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Za’atar (Arabic زعتر , Armenian զահթար) is a mixture of spices originating in the Middle East. The Arabic term za’atar refers to any of various local herbs of the mint family, including marjoram, oregano and thyme. Alternate spellings include zaatar, zatar, zattar or zahatar.

Green za’atar mixture is traditionally composed of dried thyme (Thymus vulgaris), toasted white sesame seeds, and salt. Some sources also include savory, hyssop, oregano, cumin, and fennel seed. Red za’atar is made with dried thyme with sumac.

In Lebanon, there is a belief that this particular spice mixture makes the mind alert and the body strong. For this reason, children are encouraged to eat a za’atar sandwich for breakfast before an exam. The mixture is popular in Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Israel and North Africa and is popular within the Armenian diaspora. Palestinians consider za’atar as one of their staple foods. In Palestine, za’atar is frequently sprinkled on hummus or served with olive oil as a spread.

Za’atar is used to spice meats and vegetables, and is mixed with olive oil to make a spread (za’atar-ul-zayt or zayt-tu-zaa’tar), which is used as a dip for sesame rings (ka’k). Za’atar can also be spread on a dough base for the Middle-Eastern equivalent of a miniature pizza, also known as the manakish. It can be sprinkled on labneh (yogurt that has been drained until it becomes a tangy, creamy cheese). It can also be preserved in oil, by mixing with salt and rolling into balls, or by drying in the sun.

Categories: Articles lacking sources from November 2007 | All articles lacking sources | Food ingredient stubs | Herb and spice mixtures | Arab cuisine | Mediterranean cuisine | Middle Eastern cuisine | Lebanese cuisine | Jordanian cuisine | Syrian cuisine | Armenian cuisine | Levantine cuisine