What Exactly Is Za’atar, and How Do You Cook with It?

You’ve probably seen it on restaurant menus and on a few Plated recipes, but what exactly is za’atar?

Pronounced zah-tar, this supremely aromatic spice blend combines toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, dried marjoram, and sumac. Though the name “za’atar” atually means “thyme” in Arabic, the blend incorporates various herby flavors in a pungent, olive green combination that is as delicious as it is multi-purpose. We love the versatility of this earthy concoction, and the you can easily make it yourself (though there are excellent pre-made options available, too). So, without delay, some of our favorite ways to incorporate this heavenly herb blend:

Roast it

Za’atar makes an excellent spice blend for flavoring roasted and sautéed veggies, breads, and meats. We especially like to use it to flavor chickpeas—simply heat olive oil in a pan, and once shimmering, add za’atar, cooked chickpeas, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are toasted and coated with za’atar.

Coating roasted carrots or beets with a little za’atar and olive oil before roasting is another super easy way to add tons of earthy flavor to your veggies.

It’s dipping time

We find that a sprinkle of za’atar jazzes up any simple dip for bread. The easiest (and most commonly found) recipe? Simply combine za’atar with olive oil, sprinkle in a bit of salt, and drizzle it over warm bread.

Combining za’atar with labne, a creamy, spreadable cheese made from yogurt, is also a classic. Buy store-bought labne (cream cheese can work too!), spread on a plate, and make a little spoon indentation in the middle. Then, sprinkle za’atar over the cheese and drizzle olive oil in the center. Grab some pita and you’re good to go.

Flavor all the meats

In our exciting collaboration with Plated Tastemaker Gail Simmons, Gail generously provided us with another genius use for za’atar: to flavor breadcrumbs for meat or fish. In her Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel, she combines breadcrumbs, za’atar, salt, and pepper, and uses it to crust chicken breasts for a very flavorful and golden brown final product. (Pro tip: you can add this one to your Plated box.)

Dress it up

Using a little za’atar in a salad dressing adds a fragrant depth that we just can’t get enough of. Combine a little lemon juice, olive oil, and za’atar, and whisk together for a super simple way to dress up your salad.

Want to make your own?

Simply combine equal amounts of dried oregano, minced fresh thyme, and marjoram. Use double the amount of sumac, and half the amount of toasted sesame seeds. Add coarse salt, stir together, and you’ve got your very own homemade za’atar! Look at you go.

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