Za’atar, the best of Levant

Za'atar has a tangy, herbal flavor balanced by the earthy goodness of sesame seeds. It's amazing as an ingredient and a condiment!
A picture of za'atar, a blend of red sumac with herbs and sesame seeds.

What is Za’atar?

Za’atar (pronounced “zah-tar”) is common in the Levantine region of the Middle East (the east coast of the Mediterranean-Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc.), though it popular in other areas as well. It has a tangy, herbal flavor balanced by the earthy goodness of sesame seeds. It’s used as both an ingredient and a condiment. Like other seasoning blends, everyone has their own version they love. We love this version! It goes well on flatbread, in rice, in pasta dishes like our Pearl Couscous Pilaf, added to salad dressings, and much more!

Sumac, the citrusy flavor without citrus, is the main ingredient.

Red sumac (pictured below) is, in our opinions, one of the most lovely flavors ever. It’s a fantastic tangy berry that is dried and ground then added to dishes for a citrusy zing that you’ll love. WHITE sumac, however, is poisonous…so if you go and forage it yourself (which you can do in Minnesota where we are) please make sure it’s the edible kind. If you don’t know, better to buy it.

Sumac spice with branch isolated on white background. Sumac is the main ingredient in za'atar.
Red sumac, the main ingredient in za’atar.
Photo credit

Now, about the rest of the ingredients…

The remaining ingredients are herbs that you can commonly find here in the states, though they aren’t quite authentic. Syrian oregano, also known as bible hyssop, is the true companion to sumac in za’atar. However, I’ve found that my combination of herbs is pretty darn close and perfectly acceptable.

Go ahead and make lots of this…you’ll find it won’t last long anyway.

FYI, this recipe is also featured in our cookbook. (Shameless plug) We wrote our cookbook to answer the question, “What on Earth do I do with these seasoning blends?” We start each chapter with a recipe for a seasoning blend, then give you at least ten recipes to use it up. Clever, right?

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Za'atar, a blend of sumac, herbs, and sesame seeds, in a bowl.

Za’atar, the best of Levant

  • Author: Spice (Kate)
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1/2 cup, 16 servings 1x
  • Category: seasoning blend
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern


Za’atar (pronounced “ZAH-tar”) is common throughout the Middle East but especially around the Levant region. It’s the sumac that makes this recipe special – a flavorful, tangy berry.


Units Scale

1/4 cup ground sumac

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons dried marjoram

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Roast the sesame seeds by heating a small skillet or nonstick pan to medium heat. Without adding oil, pour the seeds in and shake the pan around and/or stir with a wooden spoon until they are light brown and fragrant. Transfer them to a bowl and allow them to cool before adding the other ingredients.

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight jar.

Keywords: seasoning, Middle Eastern, condiment, herbs

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