Zahtar Spice Blend Uncovered
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Zahtar (also spelt za’atar or zaatar) is a Middle Eastern spice blend and is a gateway into Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s a delightful blend of so many different textures, bold flavours and fragrances, making it a versatile spice and a must-have in your spice cabinet.
No two zahtar blends are the same, as there aren’t any official guidelines on how much of each spice or herb goes into the blend—it also depends on where you are in the Middle East and who the chef is. As a result, the flavour profile can vary from nutty to tangy to herbal. Having said that, these are the herbs and spices that you can usually find in zahtar:
The history of zahtar can be traced back to biblical times, with some historians estimating its origins dating as far back as Ancient Egyptian times. Thyme and oregano are native to the Levant and have grown extensively across the area since forever. The word ‘zahtar’ is referenced in the Bible as ‘ezov’, the Hebrew origin of the word for hyssop. Despite its history, very little is known about this spice blend as Middle Eastern women have traditionally been very secretive about their recipes and blends. Today, Jordan is the world’s biggest exporter of zahtar.
Zahtar is so versatile and there are all kinds of ways you can add it to your cooking, whether you’re whipping up something Middle Eastern or using it in non-traditional ways.
Zahtar is used as a dip with bread and labneh (a thick and creamy yoghurt cheese), but also works well in hummus or baba ganoush. It’s also mixed with olive oil and spread onto flatbread for breakfast, and you can add some to your morning eggs, sprinkle on avocado toast, or add it into a cream cheese bagel.
Adding a bit of zahtar really helps to spice up your salads, working especially well in a classic tomato, cucumber and feta salad. Mix the spice blend into some olive oil and a dash of lemon juice and you have a great dressing for any salad. Zahtar’s flavours really help spice up cooked vegetables dishes too, such as roasted aubergine and winter vegetables, grilled courgettes, or baked sweet potato.
Zahtar pairs wonderfully with any meat, poultry or seafood. Toss the spice blend into meatballs, sprinkle over meat before oven-roasting or grilling, or spice up pan-fried salmon. Adding zahtar to a marinade also helps the flavours soak into the meat before cooking.
Keen to try it out? You can find zahtar on our website here. Here are some great recipes which use the spice blend:
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