Are you a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine? Then zaatar definitely appeals to you, and you are in the right place. An aromatic herb mixture, zaatar is the core ingredient for Lebanese food that can turn any dish into a delectable one. However, you may not have it at hand all the time. To turn such a situation in your stride, I will be sharing some of the best zaatar substitutes to work in its absence.
Are there really any options? Yes, thanks to zaatar for being such a versatile ingredient. Dried thyme, dried oregano, sumac, ground coriander, sesame seeds, dukkah, Harissa, and Italian seasoning are the best substitutes for zaatar that are sure to provide you with a similar taste.
As zaatar is made of many ingredients combined, it’s safe to say that you will face no problem in achieving a similar flavor for your recipes. It is such an exciting ingredient to use that before we find out more about its substitutes, I would like you to understand what zaatar is all about.
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Quick Peek: Zaatar
In this section, you will find information about what zaatar is, along with its tastes, texture, and uses. Other than that, we will also explore recipes in which it can be used.
What Is Zaatar?
Zaatar is a table as well as a cooking spice that is practically found in everything in Middle Eastern cuisine. With the unique flavor it offers, zaatar can elevate any simple dish to extraordinary levels. It is not a single herb that provides a punch of flavor. It’s an aromatic herb mixture that tingles our palate the right way.
Describing Zaatar: Flavor And Texture
If you are using zaatar for the first time, allow me to explain its exotic flavor profile. Zaatar is a zesty, aromatic, tangy, and nutty herb and spice blend that goes with many recipes. However, it only goes with savory items.
Zaatar comes in many variations, but its most basic ingredients include sumac, thyme, oregano, sesame, and salt. Since it’s an herb mix, the texture of zaatar is powdery, although it’s not a fine powder. It’s free-flowing and easy to use.
Uses Of Zaatar
Loaded with flavors, zaatar is a seasoning blend that you can’t stop using once you have your hands on it. It can be used in the same way as you might use any other seasoning for flavoring. From dips, dressings, and veg & non-veg dishes to simply using it as a garnish, zaatar can be used in many ways.
As the composition of zaatar comprises many herbs combined, it also contains impressive health benefits. Before we go ahead, let’s take a look at the many benefits it provides to our health.
Zaatar On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope
Zaatar, the incredibly delicious spice mix, boasts of health benefits that include increased circulation, soothes inflammation, builds stronger bones, helps the immune system, increases energy, and reduces infections. The blend contains vitamins such as A, C, E, and K, along with Omega 3 fatty acids, and has exceptionally high antioxidant properties.
Why Use A Substitute For Zaatar?
If you are anywhere near the Middle Eastern markets, finding zaatar may not be an issue. However, in other parts of the world, sometimes you may not be able to find it in a store near you. In such a situation, you don’t have to compromise your recipe because of its unavailability. We have options that you can use as alternatives to devour similar flavors in your dishes.
Other than that, you might just want to experiment with a similar flavor with the ingredients already present in your pantry. So, let’s discover the best substitutes for zaatar.
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7 Best Substitutes for Zaatar
1. Italian Seasoning
Italian seasoning is a handy ingredient present in every home these days, and Italian seasoning can be the best and a hassle-free substitute for zaatar. It is an herbal blend with ingredients such as oregano, thyme, and marjoram matching that of zaatar. The only difference in the flavor comes with the addition of basil in Italian seasoning. It imparts a slightly sweeter and mintier taste. However, overall, the aroma of this seasoning is similar to zaatar.
Being a mix of some great flavors coming together, Italian seasoning can be used in many recipes. You could elevate the taste of a basic pasta sauce with the use of Italian seasoning, spice up soups and stews, make salad dressings, sprinkle over garlic bread, or just make a dipping sauce using extra virgin olive oil with it. Furthermore, you can also use this aromatic seasoning to add a punch of flavor to your non-vegetarian dishes, such as grilled chicken, meatloaf burgers, Italian shredded pork stew, or breaded turkey breasts.
Harrisa , a spicy paste from Tunisia, North Africa, lends a dash of citrusy heat to your dishes that enhances the already existing tastes. If we go by the ingredient profile, harissa and zaatar are different from one another. Harrisa is a spice blend made of chilies, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, garlic powder, and salt used in North African cooking. However, to bring some Mediterranean vibe of zaatar to your meal, harissa is the way to go.
Moreover, in the western market, it is more likely that you will find a jar of harissa than zaatar because of its popularity. When replacing harissa for zaatar, start with a small quantity until you reach the desired spice level. With so many flavors coming together in this one spice mix, harissa makes for a good option to be used in many recipes.
Think of salad dressings, hummus, pasta, eggs, chicken wings, and as a rub for luxe cuts of meat.
One of the main flavors in zaatar is sesame seed, which provides the mix with nuttiness and a crunchy texture. Zaatar’s alternative, dukkah, offers a near-close texture and flavor profile. As compared to zaatar, dukkah has a higher crunch since it contains more nuts. This spice gets its herbal taste from mint and thyme, both of which are found in many zaatar blends.
There are a few ways to identify the real difference between the two. Most zaatar blends have an earthy green color because of their strong herbal nature. Whereas, depending on the number of nuts and spices, dukkah’s color can vary from green to brown spectrum. In addition, the aromas of both the spice mixes differ. If you notice herby and bright notes with the aroma of thyme or oregano, chances are its zaatar. However, if you experience spicier or nutty notes, you’ve got dukkah in hand.
Speaking of taste, dukkah tends to have a much chunkier texture with larger pieces of nuts and seeds. On the other hand, zaatar will have some crunch from sesame seeds, with an earthy flavor from sumac. Thinking of recipes that pair well with this mix? Dukkah goes very well with all the soft varieties of cheese, especially a creamy fresh goat’s cheese, labneh, or ricotta.
It also makes a great ingredient in creamy soups with its crunchy texture and robust flavor. If you love to experiment, then a dash of dukkah over fresh-cut fruits could enhance their flavor. Last but not least, dukkah goes well with protein, so use it to level up poultry, fish, and meat. You can use dukkah in the same quantity as zaatar and adjust to taste.
Sumac is a wine-colored ground spice made out of dried berries and is a perfect replacement for zaatar. It has an appealing lemon-lime tartness that can be widely used. If you have sumac in hand, you can use it as a substitute by making zaatar at home just by adding dried thyme, lemon zest, sesame seeds, oregano, salt, and chili flakes.
Sumac imparts a citrusy and sour flavor that gives complexity to salads, marinades, rice dishes, simple grilled dishes, and even chips. Ground sumac is mostly available in the spice section of most grocery stores. You can also look at the Southeast Asian markets for it.
5. Ground Coriander and Sesame Seeds
Zaatar mix comes in different variations that have to do with its ingredients. So, while some recipes do not use ground coriander, others do. This makes ground coriander and sesame seeds the next best substitute for zaatar with their lemony and herby taste. By mixing both these ingredients in equal quantities and salt, you can achieve a similar flavor as zaatar in your recipes.
With a nutty and earthy flavor composition, both these ingredients will go well in salads, sandwiches, or even some curries.
6. Dried Oregano
Dried oregano makes for an excellent herb as a substitute for zaatar with its similar profile of aroma and flavor. It provides an element of lightness to recipes, and hence it pairs with heavy dishes. Not only do we love using it on cheesy pizzas, but dried oregano also goes well with egg dishes like shakshuka and meat pies.
7. Dried Thyme
A member of the mint family, thyme has an earthy flavor profile, having hints of wood, grass, and floral notes. Thyme is most commonly used in savory dishes like meat and vegetables and certain seafood and is a great substitute for zaatar. Thyme is also a popular ingredient in certain soups, stews, sauces, and baked goods.
While, in most cases, dried and fresh herbs deliver flavors that are slightly different in taste, thyme is an exception. One thing to keep in mind while using thyme in recipes is to use its leaves rather than the stems. Although the stems do provide flavor, they do not break down during cooking, often making them difficult to chew.
Short Recap For The Best Zaatar Substitutes
With so many flavor profiles matching zaatar, I’m sure you have found the perfect one for you. Although, if you are still a little confused, allow me to help you out further.
Best Substitute For Zaatar:
Sumac is the best alternative for zaatar in terms of flavor and texture.
Most Easily Available Substitute For Zaatar:
Italian seasoning is the most easily available and closest flavor matching substitute for zaatar.
Substitutes For Zaatar That You Should Consider Using Last:
With a higher spice content, you can use harrisa as the last substitute for zaatar.
How To Substitute Zaatar In A Recipe
- Italian Seasoning
- Ground Coriander and Sesame Seeds
- Dried Oregano
- Dried Thyme
- Read this entire article and go through all the substitutes mentioned above.
- Choose the substitutes at suits your recipe.
- Use the substitute in required amount to replace zaatar in the recipe.
Zaatar is a wonderful spice made from a plethora of herbs, which makes it a go-to spice to add a punch of flavor to many dishes. Although its availability may be a problem in some areas, its substitutes can do equal wonders. In addition to its culinary uses, zaatar also boasts of health benefits, which makes it a valuable spice mix.
I hope you enjoy cooking with these exciting zaatar substitutes, and let me know in the comments sections which one worked the best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is zaatar made of?
Zaatar is a savory spice blend made of a variety of herbs like oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac.
Is thyme and zaatar the same?
No. Thyme is a herb, whereas zaatar is a condiment made with a mix of herbs that consist of thyme.
Can I use Sumac instead of Zaatar?
If you have sumac in hand, you can make zaatar at home by combining dried oregano, sesame seeds, and salt.