Homemade Za’atar

DIY Homemade Za’atar is great for marinating chicken and topping hummus. And it’s so extremely easy to make!

Dear za’atar, I have some serious plans (aka recipes) calling for you.

Thanks for being awesome.

Your friend,


Homemade Za'atar  l SimplyScratch.com

There’s a dozen or so ways to prepare za’atar. There’s the oh-so convenient way via spice grinder. Or you could get an upper arm workout and bust out your 18-ton mortar and pestle- and by 18-ton I really mean 10 pounds. Whatevs. It feels the same.

Homemade Za'atar  l SimplyScratch.com

So yeah, za’atar… fun to say, fun to spell. This Middle Eastern spice blend tastes amazing in and on just about anything. If you haven’t tried it yet… what are you waiting for?? I love it… one of my favorite ways to use it is to mix this magical spice concoction with olive oil and toss pita chips in just before baking orrrrr coat chicken pieces and roast or grill until tender, juicy perfection. You get the drift… Google-search it and you’ll no doubt find a plethora of ways… or just wait until tomorrow and check back to this here blog.

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These are just some typical ingredients used in making homemade za’atar; thyme, sumac, salt and sesame seeds. I’ve also seen herbs like oregano and savory used as well. But we’re sticking to the basics, man.

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In a small, dry skillet toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant and toasty. Obvs. It takes about 8 minutes or so, watch carefully so they do not burn! Remove off the heat once toasted transfer to a bowl or small plate to cool.

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Place the thyme into your mortar. I found mine at HomeGoods for 12 smack-a-roos. I love HomeGoods!!

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Use the pestle, smashing and grinding the thyme leaves into dust.

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I then sift it through a fine mesh strainer to catch the stem parts. I know… seems like a useless step, right?

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Wrong… see? You probably won’t have this issue if you’re using a spice grinder. But I grind these stem pieces for a second time (and sometimes a third), but either I’m super weak or these are strong buggers… because they just stay the same.

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Next add in the sumac. I purchased mine from Penzy’s… but sumac can be found in specialty markets and definitely online.

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Blend the two together until it’s a beautiful shade of burgundy.

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Add in flaked sea salt.

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Blending one last time to combine the salt with the spices.

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Add it to a bowl…

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Along with the toasted sesame seeds…

Homemade Za'atar l SimplyScratch.com

Finally stir to combine. That’s it!

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I store this in an air-tight container for a couple of months at least. Glass is best, but I also like using these cute little tins (they even have a magnetic bottom for easy storage!) for a lot of my homemade spice blends. I find them at my grocery store and they cost 2 bucks a pop!

What are your favorite ways to use za’atar? This inquiring mind wants to know!


Enjoy! And if you give this Homemade Za’atar recipe a try, let me know! Snap a photo and tag me on twitter or instagram!

Homemade Za'atar  l SimplyScratch.com

My cookbook Simply Scratch : 120 Wholesome Homemade Recipes Made Easy is now available! CLICK HERE for details and THANK YOU in advance!

Yield: 6 tablespoons

Homemade Za'atar

Homemade Za'atar
A simple yet flavorful homemade za'atar! Perfect for seasoning fish, chicken and vegetables.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt


  1. Add sesame seeds to a small skillet and heat over medium, tossing often until toasted. About 8 to 10 minutes. Remove, set off to the side to cool.
  2. Add thyme to your mortar, using your pestle to grind it finely. Sift through a fine mesh strainer to catch any stem pieces remaining.
  3. Add the ground thyme back into the mortar along with the sumac, blending together. Add in salt and blend until a fine powder remains. Stir in toasted sesames.
  4. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

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9 Responses to “Homemade Za’atar”

  1. #
    Sarah — March 4, 2015 at 4:34 am

    My most favourite way to use this is to mix it with bread dough ! It just takes bread to a whole other level. Semolina bread specially benefits from this spice 😀

  2. #
    Elizabeth @ Pineapples and Polka Dots — March 4, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Thanks for sharing this! It looks so pretty.

  3. #
    Rina I Thee Cook — March 4, 2015 at 8:29 am

    I have never tried Zaatar before. This makes me want to give to give it a whirl.

  4. #
    Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain — March 4, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I so needed this recipe in my life! Can’t wait to try!

  5. #
    Kari — March 15, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Looks like a great mix!

  6. #
    Peter Shenkin — November 5, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    My wife is Lebanese. Za’atar is a staple of Lebanese cuisine and so I know it well. We always have it in the house, but before now we’ve always purchased it pre-mixed. (Amazon lists a bunch.) In Beirut, there are storefronts where someone will prepare your favorite za’atar blend to order.

    I have to say, your recipe nails it. My wife even says it corrects a problem she’s always had with the blends we’ve purchased: not enough sumac. There are only a few small changes or clarifications I would make.

    1. When grinding the za’atar itself (thyme), sift it as you described first, then pulse it briefly in the spice grinder (assuming you use one) and sift again. Repeat until what comes out the bottom is dust. Don’t use the dust and throw away the remaining twigs. You want all the ingredients to be coarsely ground.

    2. You’re making far too little at a time for the main uses of za’atar. It’s not really used as a spice, but as a major ingredient. I’ve been making batches using a half cup of each of three major ingredients and 4 tsp of salt. By the way, I use kosher salt. Don’t use table salt, or it will be too salty. You can use table salt if you reduce the amount of salt, but I’m not sure by how much.

    3. Don’t buy supermarket thyme; actually, I’ve never tried it, but it certainly won’t be cost-effective and I’m not sure it’s exactly the same as the thyme sold on-line and in middle-eastern supermarkets as za’atar (not be confused with the use of the same term for the mixture of all the ingredients, per a recipe like yours).

    Now, as to uses. Most uses involve mixing some quantity of the za’atar mixture with olive oil and stirring to a loose muddy consistency. For instance, start with about 3 tbs of the za’atar mixture and stir in the oil till it has the above consistency . (Actually, starting with the oil and adding the za’atar makes for easier mixing.)

    Now you can use it with labneh, which is virtually the same as (unsweetened) whole-milk Greek yoghurt. Or buy a plain whole-milk yoghurt, pour it into a coffee filter and let it sit a few hours; keep what stays on top.

    Typically, you’d spread lebneh onto a pita and top with the za’atar-oil mixture. This is the Lebanese cultural equivalent of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. It goes well with tomato, by the way, And it should have roughly equal proportions, with the lebneh taking the place of the peanut butter and the za’atar taking the place of the jelly.

    For a multicultural experience, top a bagel and cream cheese with the za’atar-oil mixture.

    You can top some freshly baked home-made pizza dough with lebneh and za’atar. Again, for these recipes, you tend to use quite a bit of za’atar mix, not as a spice, but as an ingredient.

    Finally, I’m off the evil carbs these days, so my breakfast is often cottage cheese, sour cream, a little lebneh, topped with za’atar-oil mix. Here (as for its use when used to top hummus), you probably want to add more oil after you’ve added the za’atar-oil mix.


    • Laurie McNamara replied: — November 12th, 2018 @ 10:10 am

      Thanks for all the info, Peter! 🙂

  7. #
    Santini — February 17, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! Definitely going to try this one! I love this recipe!

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