Learn about the history of za'atar, a beloved Middle Eastern and Mediterranean spice blend with healing properties used to flavor everything from salads to roasts.
These days, you can find dried za’atar throughout the US. But the herby, flavorful spice has its ancient roots in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. There, the herb has been dried and blended with nuts, sesame seeds, oils, and other flavorings for centuries.
If you love cooking with za’atar or are curious to give it a try, it’s always good to know a little of the history behind what you’re eating. Read on to learn about the origins of za’atar and how it became so popular around the world.
Is Za’atar a Plant or a Spice?
Za’atar is actually both a plant and a dried spice blend. The za’atar plant is a wild variety of thyme. It looks similar to the thyme sprigs you may recognize from the grocery store. The plant grows throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Greece, and Turkey.
When it’s not enjoyed fresh off the bush, the wild herb is harvested and dried to become a spice blend with the same name. This helps preserve the herb throughout the year and gives it a more concentrated flavor.
Za’atar seasoning is a mixture of dried herbs, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. Our za’atar is made from premium ingredients from single origin farms to capture the fresh, zesty flavor of our Mediterranean roots.
Who Invented Za’atar?
No single person is credited with inventing the za’atar spice blend we use today. However, archaeologists have found evidence that the herb was used by Egyptian Pharaohs. In fact, remains of the spice blend were found in King Tut’s tomb.
For centuries, medical doctors have turned to za’atar for its healing properties. One particularly notable doctor, the 5th century Greek physician Hippocrates, prescribed za’atar as a remedy for lung ailments and colds.
History of Eating Za’atar
Aside from its documented medical uses, za’atar also has a long and delicious history as a culinary herb. Commonly, the dried za’atar spice blend with sesame seeds and sumac is used as a seasoning ingredient for flatbreads, pastries, and dips like hummus or labneh.
Another popular way to prepare za’atar is to hydrate the herbs with extra-virgin olive oil. It becomes a fragrant, pourable sauce. Our Za’atar Olive Oil Condiment is made with extra virgin olive oil to highlight the naturally rich, bright and creamy flavors and textures of this highly versatile sauce.
These days, you don’t have to travel to the region to find high-quality za’atar seasoning. We ship Zesty Z za’atar throughout the US, so you can bring Mediterranean flair to your doorstep. Plus, there’s a constant supply of new ways to enjoy the seasoning, from snackable popcorn to pizza.
How to Cook with Za’atar
If you’re ready to harness the healing properties of this ancient herb and spice blend, here are some of our favorite za’atar recipes to try at home: