One of my favorite Middle Eastern spice blends, za’atar, combines an unfussy mix of toasted sesame seeds, sea salt, and sumac. Some versions contain thyme (which is what the name za’atar means), marjoram, and sometimes even cumin. I prefer mine with marjoram.
If you’re new to sumac, it’s a wonderfully aromatic, tangy, vibrant spice, with an acidic, lemony flavor, made from dried and ground berries of a specific type of sumac plant, rhus coriaria. It’s high in antioxidants, and is known to help regulate blood sugar and balance cholesterol. Sumac is available in most high-end supermarkets, and for lower prices online. I purchase organic from Amazon.
Za’atar is incredibly easy to pull together in large batches or small. I prefer to make it in small batches as needed, and I often don’t even measure the amounts, but the guide below is a great starting point — enjoy on vegetables, fish, chicken, beef, sprinkled over salads, or even on buttered crackers.
Za’atar Spice Blend with Marjoram
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame
- 1 tbsp sumac
- 1 tbsp dried marjoram
- 1 tsp gray sea salt
- In a small bowl, stir together sesame, sumac, marjoram, and sea salt until well combined.
- Transfer mixture to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 3 months.
Things to consider:
- The amounts listed are based on my preference. If you prefer a tangier blend, add more sumac; less nutty, reduce the amount of sesame; more herby, add more marjoram.
- Depending on the region, za’atar can also contain thyme, oregano, cumin, and a variety of other spices. Modern versions can also contain garlic. Add what you love, and what tastes good to you.
- Just like black pepper, the spice blend can easily burn when touching direct heat, like with pan frying, so be mindful of cooking temps.