6 Best Za’atar Substitutes to Add a Change-Up to Dull Recipes

Za’atar Substitutes

Despite the fact that za’atar is a unique blend of spices, it still has some good alternatives to use in cooking. Let’s first discuss what za’atar is and then pass on to the best za’atar substitutes

What is Za’atar Seasoning?

Za’atar is a blend of savory dried herbs native to Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s a secret seasoning in many dishes and has an interesting bouquet of flavors and tastes that make meals smell unique and distinctive. 

If you are not familiar with the taste of this seasoning, it may be weird for you. Just try it once with meat, roasted or grilled vegetables, cheese and crackers, and pizzas and you’ll decide where else to use it to spice up your dishes.  

Homemade Substitute for Za’atar

Za’atar is sold in most Middle Eastern stores and markets as well as in specialty stores in the spice section. But if you have its ingredients in hand, you can make it at home as a homemade substitute for za’atar and use it in everyday dishes. 

Here we’ll share a recipe of homemade za’atar that comes with a neutral taste and can be paired with  a number of dishes. The traditional recipe of za’atar includes sumac powder. It tastes pungent and lemony. 

Sesame seeds, in their turn, have a nutty and mild sweet flavor. When toasted they become crunchier. Dried oregano comes with a spicy, peppery and bit sweet taste. Dried marjoram tastes like thyme; it has a sharp minty and earthy flavor. Salt? You know how salt tastes: it’s salty. 

As for roasted cumin and coriander, one has a slightly sweet and warm flavor and the other one is mild-floral with a lemony taste. 

You can be totally free in ratios of sumac, salt and sesame seeds as they are the most acceptable ingredients in this seasoning. However, we provide the best ratio to help you make the most neutral taste. So, let’s start! 


2 tablespoons ground sumac

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried marjoram 

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin

1 teaspoon roasted ground coriander

1 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt

How to Make and Store:

Mix all the herbs and spices in a bowl and store in an airtight container or jar. Store it in a dry and cool place and use it for 3 months. Basically, herbs lose their flavor and fresh aroma after 3 months, that’s why you may need to replace it with a new mixture after it expires. 

Best Za’atar Substitutes To Try

1. Dukkah

Dukkah is a traditional Egyptian condiment. It is another good and well-balanced blend of warm spices, herbs, seeds, nuts, coriander and cumin. It is similar to za’atar and can be your first choice of za’atar alternatives if you find it in your local grocery stores or markets. 

Dukkah tastes nutty, toasty and warm. It is kind of spicy and salty too. This seasoning has a crunchy texture and is served with roasted or sliced vegetables and bread and is used as a dressing for salads, hummus and many more. 

2. Mixed Herbs

When we say mixed herbs we actually mean the mixture of the most possible ingredients of za’atar that you have in hand or at least can find in stores. The most essential herbs and spices, however, are as follows: thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, ground black pepper and salt. 

You can substitute sumac with a blend of citric acid powder and lemon zest because we know it’s hard to find sumac, but it’s truly a game changer ingredineat in za’atar. 

3. Sesame Seeds + Ground Coriander

This blend is easy to make and can come for help when you need a neutral taste of za’atar. Mix 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds with 1 tablespoon of  ground coriander and add 1/4 teaspoon salt. 

Sesame seeds will provide a nutty flavor and coriander will bring a lemony touch. You can use this in dishes that seem to seek for fresher aroma and interesting nites of spices. 

4. Shichimi Togarashi

Shichimi Togarashi is a spicy blend of condiments native to Japanese cuisine.  It is similar to za’atar in its seasoning content as it comes with sesame seeds, chili flakes, orange peel, and seaweed.

Although it is basically used with traditional Japanese dishes including soups, seafood, noodles and grilled meats, you can try it in recipes that call for za’atar. You may also add it to chicken dishes and sprinkle over avocado. Compared to za’atar, Shichimi Togarashi is a spicy condiment. 

5. Italian Seasoning

Try Italian seasoning instead of Za’atar to bring a Mediterranean touch to your dish with a well-balanced blend of flavors. This seasoning is made of oregano, basil, thyme, and marjoram. 

As you see, it contains similar herbs to Za’atar and can be a great substitute for it to flavor just about any savory dish from meats to vegetables and from pastry to sauces. 

6. Harissa

Harissa is a hot chili paste native to North Africa. While it can’t be used as a dry condiment, it is still a great substitute for za’atar in some dishes. Harissa comes with delicate flavors.

It includes simpler ingredients and is easy to make at home. Here is the list of ingredients: red chilies, oil, garlic, vinegar and lemon juice and spices that add additional heat like caraway seeds, coriander seeds and cumin.

FAQs on Za’atar 

Is za’atar spicy?

Actually it does include some warm ingredients but they are not as spicy as other mixed seasonings. Za’atar is more of a herby seasoning than a spicy one. It doesn’t include hot peppers, chilies and the like. So, you can safely use it as a neutral condiment. 

How do you use za’atar in cooking?

You can use it to season seafood, chicken, beef and vegetables before cooking, roasting or grilling. It goes well with peas and lentils too. 

Summing Up

This is the most appropriate list of za’atar alternatives and we hope you have found the suitable option for your recipes. You may also do your own experiment of blending different herbs and spices and who knows, maybe you’ll invent a better alternative to this aromatic seasoning and share with us. 

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