A Transformative Spice Blend

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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