A Middle Eastern spice blend made with dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds, ground sumac, and salt, zahtar is the cause of some confusion since it is also the Arabic word for thyme. Proportions of ingredients can vary enormously from region to region, with some blends favoring the addition of other ingredients such as hyssop, sumac leaves, savory, oregano, and fennel seeds to name a few. As such, the flavor profile of the blend can vary from very nutty, to tangy, herbal, or salty, depending on the reigning ingredient.
Zahtar is often combined with a little olive oil and spread on rounds of flat bread, then eaten for breakfast. In fact, the spice mixture is believed by some to be so fortifying for mind and body that Lebanese children are encouraged to eat this herbal snack before their exams. Zahtar is also used as a dipping mixture for bread, to spice meat and vegetables, sprinkled on labneh (a thick yogurt cheese), and as a finishing touch to fried eggs.
While the blend is available in Middle Eastern spice shops, it is a simple task to make your own in small quantities as you need it. You can also make a fresh version by substituting the dried thyme for fresh, which is delicious tossed through chicken pieces or potatoes before roasting.
Total Timeunder 15 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturecrunchy, herby, nutty, salty
Type of DishCondiments
- 2½ tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Grind the seeds and thyme in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle to a coarse texture. Stir in the sumac and salt.
Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
2008 Murdoch Books