Introducing my inspired take on za’atar — a classic Middle Eastern spice blend with toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and herbs.
After tasting both red and green za’atar, I tried my hand at a classic red version featuring sumac.
This inspired version is gluten-free and requires only 6 ingredients and 5 minutes to prepare!
What is Za’atar?
The term za’atar has been used to describe both an herb (wild oregano or hyssop) and a mix of herbs and spices that can include this herb. But in this post, we’re referring to the spice mix.
Za’atar is common in several countries in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. And it’s especially popular in Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Syria. The exact herbs and spices used vary, but typically include a mix of sesame seeds, salt, and dried herbs. Our inspired version most closely resembles the Lebanese version because of the addition of sumac. (source)
What is Sumac?
Sumac is a vibrant spice made from the dried, ground berry of the wild sumac flower, and is especially rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. I love the unexpectedly bright, tart flavor of sumac, and how it blends beautifully with the sesame and herbs in this spice blend.
If you aren’t sure where to purchase sumac, we recommend the bulk section of a well-stocked health food store or ordering online.
How to Make Za’atar
It starts with toasting sesame seeds in a small skillet.
The toasted sesame seeds are then lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle (a small blender or mixing bowl will also work). Then the other spices are added: thyme, oregano, cumin, sea salt, and sumac.
A final optional step is to add olive oil. This is ideal if you are going to be using your za’atar immediately to flavor a dish.
If not using within a week or so, we recommend omitting the olive oil and keeping the spice mix in a sealed container stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for longer-term storage. As a practice, we find it’s always best to check the aroma and taste of herbs and spice blends before using them in recipes. If you haven’t used a spice in 6+ months, it’s probably time to retire it.
We hope you LOVE this spice mix! It’s:
& Very versatile
It’s perfect for marinating or seasoning meats, garnishing dips and salads, raw vegetables, or adding more flavor to just about any dish, especially those that are Middle Eastern or Mediterranean inspired, including hummus, grilled chicken, or roasted vegetables.
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!
More DIY Spice Mixes
- 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 Tbsp dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 ½-2 Tbsp sumac
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
- If using untoasted sesame seeds, heat a small skillet over low to medium heat. Add sesame seeds and toast for a few minutes or until lightly golden brown, stirring frequently.
- Taste test and adjust as needed, adding more cumin for smokiness, salt to taste, sumac for tartness, thyme for floral notes, oregano for a woodsy taste, or sesame seeds for sesame flavor and more texture. NOTE: The amount of salt you add will depend on preference. If you typically add more salt to dishes, hold back a bit. If you want this to be a stand-alone spice blend that seasons a salad or hummus, etc., a greater amount of salt is nice for balance and flavor.
- Will keep in a sealed container for at least 3 months (or longer) at room temperature. Or, refrigerate to keep fresh even longer.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without optional olive oil.