Za atar (Israeli)
Za atar (Israeli)
Za'atar, pronounced "zaa tur," is also spelled zaatar, za'tar, zahtar, and zahatar. This Middle Eastern spice blend is used all over the globe, popularly in North Africa and Turkey. Za'atar has been used to identify both a spice blend and a class of herbs. What exactly is Za'atar, then? It's a wild herb, a condiment, a dip, and a spice blend! It may be eaten by itself as a snack or used as a bread dipping seasoning. Za'atar is an ancient cultural spice blend that serves as a unique identifying culinary aspect of several countries throughout the Middle East. Much like other blends, this is one that is usually specific to each family, but there are some common ingredients in all of them. Each nation that has a version of Za'atar insists that theirs is the truest and best version, but we think that's a matter of personal preference.
Historically, cooks throughout the Fertile Crescent a region that includes western Asia, as well as the Nile Valley and Nile Delta of northeast Africa, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula made their own variations of Za'atar. Recipes for Za'atar spice mixtures were often well guarded secrets and were not even passed down to daughters or shared with other close members of the family. This long-standing tradition is the primary reason that it's challenging to determine exactly which spices are used by the various Middle Eastern and North African culinary cultures in making their versions of Za'atar. In Palestine, there's an added layer of secrecy because during the Israeli occupation of the country in the 1940s, there was a lot of cultural exchange and some theft of food ideas. Thus, Israeli Za'atar was likely born out of a closely guarded recipe for Palestinian Za'atar, yet what survives today is thought of as Israeli Za'atar.
While family Za'atar recipes are very confidential, there are regional variations that are a bit more pronounced. Israeli Za'atar was integrated into the Jewish community from the surrounding Arab nations much like America's adoption of salsa was influenced by surrounding Hispanic communities. This version of Za'atar may also contain dill. The Jordan version of this spice blend is much more likely to have a larger amount of sumac in it, so it has reddish color and a flavor that is much tarter. In Lebanon, orange zest is more likely to be added to their versions of Za'atar.
Israeli Za'atar is hand blended from sesame seeds, sumac, coriander, thyme, cumin, black pepper, and salt.
The flavor profile of our Za'atar has a complex nutty and woodsy intensity while the sumac adds an acidic lift that is a bit tart like lemon juice. You'll also pick up on the herby floral undertones.
Za'atar is most frequently used as a table condiment, dusted on food on its own, or stirred into some olive oil as a dip for soft, plush flatbreads. Za'atar is sprinkled on hummus or eaten with labneh, a popular Middle Eastern cheese. Za'atar also makes a superb dry rub for roasted chicken, fish or lamb, as well as on firm or starchy vegetables like cauliflower or potatoes.
In Lebanon, Za'atar is most often associated with breakfast, a cue well worth taking. Try sprinkling some on eggs, oatmeal, or yogurt. Or add some to your next batch of lemon cookies - lemon, thyme, and sesame are a trio on par with our familiar infatuation with tomato, basil, and mozzarella. Za'atar seems equally at home in both sweet and savory dishes. Many people eat Za'atar, as is, right out of their hand, but be careful as it can quickly become strangely addicting. When paired with popcorn, it may become even more so. We also use Za'atar as a savory balance to the sweetness of an oven roasted winter squash and as a secret ingredient in big hearty soups
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*