whole food ~ well made

a spice and herb mix called za'atar with popcorn from

A Homemade Spice Blend Called Za’atar & Ways to Use It

I love to make my own spice blends, like curry, garam marsala and pickling spices. And now za’tar.

For one thing, these spice blends always taste fresher {my spice rack is in pretty heavy rotation, but generally spices and dried herbs should be kept for less than six months}. For another, I can customize these spice mixtures to suit my taste.

To be sure, there is no one true master recipe for any food as timeless and pervasive as za’atar, so make some and make it your own.

What’s in za’atar?

For every five different recipes, there are five different answers to this question. Some blends have three ingredients; others have eight. Since it’s used in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan and Palestine, there are also regional variations. Some are finely ground and others are coarse. (I prefer the coarser kind, another reason to blend my own.)

The common thread I found is that za’atar generally contains sesame seeds, thyme, sumac and salt. However, there are countless versions.

poached eggs over spinach sprinkled with za'atar from
Za’atar is a wildly aromatic sesame, herb and spice mix that enlivens everything it touches–including eggs and popcorn.

What about sumac?

Sumac is wonderfully tart and brings a whole layer of flavor to za’atar. A dried orange berry native to the Middle East, it is not commonly found in the average spice aisle. So, unless you special order it, you can still make za’atar without it. Just like I did–and it’s optional in this recipe–while I place an order for some online. {Done!}

WHen to Use Za’atar?

My short answer is, Use it on everything!

Okay, I’ll be more specific. Since I made my last batch a few days ago, I’ve used it on:

  • poached eggs
  • baked sweet potato
  • grilled flatbread
  • avocado toast
  • popcorn

za'atar with bucket of popcorn from

So far, I tend to use it like a seasoning salt, but you can also cook with it as you would other herbs and mix it with olive oil for a sauce or dressing. Here are 23 ideas for using za’atar for the curious.

Za’atar is such a friendly seasoning for breads and crackers, beans and potatoes, chicken and meats, vegetables and salads, cheese and yogurt, I dare anyone to find something not to put this stuff on!

After I get back from Spring Break, I’ll be using it on a spring recipe featuring asparagus on  Forage. So mix up a batch soon.


and become a forager

Za'atar Herb & Spice Blend

Za'atar is an aromatic herb and spice mix used throughout the Middle East. This version, adapted to my taste from a formula in Bon Appetit, is made with dried herbs, which makes it great for winter and early spring cooking. Sumac is a citrusy dried berry that you can special order, but is optional in this version. Feel free to play around with the proportions in this recipe to suit your own taste. This recipe makes 1/4 cup for sprinkling on roasted or grilled vegetables, eggs, breads, dips and meats. Or, try it on popcorn.
Course Spice
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 16 teaspoons
Author Lynne


  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac optional
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  • Combine the sesame seeds, oregano, cumin, sumac (if using), thyme, salt and pepper until well blended. Store in a tightly sealed glass container at room temperature.


For using za'atar on popcorn, toss warm popcorn lightly with olive oil and sprinkle on the za'atar to taste. The amount of salt in the blend should be just about right, but add additional salt after tasting if you like.

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