Za’atar is a classic Middle Eastern blend of the most amazing herbal spices. The Jordanian-styled that I grew up with is a unique flavored blend that is earthy and slightly tangy. The simplest way to make this is to mix Syrian oregano with toasted sesame seeds and sumac.
When I was growing up in Jordan, I used to eat this spice mix regularly for breakfast or even as a snack. I loved eating a warm, freshly baked pita bread rolled in olive oil with a delicately made za’atar sprinkled on top. Ever since then, za’atar has been my favorite spice blend. This homemade za’atar recipe is a classic recipe from my sister, who still lives in Jordan.
What is Za’atar?
People in The Middle East refer to zaatar in two ways. The first is the actual dried herb called Syrian oregano used to make the mix. The Syrian oregano has many different purposes besides being used as za’atar. For example, it is often boiled like tea to help prevent coughing or ease stomach pains. This plant is native to Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. It is very similar to oregano and marjoram since it belongs to the same plant family called Genera Origanum.
The term za’atar also refers to the ground-up mix of spices. These spices include the za’atar herb, which is also known as Syrian oregano, and various Middle Eastern spices. Each Middle Eastern country makes their za’atar blend with different spices, so they all taste slightly different.
Health Benefits of Za’atar
The za’atar plant, Syrian oregano, has plenty of health benefits that have been utilized for thousands of years. Many people grow lots of za’atar and dry the leaves and store them throughout the winter when the plant does not grow. The dried leaves are boiled in hot water, and then they steep for a few minutes to allow all of the nutrients and flavors to diffuse into the tea. Syrian oregano is filled with vitamin C, which is known to strengthen the immune system. You can also add honey to the tea and drink it when you have a cough since it has antibacterial properties that kill fungus.
Za’atar is generally an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. It has plenty of manganese, vitamin K and vitamin E that are beneficial to your body. Some people even believe that it will help keep your brain alert. When I was younger, my mother would always feed me zait (olive oil) and za’atar rolls when I had finals. She said it would help me study better and score higher in my finals.
Where Can I Get Za’atar?
More grocery stores began to carry za’atar mixes after famous chefs and high-end restaurants began to use za’atar in their recipes. You can also find authentic za’atar blends on Amazon, but some commercial brands use fillers like wheat so they can cut costs.
You can find recipes online for different versions of za’atar. Some countries add spices such as coriander, cumin, or citric acid for an even tangier blend. Each country has a slightly different za’atar mix, and they all take great pride in their combination of herbs.
What Can You Use Instead?
It can be hard to find Syrian oregano in your local grocery stores. If you cannot find these leaves, you can use a mix of dried oregano and thyme. These have a similar flavor profile since they are in the same plant family.
How to Prepare the Herbs
- To dry the za’atar (or any fresh herbs you are using) soak the herb with cold water and then rinse them.
- Pat the herbs dry with a clean kitchen towel.
- Lay the herbs flat on a tray layered with clean towels.
- I like to place the tray near a window that is not in direct sunlight so that they do not turn brown.
- You should remove the towels the next day and flip the herbs over. It should take about a week to dry.
This Za’atar mix taste fabulous with my Perfect Roasted Chicken along with Sumac. In fact this mix tastes good with a lot of food. So, now let’s see how this is done.
Note: For this recipe, you would need to grind your herbs finely so that they will mix better with the other ingredients. It is best to use a spice grinder, but you can also use your hands if you don’t have one then sift through a sifter that will give you a semi-soft fine grind at the end.
|1⁄2 cup dry zaatar (if you don't have zaatar use a mixture of dry thyme and dry oregano)|
|1 1⁄2 tablespoons olive oil|
|1 tablespoon sumac|
|1 1⁄2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds|