Zaatar – a popular and flavorful spice blend from the Middle East
Zaatar (or Za’atar) is a blend of different herbs commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Adding a small amount of Zaatar adds a unique dimension to dishes, and can turn a very simple dish to an interesting one. It is believed that Zaatar helps improve immunity and enhances mental function, making it a popular choice in households with children. Many parents make sure that kids consume zaatar before leaving for exams in the morning, to help them remain extra alert during the examination. It is also known for it’s anti-oxidant properties.
Zaatar is made with sumac, dried thyme, marjoram, roasted sesame seeds, oregano and salt. The ratio may differ from country to country, and household to household, depending on availability of quality ingredients, taste preferences, and prices. Popular zaatar blends available in the UAE are Palestinian and Syrian. You may be find blends from other countries too – and the only way to really find out what works for you is to buy a little bit of each and try them out. And remember it the next time you go shopping!
The main ingredient in zaatar is sumac which gives a tartness in the blend. Some varieties also have cumin, coriander, and fennel. In India – sumac is available in bigger metropolitan cities, and can also be ordered via Amazon. There is no good substitute for sumac but if you don’t have it then you may try using dried lemon zest.
If you are making your own spice mix then try to choose the freshest ingredients and then mix it in small quantities as fresh zaatar tastes significantly better. As a rule – do not buy this spice blend in bulk packaging. If you are making the blend at home – remember that the blend is coarse in texture and the sesame seeds are just pounded and added afterwards. Do not grind it in a fine powder.
Prep Time 5 minutes
1/4 cup Sumac
2 tbsp Thyme
1.5 tbsp sesame seeds /til
2 tbsp marjoram
2 tbsp Oregano
1 tsp Salt / Namak
- Slightly roast the sesame seeds.
- Mix everything and coarsely crush in the mixer or just pound in a mortar and pestle. Using a mortar and pestle is preferred.
- Store in a glass jar and close it tightly and keep it in a cool place.