February 28th, 2006


These mix of spices is well known in Middle East, and parts of Turkey that is close to Middle East. Its name literally means “thyme” and thyme has the most dominant smell among many ingredients mixed.

Amon many uses of this mix, the one I am used to goes like that: take a piece of bread, dip it into olive oil and later dip into za’atar. In my childhood memories, we had za’atar on every breakfast table. It seems like in those days the only worry we had was to decide between the choice of olive oils to dip in; the green olives in lemon squeezed olive oil or the one in the black olive cup.

You can see some other recipes calling for za’atar every now and then. Nigella Lawson, in her “Forever Summer”, uses it in two different ways; sprinkling over olive oil drizzled pita bread or as a chicken coating. Both ways create a delicious result. Every Middle Eastern knows that..

This za’atar recipe is just to give you an idea of what goes in there (at least the way I know) and what the suggested proportions are. Once you start tasting it, you would know what to add into the mix and develop your own za-atar to enjoy. Below you see two versions in our kitchen: the one on the left is what I have made, the other one is made by my aunt. Both taste similar but very different in color. My only explanation for this is the color of watermelon seeds used.

  • 2.5 oz (~75 gr) roasted chickpeas (available in Middle Eastern stores)

  • 2 oz (~ 50 gr) watermelon seeds (again from Middle Eastern stores or your own watermelons. If not, you can omit this)

  • 2 oz ( ~ 50 gr) unsalted roasted peanuts

  • 4 Tbs thyme

  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

  • 2 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or less!)

  • 2 Tbs sumac

All you have to do is to mix these ingredients in a food processor and voila! If using the watermelon seeds, make sure to grind them well. You can also run the mix through a strainer if it comes to that. If you like, spoon in a tablespoon of sesame seeds and mix with a spoon—looks nicer :) Keeps in a dry, air tight container a long time.



16 Responses to “Za’atar”

  1. J Says:

    Thank you for sharing Za’atar recipe

  2. fethiye Says:

    You are welcome J, I hope you like it.

  3. Marcela Says:

    Thanks a lot Fethiye for showing me this post!
    I’m adding a link to it on mine, because this is extremely interesting… :)

  4. fethiye Says:

    Marcela, I think it is addictive, too :)

  5. lunarossa Says:

    Could watermelon seeds be replaced with pumpkin seeds?

  6. fethiye Says:

    I have not heard pumpkin seeds in this recipe but I’d like to say “why not?” If you do not have a chance to get watermelon seeds, don’t worry about it. They certainly can be omitted.

  7. Bill Moran Says:

    I was a food broker in Houston for years and enjoyed a lot of Lebanese food, one being pita with olive oil and za’atar. My friends there gave me a recipe for za’atar using only sesame seed and thyme. Very good, tho.

  8. piroshok Says:

    Thank you Fethiye
    Marcela put me on to your site blame her for her links he
    I often ecounter similarities even though I originally from Argentina my background is Ukrainian and have travelled throughout the former Soviet replublics where lots of ethnic Turkish dishes (even in Crimea) are encountered so the first time I came across something like this was in Georgia where it is called Smelly Hunelly.
    Then again I found something similar in Samarkand where they eat a fantastic highly elaborated bread and my friend Timoor and I share a nice serve of plov

  9. Olive Oil - The Best Olive Oils Says:

    Mmm… I came across this recipe looking up things with olive oil so I can use up all the excess we produce from our trees. Yum! Thanks for putting it up :)

  10. elianto Says:

    I’ll definetely try it! A lebanese friend told me about, and i was looking for za’atar recipe! Actually she didn’t mention watermelon seeds and I bet it won’t be easy to find them, but I’ll see what I can do… Thank you, I’ll link you nice weblog to mine :)

  11. mara Says:

    i lives in mexico do u know where can i find sumac? cos i never heard about it here before, but i ate zaatar in a restaurant but it is very expensive so ill like to try do it….. but i just dont even know about what sumac is?

  12. fethiye Says:

    mara, sumac is used here as a souring agent. It is a plant’s seeds’ outer skin, that is very common in Middle East. Not sure what you can substitute with but maybe you can buy it online?

  13. MiM Says:

    I tried the recipe ..

    but it was nothing like yhe one I know:(:(

    the color is green !!

    the taste is ok , but it`s not Za’ atar

    why ??

  14. fethiye Says:

    MiM, the only thing I can think about is the thyme you used may be too strong? There is nothing else that can make it green in the recipes. Sorry that it didn’t work out for you. Why don’t you add a bit of the other ingredients to make it similar to what you know/familiar with. This is how we have it on our table.

  15. MiM Says:

    i will try , even thoug I dont have any idea !!

    you are so kind

    thank u

    would you please write the recipe of firik & istanbul pilave one day :):)

    I will try your olive bread :)

    you make my a busy woman …

  16. Stovetop Traveler Says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe. This is by far the most interesting version of Za’atar that I have found online. The watermelon seeds will be extra effort, sure, but it is summer – I’m gonna try it. Now, if I can only find some decent pita!

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