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How to Make a Homemade Substitute for Za'atar

By Jennifer Armentrout, editor

July 5th, 2011

The Middle-Eastern spice blend called za’atar is an important ingredient in the Tomato, Chickpea, and Feta recipe found in Fine Cooking #112. There are many styles of za’atar (any of which will work in this recipe), but all share the common ingredients of sesame seeds, ground sumac, and dried za’atar (an herb with a savory-thyme-oregano flavor). You can buy za’atar blends in Middle-Eastern markets, but you can also make it at home. In the blend shown above, thyme and oregano or marjoram stand in for the za’atar herb, which is rarely available in the United States.

To make about 1/2 cup of za’atar, put 3 Tbs. dried thyme, 1 Tbs. lightly toasted sesame seeds, 1 Tbs. ground sumac, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano or marjoram, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt in a spice grinder. Pulse a few times to mix and break up some of the seeds—there should still be many whole seeds visible. Store in a cool, dark place for up to six months.

If sumac is unavailable, substitute 2 Tbs. dried lemon peel.

posted in: Blogs, spices, za'atar
Comments (1)

Chef_Wazzan writes: You reminded me of the wonderful time each Spring, when my kids and I roam the hills around our mountain house in Lebanon, competing for the biggest bunch of Za'atar to bring home. This delicious herb grows wildly here, and we wish we could share it more abundantly with the world. Za'atar is the name of the singular herb, but also refers to the mixture you talk about, with Sumac and sesame seeds.

Sumac also grows in Lebanon, and we often use it instead of lemon juice or peel when a recipe calls for one or the other. It is funny to see a suggestion in reverse :-) But I found your recommendations quite applicable. The next time I am traveling without my favorites herbs, I will know what to do ;-) Thank you Jennifer. Posted: 8:03 pm on August 25th

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