The Story of Za'atar
Updated: Jul 19, 2022
Also spelled Zatar, Zaatar, and Za’tar, Za’atar is a cherished spice blend across the Middle Eastern world. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the word “Za’atar”. This confusion may come from the use of the word Za’atar across many different cultures and languages.
In addition to a spice blend with many different recipes, Za’atar can also mean hyssop or refer to a wild herb sometimes called oregano and sometimes called wild thyme. See what we mean by confusing!
Not only can the name be confusing, but so can the recipe for this spice blend. Since before Biblical times, Za’atar blends have been carefully guarded recipes. It is said that women maintained secret recipes that were not even shared with the other members of the household. Traditionally, Za’atar includes dried thyme or oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. However, it’s not uncommon to find blends that can include cumin, citrus peel, coriander, fennel, caraway seeds, anise, and/or marjoram.
How to Cook with Za’atar
In the Middle East, Za’atar is a versatile spice used both as a table seasoning sprinkled on foods after cooking, a marinade to flavor foods before cooking, and added during the cooking process.
We love adding Za’atar to:
Hummus or Dips - sprinkle on homemade or store-bought hummus or dips
Toasted Bread - mix with olive oil and spread on bread before toasting it–much like a Middle Eastern garlic bread
Marinades - used with olive oil and lemon juice to marinate grilled vegetables and chicken
Salad Dressings - either creamy or vinaigrette dressings.
Avocado toast with a poached egg
This is a versatile seasoning! When cooking with it, pay attention to the salt content in your Za’atar. Some blends have salt, while others do not. Add salt to your recipes accordingly.
We are proud to offer two Za’atar blends at Spicetopia.
Our Jordanian blend features hyssop, sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, and salt and is very herby, nutty, and savory
While our Syrian blend is made with sesame seeds, sumac, coriander, cumin, lemon zest, coarse sea salt, and anise seed. This blend adds a bit of sour and citrus flavors to the Jordanian herby base.
Both Za’atars are fat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan spice blends. Feel free to mix and match either blend in any recipe.
Za’atar Tea Cake
This super moist cake is savory and salty, full of za’atar and bits of cheese. We feel it is just perfect with a pot of mint tea! It is also a heavenly addition to a tomato and cucumber salad on a hot summer day.
We suggest you use olive oil or grapeseed oil for this cake.
This recipe is easy to make vegan. Replace milk with your favorite unsweetened nut or seed milk (almond, hemp, soy, macadamia, etc). The eggs can be replaced with a flaxseed egg. The recipe for one flax egg is simply 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water. Mix together and let sit for 15 minutes before using as an egg in any cake or baked good recipe. It’s that easy.
Be careful while broiling to not burn the cake--watch and check it every 15 seconds or so.
Za’atar Tea Cake Recipe
2 cups of milk
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil + ½ teaspoon
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon Pacific Flake Sea Salt
½ cup of Oregano
½ cup of Za’atar Seasoning
1 cup of Feta or Queso Fresco Cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 375° F. Oil 9 inch round baking pan with ½ teaspoon of oil.
Mix together the milk, eggs, and 1 cup oil.
Add flour, baking powder, salt, oregano, and za’atar and mix until combined.
Add cheese and gently stir in.
Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cake will still be extremely pale.
Broil for 30-60 seconds until browned.
Allow to cool before removing from pan and cutting into pieces.
Herbs & Spices: Over 200 Herbs and Spices with Recipes by Jill Norman
The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs: An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World by Padma Lakshmi
"Zaatar: A Spice Mix with Biblical Roots and Brain Food Reputation"