Dukkah and Zahtar (Za’atar)

Imagine a piece of bread dipped in lovely golden olive oil, then into a bowl of ground nuts, spices, lentils and seeds.

Zaatar

Imagine a piece of bread dipped in lovely golden olive oil. Then, dripping still, is dipped in a bowl of ground nuts, spices, lentils and seeds. The wonderful aromas. The extraordinary flavours. Popped right into your mouth. Over a cup of coffee. For breakfast.

This mix is Middle Eastern in origin, where it is served at breakfast with bread. One takes a piece of bread, dips it first into a bowl of very good olive oil and then into the mix and then eaten.

Dukkah is a real textural treat, blended from nuts such as pistachio, hazelnut or almond with spices such as cumin, toasted sesame and coriander seeds.

In Australia it is quite popular to serve with drinks before a meal. But it is perfect at any time. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. As a salad topping. Sprinkled over roast or steamed vegetables. Sprinkled over soups. Covering bread dipped in olive oil. Divine. For vegetarians it adds a little protein via the sesame seeds and chick peas.

By contrast, Za’atar is a herbaceous mix of thyme and oregano, sometimes marjoram, that is grounded by toasted sesame seeds and lifted by sumac. It’s brilliant sprinkled over homemade hummus, mixed with olive oil for a paste that you can slather over Lebanese bread and used in baked vegetables and salads.

Dukkah

Store the mixes in the fridge – as you do all crushed nuts or nut meal – and it will keep for several months. The recipe for Dukkah is fluid – add and subtract ingredients as you will.

You might also like to try Cucumber Salad with Sesame, Eggplant with Sesame, Mirin and Miso Paste, or Thai Lettuce Wraps. Browse all of our Middle Eastern dishes here and here, and our dips here and here.

Ingredient Notes

Sumac
Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice – quite tart and quite yummy. It is black in colour. Fresh and tangy, it comes from the berries of a wild bush that grows wild in all Mediterranean areas, especially in Sicily and southern Italy, and parts of the Middle East, especially Iran. It is an essential ingredient in Arabic cooking, being preferred to lemon for sourness and astringency.

You can read more about sumac here.

Roasted chickpeas
You can obtain these from Indian or Middle Eastern grocery shops.

Dukkah and Zahtar

Serving Notes
  • Eat for breakfast, dinner, lunch and tea. If you need a spreadable mix, stir through some really good olive oil or into hummus.
  • Spread on pita or flatbread, and bake or put under the griller until hot through.
  • Work some into the top of fresh bread dough before baking.
  • Strew over salads.
  • Sprinkled over roast or steamed vegetables.
  • Cover bread dipped in very very good virgin cold pressed olive oil. The quality of the olive oil is the key to the success here.
  • Dredge oil-coated chunks of feta in it.
  • Add a little to a vinaigrette – 3 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, salt and pepper and zahtar.
  • Excellent on crostini.
  • Substitute either for garlic in garlic bread.
  • Add to yoghurt-based mayonnaise for delicious vegetable dips.
  • Sprinkle on to hummus.
  • Blend with a little natural yoghurt, sea salt and pepper and used with pan fried tofu or as an accompaniment to a hot curry.
  • Use it on labneh (thick Lebanese yogurt), with a little bit of potent olive oil.

Zahtar

Dukkah

Cuisine: Lebanese and other Middle Eastern countries
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 5mins
Serves: a lot!

ingredients
100 g sesame seeds
50g roasted chick peas
100g coriander seeds
50g hazelnuts
50g walnuts
1 Tblspn ground cinnamon or 2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
large pinch black or white pepper
1.5 Tblspn cumin seeds
1 Tblspn dried marjoram
1 Tblspn sumac
50 g sunflower seeds

method
Separately dry roast in a hot frying pan the sesame seeds, chick peas, coriander seeds, hazelnuts and walnuts.

Likewise roast the cumin seeds.

Grind the coriander seeds first, as they are the hardest ingredient.

Then add the remaining dry roasted ingredients and the sunflower seeds and grind – pounding together if doing it by hand until coarsely crushed. If you prefer a finely crushed mix, don’t crush to a state where the oils form the nuts and seeds are released and the mixture starts to form a paste. It should be a dry mixture of ingredients.

Mix the herbs and ground spices. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. It is yummy with a peppery bite, and a slightly salty taste.

recipe notes
Ideally, this is a little coarse. If you prefer a more finely crushed mix, don’t crush to a state where the oils form the nuts and seeds are released and the mixture starts to form a paste. It should be a dry mixture of ingredients.

Use a mortar and pestle if you have one. Blenders and grinders can also be used, but pulse to ensure that the correct coarseness is achieved.

Optionally add: oregano, basil, thyme, savory, lemon zest, fenugreek leaves, parsley, pistachio nuts.

Waiting for Dukkah

Za’atar | Zahtar

Cuisine: Lebanese and other Middle Eastern countries
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 5mins
Serves: a lot!

ingredients
2 Tblspn white sesame seeds
2 tspn cumin seeds
1 Tblspn dried thyme
2 tspn dried oregano
1 Tblspn dried sumac

method
Dry roast the sesame seeds over a gentle heat until just coloured. Remove from the pan and dry roast the cumin seeds until aromatic. Grind the cumin seeds with the dried herbs to a fine powder and mix with the sesame seeds and sumac. Store in a sealed jar.

 

 

Author: Ganga108

Heat in the Kitchen, Cooking with Spirit. Temple junkie, temple builder, temple cleaner. Lover of life, people, cultures, travel. Champion of growth, change and awareness. Taker of photos. Passionate about family. Happy.

35 thoughts on “Dukkah and Zahtar (Za’atar)”

  1. Another delicious, spicy post.

    I worked with a gorgeous woman from Lebanon some years ago who would bring me za’atar sprinkled home-made bread for breakfast. Wish she still would…a great breakfast.

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  2. Ooh, thanks! I never thought of making zaatar at home, but now I will. I love it on top of labneh (thick Lebanese yogurt), with a little bit of potent olive oil.

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  3. thank you for highlighting my favourite cuisine. lebanese food is flavourful, healthy and easy to whip up. i will be using your zahtar recipe soon.

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  4. Hi Lucy – you realised the secret of my heart – spices! Yes, give me a cupboard of spices, an Indian shop or an spicy laden kitchen and I am in seventh heaven. Your Lebanese workmate sounds like a wonderful person. Just the think for breakfast, isn’t it?

    Rattling the Kettle, I am going to try it on thick thick yoghurt now, and perhaps on curd too. The quality of the olive oil makes all the difference, too.

    Hi Arun – Oh yes, you should have seen me taking the photos. More of the mix went into my mouth than onto the plate!

    Hi bee – Lebanese is great eating. This recipe originally came out of a great Lebanese cook book, and if I remember it, I will add it to the post. Let me know how you fare with making the zahtar.

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  5. Okay, so this is an amazing post. It’s so informative and interesting, with such a great recipe. I’ve been looking for a zahtar recipe for a while. I think I’ll give yours a try.

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  6. Long back I went to Persian Lebanese restaurant in CA along with bunch of friends and finding veggie dishes in the menu was really tough and one of our friend suggested Dukkah, they served it along with the bread and olive oil. It really din’t strike me how to eat:) though it tasted really good:). Thanks for posting informative recipe and lovely picture.

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  7. Wow! Look at all the spices. Thanks for this lovely recipe. I searched for Sumac in Middle Eastern aisle of a specialty store. Cudn’t find any. There are no ME markets near my place too😦

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  8. I am so glad that you all enjoyed the post – I was a bit worried because here it was common in cafes and restaurants for the past 5’ish years. But I love my mix and taking the photos was a lot of fun.

    I hope that you get to try it.

    shivapriya, how strange that a Lebanese didn’t have much vegetarian! Their culture is rich in vege food. Hope that you get to try dukkah again. Your story reminds me of an experience I had in India eating those fennel seed packages for the first time. Thorougly embarrassed myself, but my host was very kind and mentioned nothing..

    Suganya, sumac can be hard to find. Have you had a look on the net for a local supplier? Maybe have a look here: (http://www.herbiesspicesusa.com). They are a branch of an Australian spice company that has an excellent reputation.

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  9. I purchased some Zahtar in a jar from the world market. I was wondering if anyone has tried making a chese ball with zahtar? my family loves creem cheese based cheese balls. I thought it would be great mixed with this but was not sure of the flavors blending .

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  10. Hi Rosa, hope that you are enjoying Zaatar by now. We had it topping a salad the other night. It is so versatile.

    Hi Riane – absolutely, I should think it would go very well, if you are making balls from the cheese, and you roll the balls in zaatar.

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