Traditional Lebanese Zaatar Blend (za’atar)

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A simple, authentic Lebanese Zaatar Spice Blend (za’atar) – an earthy, herby, savory Middle Eastern spice blend for a variety of dishes.

homemade Lebanese zaatar spice blend ( za'atar)

This post shows you how to make a simple, authentic Lebanese Za’atar spice blend. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend with some differences depending on the region. For this particular spice mixture, I’ll be following my favorite blend method though, which is Lebanese – of course!

Za’atar spice blend is something that I probably consume at least 3-4 times a week and is practically synonymous with Middle Eastern Cuisine. Used as a marinade for vegetables and proteins, to top flatbreads – like this homemade pita, sprinkled over dips (like this Vegan Moutabal Aubergine Dip ) and hummus, and sprinkled liberally over a whole variety of dishes – za’atar is an amazing addition to your meals.

Mixed Zaatar spices

I even recently used it as a filling inside these homemade Croissants. I also like to mix some into my simple olive oil-based salad dressings. What does zaatar taste like? It has a herby, savory, earthy flavor with that hint of bitter lemony sumac. It’s a unique spice blend to experiment with in the kitchen.

While you can buy za’atar powder in stores, I’ve yet to find one that tastes as good as it does homemade. Unfortunately, there seem to be a LOT of sub-par options out there. When it’s so simple to make homemade zaatar – well, why wouldn’t you?

Plus, I’ll be showing you how to make your homemade zaatar spice blend with fresh or dried oregano.

Dried oregano in a jar

Now, as I stated above, za’atar powder varies depending on the region – with this Lebanese za’atar recipe containing oregano, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. Other versions may contain other dried herbs including thyme, coriander, etc. but this simple version is my favorite. Honestly, you don’t need loads of spices when sumac is such a flavourful ingredient.

Sumac is something I use a lot within my cooking – with its signature tangy, almost lemon-like flavor – it’s key to this authentic za’atar blend.

To Dry Fresh Oregano

Dried oregano

If you decide that you want to make your spice blend with fresh oregano, you can easily dry this yourself at home. Oregano is found in most Middle Eastern stores. However, you can also use already dried oregano – just make sure it’s a trustworthy brand so the flavor is good.

Rinse the fresh oregano then pat dry as much as possible.

Arrange the fresh oregano stems onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or on the tray of a dehydrator.

Dehydrating fresh oregano

When using the oven, bake at 165ºF/75ºC for about 1 hour in the center of the oven. Keep a close eye on the drying process so that the leaves don’t burn (as the temperature is a bit higher).

Check on the leaves in about 30-45 minutes. If they feel dry and crumble easily, they have been dried/dehydrated enough. If not, keep them in the oven longer, checking every 5-10 minutes.

When using a dehydrator, dehydrate at 105ºF/40ºC for 1-4 hours (timing depends on the initial freshness of the leaves). Check them after 1.5 hours. If they feel dry and crumble easily, they’ve been dehydrated enough. If not, keep them longer, checking periodically.

Dehydrated dried oregano

You could also dry them in a well-ventilated spot but this could take at least a few days, even weeks. For more tips, check my 3 methods to dry oregano.

Once the oregano has dried out, leave them to cool down completely.

Dried oregano

You can then grind the dried oregano to a fine powder for the za’atar spice mix.

If you have any extra, just keep it in an airtight container (ground or not).

Dried oregano in a jar

The Za’atar Recipe How-To

The Ingredients

Ingredients for Zaatar spice ( za'atar)
  • Oregano (fresh or dried)
  • Sumac spice
  • Sesame seeds
  • Salt
  • Optional: dried thyme

Steps

First, either dry the fresh oregano according to the instructions above. Otherwise, you can use dried oregano and continue, as follows.

Mixing the za’atar spices:

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan (don’t add oil) over medium heat. Stir constantly so the seeds don’t burn on one side. It’s enough to toast them for about 4-5 minutes. Let the sesame seeds cool down before mixing the spice blend.

Toasted sesame seeds

Next, mix all the spices.

Mixing spices for Zaatar

You can stir them in a bowl or directly in the jar you plan to store them in.

lebanese zaatar (za'atar) blend

Cover the jar and store it in your cupboard or another cool dry place. You can also keep it in the fridge.

The Lebanese zaatar spice mix keeps for 6 months or even longer.

lebanese zaatar (za'atar) blend

Other Lebanese Inspired Recipes You May Like

As well as the recipes already mentioned above, within the post. I have a few other Lebanese recipes that you may like, including:

If you have any questions about this zaatar recipe, leave a comment below. Also, I love seeing your recreations so feel free to tag me on Instagram @AlphaFoodie

Homemade Traditional Lebanese Zaatar Mix

4.96 from 21 votes
By: Samira
A simple, authentic Lebanese Zaatar Spice Blend (za'atar) – an earthy, herby savory Middle Eastern spice blend for a variety of dishes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 Cups

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 cup dried oregano ground
  • 1/2 cup sumac
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds toasted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Optional: 1/4-1/2 cup dried thyme

Instructions 

Drying fresh oregano (skip these steps if using dried oregano)

  • Rinse the fresh oregano stems, pat dry them, and then arrange them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or on the tray of a dehydrator.
  • When using the oven,
    bake at 165ºF/75ºC for about 1 hour in the center of the oven. Keep a close eye on the drying process so that the leaves don't burn (as the temperature is higher than a dehydrator). Check on the leaves in about 30-45 minutes. If they feel dry and crumble easily, they have been dried/dehydrated enough. If not, keep them in the oven longer, checking every 5-10 minutes.
    When using a dehydrator,
    dehydrate at 105º/40ºC for 1-4 hours (timing depends on the initial freshness of the leaves). Check them after 1.5 hours. If they feel dry and crumble easily, they've been dehydrated enough. If not, keep them longer, checking periodically. You could also dry them in a well-ventilated spot but this could take at least a few days, even weeks. 
  • Once the oregano has dried out, leave it to cool down completely. 
  • Grind it to a fine powder. 

Mixing the za'atar spices

  • Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan (don't add oil) over medium heat. Stir constantly so the seeds don't burn on one side. It's enough to toast them for about 4-5 minutes. Let the sesame seeds cool down before mixing the spice blend.
  • Next, mix all the herbs/spices. You can stir them in a bowl or directly in the jar you plan to store them in.
  • Cover the jar and store in your cupboard or another cool dry place. You can also keep it in the fridge. 
    The Lebanese zaatar spice mix keeps for 6 months (or even longer). 

Video

Notes

Check the blog post for more tips and serving suggestions!
Course: DIYs
Cuisine: Lebanese, Middle Eastern
Freezer friendly: 1 Year
Shelf life: 6 Months

Nutrition

Serving: 1tsp, Calories: 9kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Sodium: 44mg, Fiber: 1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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14 Comments

    1. I can’t recommend a specific brand, but you should be able to find this at any Middle Eastern food market. I hope you find it!

  1. Hyssop is the key and traditional ingredient in Zaatar (as we had in Israel and what I purchased there). It’s very difficult finding Zaatar with hyssop in it.

  2. I recently finished my zaatar stock I brought with from home and I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. I am wondering though why are we using oregano instead of thyme? I know it’s like Tomato, TamAto but is there a preference? Thx

  3. 4 stars
    Wonderful recipe so simple and delicious.
    Just need to use less salt next time. I used sea salt- maybe it’s a stronger taste? Either way I’m saving this as my go to recipe and will try 1/2 t salt.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Nadia. Indeed, it’s best to start with a little bit of salt and add more to taste. It also matters what kind of salt you use, as some types are more “salty”. 🙂