Natural Mastic Drop on the Tree

Mastiha is produced in 24 specific Mastiha Villages, Mastihohoria, in the southern, coastal area of Chios, Greece.

Greek Islands
Greek Islands
Cooking With Mastic Tears

Cooking with mastic tears is very special. Before you start, smell the flavor. How do you like it?

Mastic is a precious, extremely versatile spice that enhances just about every dish. It has a distinctive flavor, fresh and slightly pine-like. A small amount goes a long way. Too much can leave a bitter aftertaste.

Give your favorite dinner dish a new flavor, follow one of our starter recipes, or find your favorite recipe on our website. Important! Decide first how you prefer to use the included Mastic Tears pouch, as a flavored oil or ground powder. Both ways need different preparations.

Choose one of these two preparations for your Mastic Tears and find recipes below:
  • Mastic infused olive oil (see recipe below)
  • Grind Mastic Tears (see recipe below)
Olive Oil

Mastic Infused Olive Oil

SpiceBreeze
Cuisine Greek

Ingredients
  

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp small mastic tears

Instructions
 

  • In a small POT, heat olive oil over low heat.
  • Add all mastic tears and stir over low heat until they are dissolved.
  • Pour oil into a glass container and let cool.
  • It keeps fresh in a cool, dark place.
  • Always stir or shake oil before using it.
Mastic Recipe Inspirations for Mastic Infused Olive Oil:
  • Drizzle 1-2 tbsp mastic oil over salads, vegetables, or feta. Find the recipe for Halloumi Salad below.
  • Reheat cooked broccoli or another firm vegetable in 1 tbsp mastic oil and garlic. Serve as a side.
  • Roasted Pepper, Mastiha and Goat Cheese Spread – recipe
  • Warm Spinach-Orange Salad with Mastiha Scented Olive Oil – recipe (the recipe refers to 1/3 tbsp mastic infused olive oil)
  • Warm Vegetable Taboule Seasoned with Chios Mastiha – recipe
Chios Mastic Tears In A Mortar

Grind Mastic Tears

SpiceBreeze
Cuisine Greek

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tsp small mastic tears

Instructions
 

Freeze

  • Place pouch with mastic tears for 1 hour in the freezer.

Grind with mortar and pestle

  • Grind with a mortar and pestle half or all mastic tears with 1 tsp salt or sugar, depending on your recipe. For sweet recipes use 1 tsp sugar, for savory recipes 1 tsp salt.

Grind without mortar and pestle

  • Place mastic tears on a flat surface.
  • Cover mastic tears with a large piece of plastic wrap.
  • Roll over the plastic wrap with a baking pin until all mastic tears are pulverized.
Mastic Recipe Inspirations for Ground Mastic:
  • In a PAN, fry cardamom 1 minute in 2 tbsp oil. Add ground meat and/or small vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, and ground mastic to taste. Fry until done.
  • Savory rice porridge (see recipe below).
  • Spaghetti with Fresh Mastiha-Tomato Sauce and Bocconcini – recipe
  • Greek Fries with Homemade Mastiha Scented Ketchup – recipe
  • Plum and Purslane Salad with Mastiha-Lemon Vinaigrette – recipe
  • Orange Chicken with Cinnamon, Ginger and Mastiha – recipe (make half of the recipe for 4 servings)
  • Asparagus Sautéed with Mastiha-Butter. Optional: Double all ingredients, except the asparagus, and add 1 lb shrimps. – recipe
  • Skilled-Seared Lamb Chops Rubbed with Mastiha – recipe
  • Greek cake recipes with ground mastic tears (see recipes below).
  • Orange Poached Pears Dipped in Dark Chocolate and Mastiha – recipe (make half of the recipe for 5 desserts).
  • Greek rice pudding (see recipe below).
Traditional Greek rizogalo

Rizogalo Rice Pudding

SpiceBreeze
Cuisine Greek
Servings 3

Ingredients
  

Shopping list

  • 1/2 cup rice rinsed with cold water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar use less or more to taste
  • 1/2-1 tsp small mastic tears ground

Optional

  • 1 stick stick cinnamon or cinnamon powder
  • 3 pods cardamom

Instructions
 

  • 1/2 cup rice, rinsed with cold water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar (use less or more to taste)
  • 1/2-1 tsp mastic (ground)
  • Optional:
  • 1 stick cinnamon or cinnamon powder
  • 3 pods cardamom
  • In a POT, add rice and 1 cup cold water with a pinch of salt.
  • Optional: Add cinnamon and/ or cardamom.
  • Cover. Bring to boil.
  • Turn heat to low and cook for 15-30 minutes until the rice is cooked. The time depends on the type of rice.
  • Add milk and sugar. Mix well.
  • Stir in ground mastic. Start with 1/2 tsp. Add more to your taste.
  • Cover. Bring to boil.
  • Turn heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, until the rice thickens.
  • Fill rice pudding in 3-4 dessert dishes.
  • Let cool for 30 minutes.
  • Let cool in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Enjoy!
Grilled Halloumi Cheese salad

Halloumi Salad

SpiceBreeze
Cuisine Greek
Servings 3

Ingredients
  

Shopping list

  • 2 oz pack Halloumi cheese or firm mozzarella or firm tofu about 8each
  • 1 Frisee lettuce or your lettuce of choice
  • 8 oz cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 baguette

You might have

  • 1-2 oranges
  • 1 tbsp mastic olive oil
  • oil
  • salty & pepper

Instructions
 

Prepare oranges

  • Peel the oranges.
  • With a sharp knife, remove the peel and white pith from the sections.

Mix vinaigrette

  • In a BOWL, mix mastic olive oil with 1 tbsp orange juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Fry cheese

  • In a PAN, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat.
  • Cut halloumi into thin slices (8 slices per pack) and fry for about 2 minutes until golden on both sides, and it begins to melt.

Assemble

  • Distribute lettuce on plates.
  • Place cherry tomatoes and orange sections on lettuce.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle with vinaigrette.
  • Place halloumi slices on top.
  • Enjoy!
Rice porridge with grilled vegetables

Savory Rice Porridge

SpiceBreeze
Cuisine Greek
Servings 3

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb grilled meat and/or grilled vegetables
  • 2 cups rice
  • 4 cups broth
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 lemon for juice
  • 1 tbsp parsley chopped
  • 4 tomato/es chopped
  • 1 clove garlic grated
  • green cardamom pods
  • 1/2-1 tsp ground mastic
  • salt

Instructions
 

Rice

  • In a POT, add rice, broth, cardamom and salt to taste.
  • Cover. Bring to boil. Turn heat to low. Cook until rice is done.
  • Optional: Add 1/2 cup milk and cook about 5 minutes until the rice thickens
  • Take cardamom out.

Mastic Butter

  • In a small POT, melt butter with ground mastic to taste over low heat.

Serve

  • Drizzle butter over plated rice.
  • Serve with grilled meat and/or veggies.
  • Add a tomato salad seasoned with 1 tbsp lemon juice, fresh parsley, and garlic. No oil.
Orange Semolina Cake

Orange Semolina Cake

SpiceBreeze
Cuisine Greek

Ingredients
  

Shopping list for the batter

  • 1.5 cup semolina
  • 0.5 cup sugar use to taste: up to 0.25less or more
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 0.25-0.5 tsp ground small mastic tears
  • 1.5 cup yogurt
  • 0.5 c milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Shopping list for the syrup

  • 0.75 cup sugar use to taste: 0.25less or up to 0.75more
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3 green cardamom pods optional
  • 1 stick cinnamon optional

Shopping list for garnish (optional)

  • 1 orange halved and sliced
  • 0.5 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup ice cream vanilla or orange flavor

Instructions
 

Syrup

  • In a small POT, add bring 0.5 cup of water to boil.
  • Stir in sugar until dissolved.
  • Optional: Add cardamom or cinnamon.
  • Mix in orange juice. Return to a boil.
  • Turn heat to low and cook slowly for about 10 minutes. The syrup shall have thickened but still be runny.
  • Remove and let cool.

Batter

  • In a BOWL, mix semolina with sugar, baking soda, and mastic.
  • Add yogurt, milk, and lemon juice.
  • With an ELECTRIC MIXER, beat until the batter is creamy.

Bake

  • Preheat OVEN to 350°F.
  • Spread a thinly layer of butter onto a BAKING PAN.
  • Pour the batter into the BAKING PAN.
  • Bake for about 1 to 1.5 hours until its baked and lightly golden.
  • If the top turns brown before it fully baked, cover the pan with aluminum foil for the remaining baking time.
  • Take the BAKING PAN out.
  • Pour syrup over hot cake.
  • Let cool.

Serve

  • Sprinkle cake with powdered sugar.
  • Serve cake with orange slices and/or ice cream.

Notes

Here are some Greek cake recipes. For all you can add ground mastic tears to the batter to get this special flavor:
Mastic Tears
Mastic Tears
Mastic Tears
Chios Mastic Tears In A Mortar

Grind Mastic Tears

Chios Mastic Tears In A Mortar

Grind Mastic Tears

SpiceBreeze
Cuisine Greek

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tsp small mastic tears

Instructions
 

Freeze

  • Place pouch with mastic tears for 1 hour in the freezer.

Grind with mortar and pestle

  • Grind with a mortar and pestle half or all mastic tears with 1 tsp salt or sugar, depending on your recipe. For sweet recipes use 1 tsp sugar, for savory recipes 1 tsp salt.

Grind without mortar and pestle

  • Place mastic tears on a flat surface.
  • Cover mastic tears with a large piece of plastic wrap.
  • Roll over the plastic wrap with a baking pin until all mastic tears are pulverized.