Can I Substitute Za’atar for Sumac?

Here’s what you need to know about substituting one Mediterranean spice for another: sumac and za’atar. 

Many flavor-packed dishes from the Mediterranean, northern Africa and the Middle East rely on the bright, bold spices of za’atar and sumac. But if you’re cooking at home, sometimes you need to know the right ingredient swaps to bring your favorite dishes to life without an extra trip to the store. Sumac and za’atar are related spices, so here’s how to use them and swap them for your favorite meals. 

Can you use Za’atar instead of Sumac?

If a recipe calls for sumac and you want to replicate the spice’s bright, piquant and citrusy flavor, you have some ingredient options. If you have za’atar at home, you can certainly use it. Za'atar contains sumac, so you’ll get the same zippy flavor you’re looking for. However, you’ll also get notes of herbaceous, woodsy thyme and oregano, as well as nutty sesame. 

If you’re not looking for all of that added flavor, another great option to substitute sumac is simply lemon or lime zest. 

Can You Substitute Za’atar with Sumac?

On the other hand, if you’d like to substitute za'atar in a recipe, sumac is a good place to start. In fact, sumac is an ingredient in the za’atar spice blend. However, sumac is only one flavor component in the delicious blend of za’atar. 

To round out za’atar’s complex flavor, you’ll want to add dried herbs like oregano and thyme. If you have sesame seeds, they’ll add the signature crunch and nutty, round flavor of za’atar spice. 

What Spice is Similar to Za’atar?

Za’atar is actually a form of thyme native to the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. It’s often called wild or Mediterranean thyme. So it’s no surprise that a spice similar to za’atar is, well, thyme! In particular, dried thyme has a more concentrated flavor that mimics the spice blend. 

Za’atar blends have a complex flavor made from several ingredients. So to get the full za’atar experience, try these other seasonings that mimic the flavors of za’atar:

  • Oregano
  • Sesame seeds or tahini
  • Basil
  • Sumac
  • Lemon or lime zest  

Does Za’atar Contain Sumac?

Yes, za’atar is a spice blend that contains sumac. Zesty Z dried za'atar seasoning.(Order your Premium Za'atar Shaker here!) is made with dried Mediterranean thyme, dried oregano, sesame seeds, and sumac. And while there are different blends of za’atar spice, most contain sumac. It adds zippy brightness to the otherwise herby and nutty blend. 

Recipes with Za’atar 

If you love the flavor of sumac, you’ve got to try these zesty and easy recipes ASAP:

Of course, the only way to never need a substitute for za’atar is to keep a steady supply on hand! Have our premium Mediterranean za'atar seasoning delivered to your door.