Homemade Za'atar Spice

Homemade Za’atar Spice

There’s a spice mix I’ve seen mentioned more and more in magazines and online. Za’atar. And while it might be new to a lot of people in the US, it’s not new at all. Za’atar is even mentioned in the Bible and refers both to the herb and the spice mix. And Za’atar is used in all kinds of cooking throughout the Middle East, the Mediterranean and other areas. And now, maybe it will be used in your kitchen and mine, with this homemade Za’atar spice.

Homemade Za'atar Spice

Homemade Za’atar Spice


Za’atar can be very basic or contain a number of spices, and typically in many families, the recipe is handed down throughout the generations and is a closely guarded secret. It almost always has some kind of thyme or related herb (that’s the za’atar) generally a nut or seed, often toasted sesame along with maybe, a little salt. And many versions have Sumac, prized for its lemony flavor.

About Homemade Za’atar Spice:

When I was getting ready to make Za’atar, I had to stop by and see if my friend, Elaine, at her site Foodbod, had anything to say about Za’atar; she shares my love of making fresh, homemade spice blends. And yes, sure enough, she has a page on Za’atar, so check it out; one hint in particular: If you’re making a dish that calls for thyme, try sprinkling on a little Za’atar instead. Hey, mo’ flavor, mo’ better, imho!

I played around with my proportions to my own taste and added a little salt (and some red pepper flakes, not shown, to a part of my Za’atar) because I wanted to use it as a kind of finishing spice on some Honey Roasted Feta. I wanted that Za’atar to have a bit of zing. You can use your Za’atar sprinkled over soup, meats, hummus, your avocado or hummus toast, even on my homemade Baked Pita Chips, or in just about any direction your imagination takes you.

Don’t feel you’re limited to that, though. Za’atar can be used in olive oil, as a mixture to dip into, or flatbread can be dipped in olive oil and then sprinkled with Za’atar to make Man’ouche. You can add Za’atar to your marinades, use it in Honey Glazed Carrots, add it to dips, really, there is no limit.

Homemade Za'atar Spice

Homemade Za’atar Spice

Making Homemade Za’atar Spice:

Za’atar is simple to make, and the most basic contains spices and herbs you’re probably familiar with. There’s usually thyme, oregano and/or marjoram. I love using marjoram, so a little went into mine, along with the thyme. Sumc might be a little more difficult to find and is optional in many Za’atar blends, but I love the taste so it goes into mine. If you are grinding whole sumac berries, do a good job; some are hard enough to break teeth!

Other recipes might contain savory, cumin, coriander, caraway or fennel seed. And while it doesn’t seem to be strictly traditional, a lot of recipes contain red pepper flakes. You can always start out with the basic recipe and build from there.

You’ll want to toast any whole spices, like the sesame seed, or the sumac if you grind your own, then let them cool before grinding. Coffee grinders seem to be a little cheaper than “spice grinders” but pulsing spices in a blender, using mortar and pestle, or grinding between two heavy pans works well, too, although the latter probably won’t be easy if you’re using sumac berries. Just a hint: to clean out your spice grinder, grind up a little bread, empty, and repeat until any residue is all gone.

Sumac Berries

Sumac Berries

Saving Money on Homemade Za’atar Spice:

I love making my own spice blends. I love customizing to my taste, love the freshness, and quite often making your own is a lot less expensive than buying a blend. Below, you’ll find I use about every trick in the book to buy my spices at affordable prices.

There are times when you absolutely need the best quality ingredients in a mix, and there are times when savvy shopping can save you a bit of hard-earned cash. Making your own spice mixes is one of those times.

  1. Buy in Bulk: Purchase the dried herbs and spices in bulk or larger containers to save money. Often, larger quantities are more cost-effective than smaller amounts. This is especially true in items most used, and for standard “American” cooking, some of the most used items are paprika, onion, and garlic powder. These are building blocks for many spice blends as well as rubs for barbecue or grilling.
  2. Grow Your Own: Consider growing some of the herbs, like oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, mint, oregano, and basil, in your garden or in pots. This not only saves money but also provides you with fresh herbs whenever you need them and with the exception of basil, these all dry beautifully at the end of the season. If you plan right you may be able to bring herbs inside to overwinter. Generally, the cost of a plant is about the same amount as a small packet or bundle of herbs from the refrigerated section of the produce department.
  3. Buy Whole Spices: Seldom used spices (this works for chiles, too) can be bought in whole form if available. Most will keep for literally years in a glass jar, tightly lidded, in a cool, dark cupboard. Grind as needed and you’ll never have to toss old jars that have lost their oomph. If a spice will not break down to a powdery substance, shake it through a small strainer.
  4. Check in Different Areas: Check various areas of the store: You will almost always find dried spices and herbs in the baking aisle, but check any “ethnic” areas as well as the produce aisle. Many groceries sell dried spices and herbs in cellophane packets near the produce.
  5. Shop Around: Do check your big box stores for surprising deals. Also if you have access to any markets, especially Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latino markets, they may have stellar pricing and may have items not found in a regular chain grocery. If you have a World Market store, you may find some spices at a great price.
  6. Watch Sales: Spice sales do happen sporadically throughout the year at grocery stores, but generally, most producers offer specials, sales, coupons, and Catalinas in the Spring. Watch for them. A Catalina, if you are not familiar, is a piece of paper that is generated when an item is bought. That slip of paper will key you in on current or future sales (maybe unadvertised otherwise.)
  7. Be Wary: There’s a lot of advice online to buy spices in very small amounts from measure-your-own bulk jars. To buy all spices and herbs this way is generally insanely expensive. Consider this only if a one-off spice or herb is needed.
  8. Skip Expensive Brands: Don’t be swayed by fancy packaging or expensive brands. Check the ingredients and opt for the most affordable options available. Be wary of items sold in large bins for $1.00 for a small jar. They may or may not be cost-effective compared to buying in bulk, for instance.
  9. Know Your Spices & Herbs: While this covers buying spices and herbs, know how long they are good for and how to store them properly. Never toss spices or herbs after a year on the advice of a celebrity chef. I’ve written extensively on these subjects. Follow this link and scroll to the bottom of the pages to “You May Also Like.”

If you have a Middle Eastern Market near you, stop in. You might be amazed by some of the prices. I’ve been wanting to make Za’atar for some time, checked the price of Sumac berries online and was horrified! And I wasn’t willing to pay the price for Za’atar online. And while Za’atar was inexpensive at the market, sumac was even cheaper, which is odd, because sumac was the priciest ingredient.

That’s one thing to think about when buying spice blends – if the ingredients are almost all common everyday spices, the spice blend shouldn’t cost more than the most expensive ingredient!

Homemade Za'atar Spice

Homemade Za’atar Spice


Homemade Za’atar Spice

  • Author: mollie kirby
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1/2 cup 1x


  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon sumac seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, optional


Toast whole sesame seeds and whole sumac berries in a hot pan until fragrant, shaking often. Cool and grind. Mix with the remaining ingredients. Seal in a tight jar and keep in a dark cupboard.

This spice blend may be left “chunky” or ground finely as you desire. Do watch the sumac berries; they can be very hard and need to be broken down so there is no danger of injuring a tooth.

Keywords: Middle Eastern, Spice & Herb Blends, Za'atar

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can't wait to see what you've made!

Move over Avocado Toast – there’s a new toast in town, Hummus Toast sprinkled with Za’atar.

Hummus Toast

Hummus Toast


I’ll be sharing Homemade Za’atar Spice at Fiesta Friday #284, hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Petra @ Food Eat Love

Homemade Za'atar Spice - just a few ingredients and you'll go wild finding things to sprinkle this on! Making your own is fresh and fast. #Za'atar #HomemadeZa'atar


20 thoughts on “Homemade Za’atar Spice

  1. I’ve had za’atar, and really like it… but it never occurred to me to look for the recipe… but lo and behold, here one is! Bookmarking. Thanks, and thanks for bringing this over to the folk at Fiesta Friday!

  2. petra08

    I almost never use majroam and it grows so well in my garden! I love to grow my own herbs and drying them is perfect. I have never seen sumac berries, I think I would have to buy them online and will have a look.
    A great Za’atar and I agree it is delicious 🙂 Thank you for sharing it with us at FF! 🙂

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Thanks, Petra, and thanks for hosting nat Fiesta Friday!! I love marjoram but I find it strong. People say it tastes like oregano bu t I think they are wildly different – there’s just siomething about marjoram that is magical.

      • petra08

        hi Mollie
        You are welcome! I wish I could host FF more often!
        I know what you mean re majoram, the only memory I have of it growing up was my mum using it in a soup made from split yellow peas (very Swedish) but I will experiment more with it now! 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing…I love making my own spice mixes so much better and cheaper …Now just need to find me some sumac berries thanks for the tip about the teeth 🙂

    • FrugalHausfrau

      My pleasure, Carol! I saw plenty of sumac berries online, but they were a little pricey, I thought. But then the Za’atar spice I saw at one of the stores was a LOT pricier! I always do a little quik mat in my head and if the spice or herb blend costs more than the most expensive ingredients, i know it’s worth while to make it! Plus homemade blends are always so much fresher and flavorful!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Oh yeah, it can be blended down more. I like the little extra zing I think you get with it just a bit rougher and I think it stays fresh a little longer, too.

Hearing from you makes my day! Comment below.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.