Along the Grapevine

What is Za’atar and How to Make it?



Naan with za’atar

As part of my promotion of sumac, I would be remiss not to write about za’atar, a tangy Middle Eastern mix made of herbs, sesame seeds, sometimes spices, and often sumac, the latter being indispensable in my mind.

I was introduced to it as a topping on pita bread, but it is also served with plain pita, dipped first in olive oil and then in the za’atar. I have since learned to use it in dressings, with vegetables, meat, fish, sprinkled on hummus or yogurt, in short just about everything but dessert. It makes a pretty amazing addition to bread and butter too, especially a good, fresh, home-made variety.


Hummus with za’atar sprinkled on top

It is easily found in any Middle Eastern shop, and each time I have bought it, it has been a little different from any other. That is because the mixture can have only a few ingredients or many, dried or fresh herbs, with or without spices and with or without sumac. The za’atar I have bought keeps very well for as long as most dried herbs, which means it has probably already lost a lot of its flavour by the time I buy it.

So I decided to make my own mixture with what I had on hand. The result was recognizable, but much zippier than any I had bought, and a much prettier colour. You can actually taste the different ingredients, but the overall flavour is unlike any other. If you use dried herbs, it will keep longer, but I think if you have some fresh ones, use them. Make as much as you can use in a week, and keep it in a sealed container in a cool place. This amount I was able to use easily in two days, and I look forward to my next batch soon.


Ingredients for za’atar

Recipe for Za’atar

2 Tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted

2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

2 tsp ground sumac

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp coarse salt

Mix all the ingredients together.



You can also use dried or fresh marjoram or oregano as well as thyme, and in any proportion you like. This recipe just serves as a base – no need to follow it slavishly!


Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

14 thoughts on “What is Za’atar and How to Make it?

  1. Thank you for sharing. I have all the ingredients at home to try your recipe, I love Za’atar with my tomatoes salad, olive oil and feta cheese.


  2. Looks wonderful – I will try this.


  3. I absolutely adore Middle Eastern food ….will try this on hummus


  4. OMG, I love zatar! I never know where to buy it. Thank you so much for the recipe, now I can try to make it myself!


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  6. I love that you pointed out this recipe! I really enjoy zaatar, but I have noticed that I am not crazy about the ones I can buy readymade. But now I know how to make it myself 🙂 Thank you!


  7. It is my pleasure. I bought za’atar for years from shops, but when I tried my own, I finally realized what it is really supposed to taste like. And it is so easy!


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