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Za’atar is a versatile spice, and it becomes even more versatile when mixed with oil, as Chef Yotam Ottolenghi demonstrates with his recipe.



What Is Za’atar?

Za’atar refers to a specific herb grown around the Eastern Mediterranean that’s similar to marjoram, oregano, or thyme. But it’s also used to describe a versatile spice blend made with said herb. The word za’atar most commonly refers to the Middle Eastern za’atar seasoning that traditionally consists of ground za’atar, sesame seeds, dried sumac, and salt—though now, recipes often substitute the difficult-to-obtain ground za’atar for similar herbs, such as domesticated thyme or oregano.

How to Make Za’atar Spice Blend

Mix together 2 tablespoons each of dried marjoram, oregano, or thyme, then add some toasted sesame seeds and sumac along with 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt. Every chef has their own formula for this Middle Eastern spice blend, but it usually consists of a mixture of za’atar (or thyme) with toasted sesame seeds, salt, and other spices like sumac, cumin, and/ or coriander. You’ll need a mortar and pestle or spice grinder if using whole spices.

How to Use Za’atar Oil

Spread this over store-bought or homemade pizza dough instead of tomato sauce and bake as you would,or spoon it over roasted chicken or other mezze such as butter bean mash. A high quality olive oil punches up the spice blend a notch, adding a savory flavor that translates well for dishes like:

  • Greek yogurt labneh dip
  • Hummus dip with pita bread
  • Meat marinades
  • Vegetable side dishes
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Ottolenghi’s Za’atar Oil Recipe

1/4 cup


  • 2 tbsp za’atar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  1. Combine the za’atar and olive oil together in a small serving bowl. If not using immediately, store the oil in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks. Stir before using.

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