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Unlocking the Flavors of Za’atar: A Guide to Its Origins and Culinary Uses

What is Za’atar and how to use it?

In most kitchens, there are usually a few spices and seasoning blends that have become staples. Things like garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper have become mainstays that all chefs and home cooks alike keep neatly stocked in their pantries. However, if you’re looking to add a new and exciting flavor profile to your dishes, you may want to consider za’atar.
Few spices in the world have the somewhat epic history and cult following of the Middle Eastern spice blend za’atar. Pronounced Zaah-tar, according to The Mediterranean Dish, this spice blend is incredibly versatile and can be seamlessly incorporated into any dish you are making.

The origins of za’atar

Za’atar has a fascinating history dating back centuries. The spice blend can be traced back to the 12th and 13th centuries, and it is even believed to have originated in ancient Egypt. Despite its ancient roots, za’atar blends don’t have a set recipe, as different regions and cultures have developed their own variations of this spice.
One of the reasons for za’atar’s popularity is its unique flavor profile. The blend typically includes dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds. This combination gives za’atar a perfect balance of earthy and lively flavors, making it a delightful addition to a variety of dishes.

The health benefits of za’atar

In addition to adding a burst of flavor to your meals, za’atar offers several health benefits. Many of the herbs used in za’atar, such as thyme, sumac, and oregano, are rich in flavonoids, thymol, and carvacrol. These compounds have been associated with various health-promoting properties, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
In fact, za’atar was considered “brain food” in ancient times. The famous Spanish Jewish philosopher Maimonides is said to have recommended za’atar as a medicine to his patients. The combination of herbs in za’atar is believed to have cognitive benefits and support brain health.

Ways to use za’atar in your cooking

Now that you know the history and health benefits of za’atar, let’s explore the different ways you can incorporate this spice blend into your culinary creations.
1. Seasoning for meat and seafood: Sprinkle za’atar on chicken, beef, lamb, or fish before grilling, roasting, or sautéing. It adds a unique flavor profile to the proteins and enhances their overall flavor.
2. Roasted vegetables: Toss your favorite vegetables in olive oil, sprinkle with za’atar, and roast until caramelized and tender. The spice blend adds depth and complexity to the vegetables, making them even more delicious.
3. Dips and spreads: Mix za’atar with yogurt, sour cream, or cream cheese to make flavorful dips and spreads. These can be served with pita bread, crackers, or fresh vegetables for a tasty appetizer or snack.
4. Salad Dressings: Add a tablespoon of za’atar to your homemade salad dressings for a zesty and aromatic twist. It pairs well with various salad ingredients and can enhance the flavor of your greens.
5. Flatbreads and pizzas: Sprinkle za’atar on flatbreads or pizzas before baking to give them a Middle Eastern flair. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil for added richness.
These are just a few examples of how you can use za’atar in your cooking. Feel free to experiment and get creative, as this spice blend is incredibly versatile and can enhance a wide range of dishes.


Za’atar is a unique and flavorful spice blend with a rich history and many culinary possibilities. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or an adventurous home cook, adding za’atar to your pantry can open up a world of exciting flavors. From seasoning meats and roasted vegetables to creating dips and dressings, za’atar can elevate your dishes and impress your guests. So the next time you’re in the kitchen, reach for a jar of za’atar and let its distinctive flavor take your cooking to new heights.


What is za’atar?

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend typically consisting of dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. It offers a distinctly earthy and vibrant flavor profile.

How do you pronounce za’atar?

Za’atar is pronounced “Zaah-tar,” according to The Mediterranean Dish.

What are the health benefits of za’atar?

Za’atar contains herbs rich in flavonoids, thymol, and carvacrol, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been associated with cognitive benefits and brain health.

Can za’atar be used in vegetarian and vegan dishes?

Yes, za’atar is a versatile spice blend that can enhance the flavor of vegetarian and vegan dishes. It can be used to season roasted vegetables, add depth to plant-based dips, or sprinkle on flatbreads.

Where can I find za’atar?

Za’atar can be found at some specialty food stores, Middle Eastern markets, or online retailers. Alternatively, you can make your own za’atar blend by combining the individual herbs and toasted sesame seeds.

How long does za’atar keep?

Za’atar can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for several months to a year. However, for the best flavor, it is recommended that it be consumed within six months.

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